My husband and I met and married in three months’ time (don’t try that at home). Our whirlwind romance left little time to actually “know” each other. We were still in float-mode: when you ride that intense wave of infatuation that comes crashing down right around the time of your first fight, leaving you with that beached-whale feeling.
Our “other” sides were in hiding. Not on purpose. Love does that to you. The cliché, “love is blind,” is true. You are convinced the other person is flawless. At least for a little while.
It didn’t hit me until we got back from our honeymoon that I had entered into unknown territory by marrying this man: The World of an Engineer.
Those of you who’ve come in contact with an engineer know exactly what I’m talking about. They’re a different breed of human. Part man, part robot, part quality control expert -- they exist to make the rest of us feel like slackers.
Don sees details the naked eye cannot see. He smells odors that only the best cadaver dogs can ferret. He’s a true skeptic and has an unhealthy mistrust of the medical community (drug pushers), all salespeople (pathological liars) and my home cooking (germ-infested slop).
Building our new life together required a lot of shopping. I pride myself on my shopping technique and the speed at which I get the job done. Don says I’m “impulsive.” I think I’m “efficient.” Who has time to see if shoes “hurt” or “fall off”? And so what if the stool has three legs? It’s an opportunity to work on your balance. I'm too busy to dig through cheese to get the “unmoldy” ones.
To Don, shopping is an experiment in cost/benefit analysis and intensive quality control inspection. Every product is thoroughly researched. Excel spreadsheets are drafted and redrafted. Minimum-wage-earning salespeople are interrogated thoroughly.
I try not to visualize the look on the face of the poor guy (I’ll call him “Bub”) who picked up the phone at Circuit City one morning. Let’s just say, it wasn’t his lucky day. Here’s what I overheard on speakerphone.
Don: Hi, I’m looking for the Sharp Aquos LC42D62U 42-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV Do you have that in stock?
Bub: Yes we do.
Don: What is the contrast ratio?
Bub: Ahh. I believe it’s 1200:1.
Don: Can you guarantee a cinematic experience maximized for my natural line of sight?
Bub: Um, okay.
Don: I’m looking for breath-taking picture quality. Will the Aquos give me that?
Bub: Sure thing.
Don: I want the full high def experience. I want to see the pores on Ladanian Tomlinson’s nose. Will this TV give me the pores on Ladanian Tomlinson’s nose?
Bub: Yes, sir. You’ll get the pores.
Don: What is the response time?
Don: What is the wide-viewing angle?
Bub: 176º H by 176º V
Don: Does it come with built-in ATSC /QAM/NTSC tuners?
Bub: Yes sir.
Don: What about the glare of ambient light?
Bub: It has a low-reflection Black TFT panel that reduces the glare of ambient light.
Don: What if 20 pixels go bad within the first month, then what?
Bub: Well, we’d take it back.
Don: What if 50 pixels go bad within two months, then what?
Bub: Again, we’d take it back.
Don: Okay, what if 38 pixels go bad within three months, then what?
Bub: Ya, we’d take it back.
Don: What if it falls off my wall – is that my fault?
Bub: No, that would not be covered in the warranty.
Don: Well, that’s just crap. What kind of warranty is that?
Bub: Well, it has a one-year labor and parts and three-year parts warranty.
Don: And it won’t cover a straight shot to the ground?
Bub: No, sir, it won’t but we do offer an extended warranty.
Don: No, we both know those are money-making scams to benefit you not me. Now what if the screen explodes, then what?
Bub: It would all depend on how long you had it.
Don: Say I don’t like your price. Can you get me a better one?
Bub: I’d have to ask my manager.
Don: Okay, now let’s talk about the Toshiba REGZA 42RV530U 42-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV. How do they compare?
[Click. Dial tone.]
Bub, like many employees of our local electronics and hardware stores who’ve been exposed to Don, most likely had a nervous breakdown.
It’s a testament to my strength that I have endured the engineer’s microscope all these years and that I can still speak in complete sentences and do not have to wear a helmet to get through the day.
The problem with engineers is that their radar is never down. They are always scanning the environment for potential hazards.
My husband is certain everything is going to kill him, especially my home cooking.
He takes a few bites. He stops. In tandem, the kids stop. His eyebrows come together. The kids squint. He sniffs the food. They sniff. His bottom lip curls to indicate vomit is on the way. They start to gag.
He says, “When did you make this?”
“Two years ago,” I say.
His nose crinkles. The kids crinkle. “I’m sorry but…something tastes old.”
“What’s the white stuff?”
“Ya, Mom, what’s the white stuff?” says Jack.
“It’s nonfat plain yogurt,” I retort. “It’s good for you. And ten minutes ago before your father launched his forensics experiment, you thought I was the Galloping Gourmet so keep eating and go back to liking it.”
The detective continues: “Did you use any ingredients that expired?”
That’s when the digging begins. Out comes the trash can. He reaches for the yogurt tub.
“Lookie here, you guys! This yogurt expired last week.”
“Mom, that’s gross!” says my loving and supportive daughter.
“Whatever. It’s good bacteria,” I say.
“Oh my God! We’re gonna need a tetanus shot!” Don leans over the sink and starts scraping his tongue.
“Calm down, all of you. Oprah had people with OCD lick a toilet seat and the inside of a trash can and they lived. You’re lucky you’re not one of them.”
Germs are a big part of Don’s world and he is forever seeking to determine their origin. If someone coughs within a mile radius of him, he suddenly has a tickle in his throat and is convinced his lungs are filled with phlegm.
If our daughter breaks out in eczema from eating too much cereal, Don will ask, “Oh my God, is that malaria, or did you eat something that Mom made?”
If I get a coldsore on the corner of my mouth, he looks at it like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby when she sees her son’s yellow eyes for the first time. He backs up with sheer terror.
“What happened to your mouth?” he cries. “You’ll need to sleep in the guest room for at least a month.”
If Jack starts kicking his sister on the couch, Don believes it’s a medical condition. He runs down the usual suspects:
“Did your mother make you watch Michael Flatley and ‘Lord of the Dance’?”
“Oh my God, I think you have Restless Leg Syndrome. Did you eat something Mom made?”
“When was the last time your mother changed your sheets?”
Ahh, the sheets. The second cause of illness in the Rose family.
While living with an engineer has its definite drawbacks, there are times when I am grateful. Like Christmas morning, when the kids open their electronic gadgets and run to me with seven operations manuals. I just point them to their father, who is eagerly waiting to jump into such fascinating material.
Inevitably, he will find a major defect in the programming of one the items and hi-ho, hi-ho, back to the store it goes. He smiles to himself, knowing he saved our family from the horrors of an inferior quality product.
My father told him on our wedding day, “No returning Lisa.” It will be the first and last time he falls for a warranty like that.