Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Adaptability Revisited

Our house was built by crack-smoking monkeys. The upstairs ground fault switch is in the hall bathroom, but when it goes out, it doesn't shut off the lights in that bathroom, but the lights in the master bathroom. But only on one side, because the end of the circuit is at the ground floor outdoor receptacle on the back deck.

Crack. Monkeys. Believe it.

I know all of this because for a long time, when it rained I would end up taking showers in the dark, and after I tried to deal with the problem myself, tasting 120 volts in the process (In the last words of every dead electrician, "but I turned it off at the junction box!"), I had a long conversation with an electrician, who informed me that the wiring in my house had monkey-prints all over it.

Well, it rained and the lights went out in the bathroom – on the Friday night beginning Labor Day weekend. No matter what we did, the ground fault switch would not stay set. You never ever want to call a union contractor during a holiday weekend if you can help it, so I tried to think of the bathroom's new look as "mood lighting."

All of this, by the way, is prologue, which is why this post is called "Adaptability Revisited" and not "Crack Smoking Monkeys," which is a good title that I will probably use someday. I wanted to call this post "Adaptability," but I see I already have a post by that name. Strange how events involving MP lead to musing upon this elastic quality of mind...

MP decided he wanted to smoke a pork shoulder for Labor Day, the first one this year. He's been working on ribs, with fabulous results, but he misses doing shoulder. More to the point, he misses smoked pork shoulder leftovers. Doing a pork shoulder is something of a commitment. A 7-8 lb shoulder takes about 12 hours to smoke, which means MP has to *gasp*... get up early! Like, say, 8 AM.

Let me be fair. There are Morning People and there are... What are they, Zombies? You never hear "Night People," what...? Oh yes, "Night Owls." I am a Lark, and MP is Night Owl. He never willingly goes to bed before 12:30 AM, so 8 AM does not find him... fully refreshed. Actually, MP is seldom fully refreshed before 8 oz of coffee, and 20 oz is safer.

So. Pork shoulder. MP decides to get up “early.” I'm up toodling around by 7 AM, fluffing the garden, watering the yard... And it occurs to me to wonder if MP actually set an alarm clock or if I'm supposed to be the alarm clock. What if I was supposed to wake him and I don't? What if I wake him at 8 AM, and he doesn't want to get up until 8:30 AM?

At 8 AM I remove the shoulder from the refrigerator and make a pot of coffee. At 8:15 AM I flitter softly into the bedroom.

I am a terrible flitterer. MP grunts and raises his head immediately.

“Um yes, uh... Hi Sweetie. Was I the alarm clock?”

“No,” MP moans, “I'm waking myself up.” (Translation: fifteen more minutes and get the hell out of the room.)

At 8:30 AM he comes down fully dressed with shoes on, but I am not fooled. He still has pillow lines on his face.

As he transfers his equipment out to the back deck, I have a horrible thought – the lights are tripped in the bathroom, and since the end of the circuit is on the back deck, there's no way the electric smoker will work. Why neither one of us thought of this earlier, I don't know. I mean, you can intuitively grasp the logical connection between the upstairs bathroom lights and the back deck, right?

“What?” said MP.

“Don't worry about it. There's another outlet down in the yard.”

MP stares at the cord of the electric smoker. It's 3 feet long. He stares at me.

“Have some coffee!” I sing out as I trot out to the garage for the 100 ft extension cord. Problem solved.

Or not. Fifteen minutes later MP is still staring foggily at the coils of the smoker. “Isn't it hot yet?” I ask.

He reaches out and wraps his hand around the coil, ““No,” he replies, “I don't think so.”

And wouldn't you know, the receptacle on the front porch is out, too. Son of a Gun. Curse those monkeys. “Well, you can use the outlet in the garage and smoke it out on the cement pad in front of the driveway,” I suggest.

“No, I can't,” MP says as he props himself against the countertop. “I don't want to do it out in front. I don't want anyone to see me. I don't know why, but I don't.”

Barbecue Performance Anxiety? I ponder this. I mean, is he worried about uninvited neighbors looking for handouts, asking questions? It's not like you can hide what you're doing. Big puffs of smoke, cooking meat. It smells. And it's not like MP wears anything stupid when he cooks; no “Kiss the Cook” aprons. He does drink beer, but it's nice beer. And it's stupid to get drunk and play with burning hot metal, he knows that. No, clearly this was a “thing” he just had. There was no talking abut it or convincing him otherwise; it was just one of those “things.”

I popped out of my reverie. MP was staring at me, awaiting Truth. He had not blinked.

“Out one of the windows?”

“Smoke in the house.”

“Good point. Well, if the wind blows south, we can use the north window. Of course, if the wind bows north, then we should use the south window. I wonder what the weather is supposed to be like. Have you seen a weather report? Because I thought maybe it might rain later in the afternoon, but that might hold off till tomorrow –”

MP stood against the countertop with eyes like those of a shot and bleeding deer. Despite being out of bed for 45 minutes, he had not had coffee.

There are times to Think and times to simply Do. “Stand here,” I said, and put him in front of an east facing window. I went outside and knocked on the window with the plug. “Hello? Take this.” MP plugged the cord into an inside socket and the smoker at last had charge. An hour late, maybe, but he was off and... crawling. He still desperately needed coffee.

Adaptability. You wake up thinking you're gonna do one thing and end up doing another. It's too easy to get scope lock and not see the other possibilities, to to end up focused on what you don't have rather than utilizing what you do have. I am a terrible one for getting scope lock. But even when you're trying to avoid fixed-mindedness, you still have limitations. That's why you've got to be honest, and hopefully surround yourself with people who can shore you up when you need it.

MP had his coffee and the pork smoked. Unfortunately, starting an hour later meant everything came in an hour later, which meant we were standing in the kitchen at 11 PM pulling pork. MP was fully awake and singing the praises of his spice rub, and I was trying not to snore in the pork. The only reason I kept eating what I was supposed to be pulling apart was to stay awake. Seriously. After we were through, MP pried the two forks from my hands and gently pushed me off to bed.

You gotta love a man who will smoke pork and clean the kitchen.

No comments: