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Nashville Scene What Goes Where?

Men, women store differently.

By Walter Jowers

JANUARY 26, 1998:  My Aunt Coot and Uncle Guy have been married for more than 50 years. In all that time, they've spent exactly one night apart, when Guy had to go to Des Moines, Iowa, on strip-mining business. They remember that night well, and they'll both tell you: It was miserable, and they don't ever want to be apart again.

Brenda and I can't match Coot and Guy's togetherness record, but we do envy it. So when Brenda told me that she was going to South Carolina for her mother's gall bladder surgery, it did take the shine off my day.

"What are you going to do," I asked, "take the gall bladder out personally? Don't they have people there who can do that?"

"Mama's getting old," Brenda said. "I feel like I should go."

Then daughter Jess joined in the conversation. "But mo-om, we won't be able to find anything!"

"Guilt!" Brenda huffed. "You two are just trying to give me guilt." So we dropped the subject for the night.

Brenda got up very early the next morning. By the time I got downstairs, the house was festooned with yellow sticky notes.

On the kitchen cabinets: Muffin and Cake Pans, bottom left. Cereal, Nutella, and Oatmeal, over the sink. Dishwashing Liquid and Cleaning Products, under the sink.

I thought all these notes were mighty considerate of Brenda, but just a little bit excessive. I knew where the cereal was, for crying out loud. Many's the morning I've prepared my special Honey Nut Cheerios and Grape Nuts blend for the Jowers gang. I admit, though, I would've had a hell of time locating a cake pan.

Then, on the kitchen counter, I found the angry notes: Toaster. Coffeepot.

About this time, Brenda spun out of the mudroom and slapped a note on the open door: Dirt Devil Vacuum Cleaner.

"Slow down, Speedy," I said. "You're only going for four days. All we'll need are our beds and the TV remote. Trained fast-food professionals will take care of the rest."

"It's not four days," Brenda spit the words out. "It's three-and-a-half. And I won't be made to feel guilty about it."

"Fine with me," I said, "but I think you need to take a little break. You're making obvious errors. For instance, you just put a sign for the Dirt Devil vac on the door there. But I don't see any Dirt Devil."

"It's behind the door!" she said, and she stomped off to stick more stickers.

Right then and there, I had one of my better epiphanies. There's a reason why I've never been able to find things in a house where a woman makes the storage rules. It's because women hide things behind other things. Men, on the other hand, prefer to leave all their stuff out where they can see it.

As an example of woman-style storage, consider the lazy Susan, which is actually named after a girl. You have to spin a lazy Susan to see all the things stored on it. And, as the wheel goes around, centrifugal force causes most of the stuff to fall off. This is the kind of thing that drives a man crazy and makes him want to clear the table the way Marlon Brando did in A Streetcar Named Desire.

At my father's old metal shop, they had a great storage system. In the giant rectangular workroom, the walls were lined with hooks. Each hook held a particular tool. Behind each tool was its painted silhouette. Everybody in the shop knew, at a glance, that the left-handed snips were either in their place or currently in use. If I designed a house tomorrow, I'd copy this scheme.

Want some other examples of man-style storage?

* Vending machines: See Snicker bar, buy Snicker bar, next Snicker bar moves into place. Perfect in every way.

* Impulse-buy racks: You grab the batteries, the razor blades, and the Krazy Glue, and you're out the door. No searching, no obstructions.

* Home Depot.

As much as we appreciate Brenda's sticky notes, Jess and I won't be plundering through the cabinets and closets during the four dark, Brenda-less days. We'll keep everything the way Brenda left it, like a shrine. We'll count the minutes until the gall bladder's out and Brenda's back home. And if we need something, we'll just go to the store and grab it off the impulse rack.

Visit Walter's Web site at http://www.nashscene.com>. Or e-mail him at Walter.Jowers@nashville.com.

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