There are things in life that I try to avoid because of how much tension they cause between me and Tom. For instance, H&M t-shirts. Tom insists on hang-drying his so they don’t shrink, but sometimes I forget and put them in the dryer along with every other piece of clothing I wash, and then he gets really mad. I’m sorry that I ruined your shirt, Tom. Luckily, it cost $4.99 and there are another 3,000 of them at the Lloyd Center H&M.
Or how about grilling, at parties. I don’t enjoy throwing parties at which meats must be grilled, because Tom gets really tense if anyone even approaches the grill while he’s at work. When that happens, he gets a weird performance anxiety, and then we usually end up with under/overcooked meats. Our grill (a “Charbroiler”) is a true POS so it’s not really Tom’s fault—one side of the grill has never worked, and the starter is broken so you have to light the whole thing by turning on the gas and throwing a flaming paper towel into it from a safe distance and hoping for the best, and it’s just…not a good scene.
But listen, I have a vested interest in the outcome of the grilling. I’ve planned the menu and cooked the sides, and I’ve procured and marinated the very expensive cut of meat. So I can never help reminding Tom not to overcook the meat, which sounds to my ears like a friendly “Tom please don’t overcook the meat” but apparently sounds to Tom’s ears like a mocking “Tom, your penis is so very tiny.” Now that I think of it, it’s not just Tom. Most men I know are extraordinarily sensitive about grilling. My friend Ethan has an outdoor turkey fryer and when we do Practice Thanksgiving we all just watch him from inside the house, nursing our beers, because he’s super sensitive about being second-guessed on his frying time.
Grilling, however, is nothing compared to the marital stress bomb that is our bike rack. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you have witnessed my evolution from bike-hater to bike-rider. While we’ve had our bike rack for a while, this is the first year that all four of us have bikes. In advance of our first summer trip to Central Oregon, I took our bike rack, which has a 1.25″ fitter, to get it fitted to our new 2″ hitch. “Are you sure that’s going to stay on?,” I asked, as the employee affixed the rack to the hitch with a single, puny screw. He had his face turned toward the car so I can’t be sure, but I’m pretty sure I heard him roll his eyes. “Yep,” he said, grabbing the rack and pressing down on it for good measure. It seemed steady, but then again, he was a small guy. “Ok. But I have four bikes,” I said, nervously, leaving out the fact that Tate’s bike didn’t have pedals and weighed about 4 pounds. “Well, good thing about this here rack is that it’s made for four bikes,” he said. I narrowed my eyes, sensing sarcasm. “Anyway, it can hold up to 200 pounds,” he said. I perked up. 200 pounds! That was a lot. And this guy knew bike racks. He worked at a bike rack store, after all. I left feeling reasonably assured.
But then Tom loaded the bikes on the rack. And while I trust my husband, I didn’t feel good about how the whole rig looked. Worse, I had no experience with bike racks, so I didn’t know if all loaded bike racks looked so terrifying. But wait a second, this is why Facebook was invented, right? I snapped the photo below and posted it to my wall, asking whether the rack looked normal. I sat back, and awaited the reassuring commentary.
The first comment came in, from my friend Tim. “NO WAY THAT’S STAYING ON.” Well. Alarming, certainly. But if I had to name one person I knew who seemed less outdoorsy than me, I would have chosen Tim, maybe after my Mom. It’s not like I’d ever seen a bike rack on his Boxer. So I ignored Tim and waited for other comments. More comments came in. Becky asked if that was a basket on one of the bikes. What did that matter?? Patrick commented that his bike rack had once fallen off on I-405. By this time we were on I-405, and I could see the bikes bouncing up and down through my rearview mirror. I looked on FB again. Ethan had commented. “DUDE.”
Fuck. Ethan is pretty outdoorsy, and grew up in Denver. More importantly, Ethan spends a lot of his free time on the Internet and has a lot of useless knowledge about random things. So I dialed Ethan from the car’s Bluetooth. “Does it really look bad?,” I asked. Tom sat next to me, fuming. The boys sat behind us, sensing drama. As for Ethan, he had no idea that he was on speaker, or that Tom could hear the conversation. “Well, I mean, why are the bikes sitting so far away from the car?,” Ethan asked. What did he mean? I hadn’t even thought about THAT. I had only worried that the bikes would fall off. Now I pictured them tipping my car over. I started to ask Ethan follow-up questions but then noticed Tom’s arm, gripping the console in rage. “Ha ha, it’s all good, Ethan,” I said. “I mean…” Ethan continued. Then I hung up on him.
“I’m sure it’s fine,” I muttered to myself. And it was fine. The bikes bounced a lot but made it all the way to Sisters. And back. And hopefully they will make it all the way to Bend next week, and back from Bend. I assume they will. Because Tom says they will. And like a ringer, Tom tends to be right when it matters.