“We may be only one of millions of advanced civilizations. Unfortunately, space being spacious, the average distance between any two of these civilizations is reckoned to be at least two hundred light-years, which is a great deal more than merely saying it makes it sound. It means for a start that even if these beings know we are here and are somehow able to see us in their telescopes, they’re watching light that left Earth two hundred years ago. So, they’re not seeing you and me. They’re watching the French Revolution and Thomas Jefferson and people in silk stockings and powdered wigs–people who don’t know what an atom is, or a gene, and who make their electricity by rubbing a rod of amber with a piece of fur and think that’s quite a trick. Any message we receive from them is likely to begin “Dear Sire,” and congratulate us on the handsomness of our horses and our mastery of whale oil. Two hundred light-years is a distance so far beyond us as to be, well, just beyond us.”
― Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything
Today I engaged in eating oatmeal at 2PM on a Sunday afternoon. As a form of protest.
I was putting this quote up on the fridge, when all hell broke loose up in this joint. Over laundry. And lunch.
All I wanted was for my 16-year-old to gather her laundry from the various places where it was stashed: her hamper, her bedroom floor, the bathroom floor, her sports bag, her backpack, and probably under the couch. I further asked that she sort it, and place it, sorted, into the .89 cent bright blue Ikea bags that I have found are ideal for dragging dirty clothing down to the laundry room.
This happened at about 11 AM when she wandered in after sleeping at a friend’s and demanded to know what was for lunch. Embroiled as I was at the moment in other domestic duties and having just finished a mid-morning yogurt myself, I was in no mood to deal with her demands.
She’s like a kidnapper when it comes to making demands. As a young child she used to very successfully hold my husband hostage at bedtime. She was a very skilled “one more book, Daddy” negotiator. I was a different story. Savvier, you might say. I set the rules. Up front. When I was the story reader she chose wisely. No “in the moment” negotiations allowed.
Judging from the current laundry situation, I guess you must have surmised that I’ve slacked off over the years. About ten years. These were the formative years, as it turns out. I’ve done the lion’s share of the laundry sorting and the lunch making. So, why choose this morning to make my stand?
Truthfully, I almost caved. Until she commented on the quote. It was meant as a joke. It was a jab at my husband’s affinity for watching any and all television programming that purports to investigate “real” alien sightings. I’d finally weaned him off of “The News of the World” and then this bullshit began to proliferate the airwaves.
While enjoying my banana yogurt and surfing the net, I came across this quote from one of my all-time favorite authors. If you enjoy humor writing, I beg you to read anything by Bill Bryson. You will not be disappointed. I promise.
My husband is often impressed or, if you will, hoodwinked by the pseudo-science that is part and parcel of this type of programming. I was hoping that during the pursuit of coffee creamer he would take notice of the quote, absorb it, and have a “I could’ve had a V-8” moment, thereby saving me from ever again being subjected to even accidentally overhearing one of these silly programs.
Following the debacle that passed for laundry gathering and my refusal to rustle up an 11AM lunch, my daughter decided to head to the fridge in search for some type of acceptable sustenance. It was then that she stumbled across the quote.
I heard the fridge door slam, which I attributed to her discovery that there was no one in there to hand her a sandwich. Two seconds later, as I was bent over cleaning behind the toilet, I caught sight of a piece of paper fluttering out of the corner of my eye.
She had found the quote. She was insulted by the quote. For her father. I was accused of thinking him stupid. Of being insensitive. Of being a jerk. I calmly explained that I did not think her father stupid, simply misguided. I defended myself further by pointing out that her father can take a joke, even if it’s on him. I copped to being a jerk. I’ve been called worse.
I really wasn’t fooled for a minute by her behavior. Like any good confidence man, my kid was trying to deflect my attention with some clever sleight of hand. It was then that she asked me, once again to make her a sandwich. It’s just her version of the shell game. I almost fell for it, too. Almost.
I got a little peckish around 1:30, but there was no way I was going to make a sandwich. She’s cunning, my kid. She would have found some way to jump on that train! So, instead of enjoying the nice rare roast beef on fresh semolina bread that I had been looking forward to, I settled for the oatmeal. Somehow gruel never feels like a “win”. Ya know what I mean?