MIDDLE-AGED PLAGUE - 'Can't' means find another way to do

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Someone suggested to me once that when you use the word "can't," you append the word "yet" after it, as in:

"I can't skydive ... yet."

"I can't understand quantum physics ... yet."

"I can't play the oboe ... yet."

The concept that we not limit ourselves by words is sound, although like any idea it can be taken to extremes of fanaticism.

Without being strangely compulsive, however, we have always tried to be upbeat about the resources at our disposal, using what we have to its maximum and not wasting time grumbling about what we lack.

For years we didn't have a pickup, a handy item on our country acreage outside Dayton, but it's amazing what you can fit into a car. We've carried everything from bales of hay to Christmas trees to a grown goat to two-dozen paintings, but not at the same time.

My latest car coup was the new washing machine, tucked into the back of theaptly named Honda Fit. It was amusing to watch the burly appliance loaders stride out, stop short in front of this deceptively tiny vehicle, shake their heads, and ponder what they were going to say to the batty broad who assured them, "It'll fit."

And it did. I dropped in on Eldest Supreme at work justso I could casually mention, "Oh, by the way, I have a washing machine in the back of the car."

There was even room for groceries.

There's something fun about being odd, blithely moving forward to accomplish things that everyone says you can't. It's difficult to do at first, but the more you practice, the easier it gets -- to the point that when you get really good at it you find that you're living your own life, as opposed to vicariously existing the way the people around you think you should be.

The downside is that you are odd, out of step with the other drummers, sometimes standing alone on a side street while the rest of the town is watching the parade on Main Street.

I thought of this the other day when I was running errands and every single person I encountered asked me, "Are you going to the circus tonight?"

What kind of Scrooge says "no" to a circus?

"How much does it cost?" I asked.

"Eighteen dollars for adults, but your granddaughter would be FREE!"

One of the many skills in my repertoire is the ability to multiply a two-digit number by a single digit model, and $18 times four (me, the Norwegian Artist, and two progeny) plus $0 for the Toddler makes $72. That buys a lot of yarn, or, in the case of the Washing Machine Issue, it meant that I stared blankly at the sales rep when he asked if I wanted to sign up for the six-month no-interest plan or the 12-month one.

"If I didn't have the money on hand to pay for this now, I wouldn't be buying it," I said.

After all, I've been holding my old washer's hand for two years. Or more aptly, applying pressure on the agitator, which doesn't work properly unless I stand there and push down. Calling a repairman to a rural area and paying $100 up front for the 70-mile trip means it's worthwhile to save up and wait for a sale, which I did.

And now, instead of a visit to the circus -- which really, between animals and people and life's circumstances I have on hand every day -- I've got this box on the front porch, waiting for the Norwegian Artist to set down his brushes in exchange for a little aerobic activity and weight lifting.

I took a break just now to pat Edward, the Useless Porch Kitty, and then smile at the big box emblazoned with Washer/Laveuse/Lavadora.

If I get this much joy out of reading the box, then what will the actual washing machine produce?

Seriously, I think a circus would be too much for my emotional makeup.

I can't do it.

Yet.

Dayton columnist Carolyn Henderson, who manages Steve Henderson Fine Art, can be reached at 382-9775 or via email at carolyn@stevehendersonfineart.com.

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