I call him “Mr. I Have a Better Way.” It’s a term of endearment. Sometimes.
Sometimes my husband and I butt heads. I cut the lawn one way, up and down. He cuts it another, side to side.
When I’m not calling him “Mr. I Have a Better Way,” I call him “Mr. Joke for Every Occasion.” I say, “You should record all the jokes you know,” because he knows a million and they’re funny. “Just record the jokes as you think of them. Use your phone,” I say, and he says, “I need to make a list. And do them by category.”
I object when he brings home a new step stool from Home Depot. We don’t need a new step stool, I say. But not too many days later, when I am trying to reach something way back on a high shelf, I go and get that new step stool, which has three steps, not two. And when Mr. I Have a Better Way comes home that night I tell him, “You know that step stool you bought? Well, you were right.”
It’s a dance we do.
One summer, years ago, when the dance was new, I ordered five yards of mulch from Polillio’s in Stoughton. He said, “Have it spread. Don’t do it yourself.” I said, “I want to do it myself.”
A week later, I was still spreading mulch when he returned from a business trip. It was late afternoon, and it was hot and I was shoveling the mulch into a wheelbarrow, carting it to where it needed to be, then using a shovel to even it all out. He watched for a minute, then walked into the garage and got a pitchfork. “If you insist upon doing this yourself, you should be using this,” he said.
Mr. I Have a Better Way did have a better way.
Last Sunday, I was in the kitchen cleaning the pantry. My husband couldn’t help suggesting how I might better organize the taco shells and boxes of pasta and countless cans of low-salt chicken broth that you can never have enough of, because this is what he automatically does.
“Have you thought that it might be better if you put the things you use most in the front where they are easily reached?” he asked diplomatically, having learned from experience that a question works much better than a “you should.”
“That way you won’t always be searching for things like ketchup,” he added.
For the record, I don’t search for ketchup because I don’t like ketchup. Also, the ketchup, which I buy at Costco, is huge like most everything you buy at Costco, so it lives in the back of the shelf because I organize my shelves by height, not frequency of use. Short things in the front. Tall things behind them. Simple.
I realize, of course, that most people keep ketchup in the refrigerator because they don’t want to die of botulism, but my Mr. I Have a Better Way says why would you put cold ketchup on hot eggs? Plus his mother did not refrigerate her ketchup, and she lived to be 87.
Anyway, I listened to all his shelving suggestions — box this, Ziploc that — without my usual I-don’t-want-to-hear-about-your-better-way-I-want-to-do-this-my-way attitude because, ketchup aside, he made sense. I liked his idea! So I put cocoa and Hershey’s Syrup and Marshmallow Fluff and shortbread cookies and chocolate covered raisins and nacho chips in the front, and it’s all been working for me. Which isn’t a surprise; it’s just Mr. I Have a Better Way having a better way.