When I met my husband, I felt we were evenly matched. Academically at least. He was adorably socially awkward and, well, I rarely shut up. The combination worked.
His spatial and color-coordinating abilities are second-to-none, and my verbal and interpersonal skills seem to float us through the uncomfortable times.
In general, we complement one another. Upon further inspection, however, any discerning eye will find a major deficit between us: common sense.
If I had a quarter for every time one of my parents told me, “You’re so smart, but you have no common sense,” I would have already retired to a gold-foiled palace in the Caymans.
In my early twenties, though, I decided I should somehow try to exercise this muscle, somehow make it stronger, stop tripping over my own shoelaces. One doesn’t get by on dangerously good looks and a genius-level IQ, you know.
I started working with the street-smart. And it appeared to help me. I was learning every day. I swore my common sense was accumulating, multiplying, somehow increasing exponentially. I learned people’s tricks. I learned to ask questions, seek alternate opinions. I took fewer situations at face value.
My husband quietly went about his life, took few risks, learned what he needed to get by. He seemed solid to me. I figured, between the two of us, we’d be able to navigate this minefield called life without any trouble.
When we came together, though, it took me a little while to fully realize the magnitude of our collective stupidity.
After we moved into our first apartment, my husband expressed a desire for a Blu-Ray player. He’s a movie buff. I wanted a new home theater myself, mostly because I like loud noise. After comparison shopping for a bit over a month, we settled on a home theater and made the purchase. I was very excited to get it set up.
After two hours of plugging and replugging, reading the manual, and adjusting the speaker configuration, we could not get the player to work. The power came on and then nothing. I was disappointed. After the second painful hour passed, I decided there was either some step we weren’t aware of or something wrong with the player.
I pushed the phone at my husband and pleaded with him to call Sony. After a long hold time and having spoken to a representative who had us double-check the wires, the configuration, and the player’s settings, among other things, he put us on hold to find additional troubleshooting resources. He couldn’t determine the problem, either.
During that hold, I accidentally rolled onto the remote. The volume displayed on the screen. It read: VOL 0. Son of a monkey! I hit the volume button a few more times, and shazam, it was working. My husband and I collapsed on the floor in a fit of giggles. I lost my breath and tears streamed from my eyes. Almost three hours at this and no one thought to check the volume.
Once the representative, thoroughly perplexed, got back on the phone, and we caught our breath, my husband politely thanked him, told him the player was working, and hung up.
We continued to roll around laughing until we were able to collect ourselves and get up off the floor. For the next week, I wandered around muttering, “Volume wasn’t on…Jesus…”
After we got over that, and several other, ahem, similar situations, I decided we needed to work a little harder on the common sense. We stopped to process situations more carefully. We inspected and reinspected things we couldn’t figure out. We backed off and waited until one of us had some divine inspiration. We Googled the hell out of everything.
Over the past week, we haven’t been able to get our air conditioner working. We tried it two nights in a row, ending up with a stiflingly uncomfortable house. Cool air was nowhere to be found. I peered at the units out the window, called the HVAC company, made an appointment, and lamented our air-conditionless fate. The person at the HVAC company made several recommendations, asked how we had it set, what was happening after we turned it on, etc…She had no answers. The units, it seemed, were not working.
Last night, we called an electrician to take a look into (and give us an estimate for) some work in our basement. The visit was benign enough. He wandered around with his pen and his pad of paper, noting our requests. When we got to the circuit box, talking about a few things that we requested be changed out, he pointed inside.
“Did you know the power’s off to your air conditioning units? Did you want it that way?” he asked innocently.
“Oh, they’re off?” I responded nonchalantly. “No. No. We’d like them on. Thank you,” I tapped my chin with my index finger, trying not to let on that we had been feverishly turning the a/c on and off, running around the house, feeling vents for the past three days. “You can turn them on.”
I could have died right there on the basement floor. I could have just curled up and died. I was never so embarrassed, you know, since the last time I was that embarrassed. Luckily, I had a witness, too, my uncle, to whom we’d been complaining nonstop about our cooling issue.
I couldn’t wait for the guy to leave. I shook his hand, thanked him, and sent him on his way. Once he was out of sight, I let out a high-pitched, whining, “Oh my God! I’m SO embarrassed!”
My aunt and uncle did their best to reassure me about the facts that our attentions are divided between our children, our careers, and our home, and that we’re new homeowners who aren’t expected to ‘know everything’. I thanked them, and acknowledged my understanding. I didn’t ask to know everything. I only ask to know something. Sometimes. Not even always.
Turns out, common sense isn’t something you learn. It’s bestowed upon you. Either you have it or you don’t. And we don’t. But it sure is cool in here now.