Me: Dad, if you can turn that down and still hear it, would you please turn it down—if you can’t, nevermind.
Dad: [brusquely turns TV off]
Me: You didn’t have to turn it off.
Dad: Well, if I can’t hear it, there’s no point in having it on, and I can’t hear it with the volume down.
Me: I said not to turn it down if you couldn’t hear it.
Dad: I didn’t think you’d mind the volume; you had it up the other night during Mystery.
Me: What are you talking about? What does that have to do with anything? You didn’t ask me to turn it down the other night. I don’t see what that has to do with anything.
Dad: I’m just saying, I didn’t complain about the volume during Mystery.
Me: I’m not complaining. I thought if you didn’t need the sound up, you might turn it down. If you need it up that loud, fine. It’s not that big of a deal.
Dad: Well, I turned it off; I didn’t make it a big deal. You’re the one that won’t let it go.
Me: [getting up to leave the room] I asked as nicely as I know how.
Dad: [eyes widening] I will NEVER watch TV up here again!
Imagine this conversation repeated in slightly different forms, 7-14 times per week, and you know one small pattern that orders my life. This is the Pattern of TV-induced Paterbulence.
Other patterns involve attraction and repulsion:
1. The Key to Gravity. Certain zones exert an unusual attraction over my keys. The closer I get to the front door of my parents' house, for instance, the stronger the pull of the earth's core on my keys. As soon as I lift my hand to the lock, gravity yanks the keys from my fingers and sucks them to the ground. Some days, on approaching the stoop, I simply throw the keys down first, an offering to physics, just to get the annoyance out of the way. In one notable variation on this pattern, once, as I rose to exit the passenger's seat in a car, my keys flung themselves from my lap directly into the sewer on a street in downtown Providence. The arc was difficult and precise. I could have practiced tossing my keyes toward that opening for weeks without hitting it.
2. Cellular Centrifugality. Whenever the Russian needs his cell phone, it is "at hand." The phone is not literally in his hand or pocket, which is what makes it so weird. But he has the phone "about" him somewhere. I don't know how this works. The phone rings and he brings it forth, somehow, from somewhere, by means of some magic. In contrast, I rarely ever have my cell phone. I almost never hear it when it rings, because the phone is usually far, far away. My cell phone lives a life independent of me in which it explores places I would never guess to look. I recently spent half a day questing after this cell phone. The Russian finally found it nestled in the pocket of a fluffy hot pink bathrobe, stuffed in a plastic tub atop a bunch of other plastic tubs, in a closed up, box-filled room in our disaster-zone, under-renovation house. I remember dragging out the robe that morning (Me, delighted: "Oh! here's my pink, fluffy robe!) and then, bored, shoving it back in the box, but I have no recollection of putting my phone in the pocket. Why would I do that? Most weeks I will lose the phone variously, in chairs, cars, restaurants, and most often and oddly, in my purse. Indeed, when the phone chemotaxies itself away from me by burrowing into the comparatively shallow depths of my purse, I can forget about laying hands on it for some time, even when I can see the phone light and hear the ring. The phone does this, I believe, as a kind of taunt. Getting the blinking phone to the mouth of the purse before a call goes to voicemail is a project by which I have been defeated on numerous occasions.