Pacific Northwest | August 10, 2003Pacific Northwest MagazineAugust 10, home
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Flipped Over Gadgets
They'll save you labor but not trouble
I like to buy gadgets.

The Truly Unpleasant Mrs. Johnston doesn't call my purchases "gadgets." She likes to call them other things like "junk" or "waste of money" or even worse, "more junk that's a waste of money that will clutter up the house." In other words, Mrs. Johnston doesn't appreciate it if I bring home a labor-saving device that will make life easier for both her and me.

OK, maybe I had making things easier for Mrs. Johnston in mind when I brought home a mop that sprayed cleaner on the floor as you scrubbed, but she didn't have to show her lack of gratitude by putting the mop in the closet and refusing to use it. She said it left streaks, which I couldn't see.

(I must digress here. In the ongoing war of the sexes, Mrs. Johnston seems to be winning the battle where one spouse tries to make the other spouse feel guilty without actually saying anything. It's the case where actions speak louder than words. The labor-saving mop is a good example. For some reason, Mrs. Johnston thinks she should clean the kitchen floor by crawling around on her hands and knees with a wet dish towel. I didn't think this was the best way to clean the floor, and that's why I purchased the spraying-mop gadget.

(Some readers may think my purchase opened up a chance for me to take over the floor duty, and to that I say, "Don't be ridiculous!" Which means Mrs. Johnston gets to make me feel guilty while she wins extra points for doing something she knows I would never do. She pulled the same thing when she had all those children, knowing full well that I wasn't up to the task of birthing babies. I'm through digressing now, and will get back to labor-saving devices.)

Mrs. Johnston doesn't seem to mind when I buy a gadget for the workshop. That is apparently the one area where I don't have to explain what I bought or why I bought it. "This thing will hold the nail in place while I hammer it in," I tell Mrs. Johnston.

"Can't your fingers do the same thing?" she will ask, with one eye squinting at the gadget and the other glaring at my forehead. I don't know how she does this, but it always scares me.

"Well, sure," I tell her, "but this thing is all shiny and battery-operated. Besides, I might hit my fingers."

The other day I went to one of those huge department stores that have everything from underwear to truck tires. I was wandering through the aisles, mouth agape at the wonder of all the gadgets, when I came across a labor-saving device that I had seen advertised on a television commercial at 3 in the morning. It is called a Flip Fold, and what it does is fold your clothes so they stack up neatly in your closest. Now, who could pass on a labor-saving gadget like this? For only $7? I was sold.

But when I brought it home, Mrs. Johnston looked at it with the one eye squinting and said just two words: "One week."

Those people who have not, as I have, been married for the last two centuries might need an interpreter for those words. But the rest of us already know they meant that Mrs. Johnston thought I would use this new labor-saving folding device for one week, and then it would go in the closet.

As it turns out, the flipping gadget is great at folding T-shirts. But I hang my shirts and pants on hangers, so I don't need to flip and fold them. Unfortunately, I only wear a couple of T-shirts every week, and it takes about five seconds to flip and fold those.

Still, I take the flip-and-fold gadget out of the closet with a big production about how neat my T-shirts look all stacked on the shelves. Then I flip and fold. It takes longer to get the gadget out than to fold the T-shirts. But I plan to use it every week.

This is war — and I need the points.

Steve Johnston is a retired Seattle Times staff reporter. His e-mail address is Paul Schmid is a Times staff artist.

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