Last fall, my husband Jack went hunting like he usually does every fall – but this time instead of the usual 7-10 day trip, it was for a full month. He had finally been drawn for an elk tag for the first time in 10 years, so he was determined to take as long as he needed to finally kill his Moby Dick of the Elk world. Like his Moby Elk. Or Elky Dick. I don’t know. Not that there was an elk out there that actually bit off his leg (because this would be a different and entirely cooler story), but let’s just say it metaphorically bit off his leg and was taunting him.
Before he planned his trip though, Jack asked me if I was comfortable with him being gone for a full month. After I accidentally used my outside voice and said, “Duh. A chance to finally watch whatever I want on TV and have the bed to myself?” I clarified that I would miss his choices in TV viewing and I would be lonely without him. But I think he mostly meant, was I ok dealing with all the house maintenance stuff he usually handles on top of the other stuff I do each day. So with all my foresight and excellent planning skills, I told him it would be absolutely no problem.
This is where I should mention that 90% of the time my husband goes on a trip, shit breaks or inexplicably (to me) stops working. It’s never anything major. Things like smoke detectors going off at one in the morning or incessantly chirping even after changing the batteries and blasting the crap out of them with canned air. Or the dishwasher starts making possessed noises and we stop using it before it opens a portal to Gozer who is interested in turning my children into gatekeeper demon dogs. And trust me, I seriously had to consider not letting Gozer take my children because Oh My God they are annoying after being alone with them for more than 2 days straight.
So as the date of Jack’s trip got closer, I just assumed something would break or not work while he was gone and I would just have to be ok with that. I can usually roll with stuff pretty easily so if something broke I would just leave it for Jack to fix when he got home. Because that’s what he gets for leaving me alone with a house and children I don’t know how to take care of.
And then the day of his trip finally arrived. We went through the usual routine of last-minute scrambling trying to find missing critical hunting items, packing more things than his truck could possibly carry, and me relocating the TV remote to my side of the bed. Jack headed to the hills and I headed to the gym before the kids were supposed to start school.
Literally less than an hour after Jack and I left, my kids started 911 texting me that the WiFi wasn’t working. This was back when they were still “homeschooling” so losing the Internet meant they would get marked absent from classes. (Side note: I had no idea my kids were so responsible and concerned about being marked absent. Possibly because their normal level of responsibility is closer to “We have a cat? And it needs to be fed?” But I guess that day they were feeling uber responsible and yay for sudden attacks of responsibility when it means I have to deal with it.)
When I got home, I checked our router to make sure it was plugged in because hello, that’s the first thing you check and I’m not an idiot (see later in this story where I am an idiot). The router was plugged in, but unfortunately it was as dead as Jack likes his elk – which meant we were really down. I tried looking on our provider’s web site to see if they were reporting outages but I couldn’t find anything in our area so I called customer service.
When the rep got on the line with me, I told him we had no Internet and everything was down. He asked me what “everything” was so I explained that our router was down, TV was down, phone was down, etc. He said, “Ok, have you checked your breakers?” I was like, “This is new. I’ve never had anyone ask me to check my breakers when my Internet was down but maybe this is a new trick. Instead of unplugging and plugging back in your router, technology is so advanced that now we’re unplugging and plugging back in the whole house.”
I’m usually all about following directions, but something just didn’t feel quite right about this. I told the rep that I would check the breakers and call him back, but secretly I intended to not check the breakers and instead call Jack to see what he thought I should do. I mean, I can troubleshoot a computer all day, but the breaker box is a Candyland of bad choices. Draw the wrong card and you’re resetting timers for days.
But before I called Jack, I came to a realization. I realized that I had just called our utility company instead of our cable company. Things without Jack at home were off to a strong start!
No more than a few days after that incident, I was putting chemicals in the pool and noticed that the water looked kind of stagnant and debris-y. Our pump runs every night and the pool is typically pretty clear by morning, so something seemed off. And it was. Literally off. The pool pump I mean. Because it had blown up.
Debris-y: duh-bree-ē, adjectivemade up word. consisting of tree or shrub junk.
Before the pool could start to congeal into a mossy green oasis for mosquitos and alligators (which may not be native to Arizona but would be very tempted to come live in our green jelly pool), I called Jack. He called all the people he knows (probably while simultaneously trying to stalk Elky Dick) to find a reasonably priced pool expert and a day later I had someone in my backyard swapping out the pump. Take that universe! You want to play this game? It’s on.
After about 2 weeks into this whole debacle of trying to do life with things breaking left and right, I hit a wall. I was so mentally exhausted that I raised the white flag. I called Jack and told him that if he didn’t come home immediately, the next hunted and gutted animal would be him. (You’re right. I absolutely didn’t say that to him because I’m squeamish. And because I love him. But mostly because I’m squeamish.)
After weighing his options: A) wife hanging onto sanity by a thread while in charge of innocent children, and B) Elky Dick making a get away, Jack chose A as the worst of two evils and came home for a few days to fix all the things. Then he drove back to the hills to continue to hunt for things more interesting than pool pumps or lawn mower parts. (Did I mention the lawn mower stopped working too? Because of course it did. I’m telling you. Every damn thing broke while he was gone.)
The good news is that after my psychotic break, Jack doubled down on his efforts to kill Elky Dick and finally got him a couple days after he got back to the mountains. After sending me copious and gruesome pictures of dead Elky Dick, he said he would be home in a couple days. Hallelujah. But it would be too easy if that’s where it ended.
The day before Jack came home, I happened to be grabbing lunch for the kids (because I stopped dirtying dishes since discovering Gozer and I don’t hand wash dishes). I parked, grabbed my food from the restaurant, ran back to the car and hit Start Engine. And then I hit Start Engine again (because as all children know, the more you push shit, the better it works). And then I looked at my dashboard before I hit Start Engine again and I noticed the warning message. My battery was dead.
As the tears willed themselves into my eye holes, I thought to myself, “Absofuckinglutely not. Do not cry. You can handle this. There is a car fixer upper place right next door. Just walk in and tell them your battery died and could they help you get the old one out and a new one in even if you sound like an idiot and they subsequently charge you hundreds of dollars more than they should because they know you don’t know what the crap you’re talking about.” Next I thought to myself, “I’m tired, I just want to get home, fuck this shit.” So I called a friend for a ride home and decided to leave the car at the restaurant until my husband could help me get a new battery even if it meant riding the kids around everywhere on my bike.
After all of this, you’re probably thinking I would be motivated to start learning how to maintain all the house things. The problem is, if you don’t do something all the time you sort of lose the knowledge. If you need me to walk you through posting a story on Instagram, I will help the shit out of you because I do it all the time. But programming an 8 bazillion-zone sprinkler system or pulling apart a dryer to replace a burned-out coil isn’t like riding a bike. And yes, YouTube is amazing and has all sorts of tutorials on fixing shit, but I have yet to see a YouTube tutorial on how to get Gozer out of your dishwasher.