Just ask and I’ll get to it, maybe

I don’t care if my wife goes through my pockets looking for money. I have no problem with her opening mail that is addressed to me. She can peek at my text messages all she wants. No big deal. But please, Mary Ellen, do not mess with my “to do” list.

For almost 30 years, I have created such a list each night, having resisted technological advances: I have successfully poo-pooed Palm Pilots, bypassed BlackBerrys and ignored iPhones. Instead, I write my daily obligations on a mini yellow legal pad, each entry carefully arranged in chronological order, taking into account the route that must be negotiated the next day and the importance of the event. I fiddle with it all evening, often reconstructing it to account for each new activity that crops up. Just adding something to the bottom of the page would be unconscionable, so it must be recast to accurately reflect the change. The next morning, I am comforted by the list, knowing all the work behind its apparent simplicity. I consider it a piece of art.

I knew something was amiss last week when I left Greenwood after a meeting, drove back to Indy to replace a burned-out light bulb in our garage and clean the cat’s litter box, then raced back to Greenwood for lunch.

“Mary Ellen, have you done anything lately behind my back?”

“A bright guy like you? I’d never get away with it.”

She had a point. Nevertheless, I had just driven 60 miles to clean a litter box and change a light bulb, so I was in no position to dwell in the intellectual limelight. My wife has always had unique ways of getting me to do chores. She resists coming right out and asking. Instead, she resorts to trickery and skullduggery.

“Dick, you know those Colts play-off tickets? I think they flew up on the roof. I’m sure you’ll find them while you’re cleaning out the gutters.” I mean, how dumb do I look? It only took me three seasons to catch on to that little game.

“Mary Ellen, I’m tired of all this chicanery. We are going to start a new system. If you want me to do a chore, you just come right out and ask me. Is that a deal?”

“It’s a deal. Now could you please clean up the storeroom downstairs?”

“Not this weekend. I’m watching a big golf match on TV.”

“Could you fix the latch on the screen door?”

“Sorry, I don’t have the right tools.”

“Dick, this new system of yours doesn’t work.”

“Works for me.”