In a war of attrition, my money will always be on my wife.
The other day she took it to a whole new level.
It was very early in the morning on the day after the 4th and I was not in a very talkative mood. I was exhausted and could only think of getting home from our vacation to take a nap with the Princess of Happiness (my daughter).
My parents had generously offered to drive us to the airport, and on the two-hour ferry + car trip, I was not a social bunny. As my lovely wife carried on all the conversation, the most I could offer up was a few timely grunts and groans.
I was not winning any Husband of the Year points: digging a deeper and deeper hole as the miles ticked away on the speedometer.
Then, to make it much, much worse, after we were dropped off by my parents at the airport, I snidely made fun of my wife’s cheery disposition by telling her that she had now used up half her word inventory for the day.
Very Bad Idea.
She immediately tells me while standing on the curb outside the airport on one of the busiest travel days of the year, with a teething infant, and a large array of logistical nightmares in front of us, that she is not going to talk anymore.
And just like that…she went mute.
I admit that for a very very brief instant I thought, ‘Wow, that was easy.’
And I’m sure many men would share that sentiment (at least for a split second).
But then I realized that she wasn’t kidding and that I had deeply offended her. I tried every trick in my how-to-get-the-wife-talking-again book.
There were imaginary phone calls from ex-girlfriends, sightings of famous home decorators, silly dance moves, questions about where to move a certain piece of furniture in the house, imitations of politicians and multiple multiple apologies.
I had to accept and adapt and learn to work with my non-talking wife or… not get home.
There was really no choice and so I became the husband of a mute wife.
Instead of listening to her words, I watched her body language and anticipated her needs.
Through the airport check-in, through the long security lines, through the diaper change in the family room, through the ordering of breakfast and through getting on and settled in the plane, I handled it well.
I felt like I was at the end of an episode of Modern Family.
I was just waiting for that happy, tearful ending when it all makes sense and everyone realizes that they have everything they need.
And it was just that moment, sitting on the plane with my speechless wife, wondering when it would all make sense, that a steward approached us and offered me the most sacred of sacred plane travel rewards.
‘Mr. Johnsen, we have a first class seat that we would like to offer you, complimentary.’
‘Ummm, do you just have one?’
‘Yes, just one seat.’
‘Can either my wife or I take it?’
‘Yes, either you or your wife may take the seat.’
I knew the answer.
I knew this was a test.
And I definitely knew the answer.
And although my wife was hitting my arm and trying to shoo me away and probably looking like a terrorist threat to the stewards who were patiently awaiting my answer, I knew exactly what I needed to do.
“No thank you, you can give it to the next person.”
And through my wife’s looks of shame and horror as if I’d just given a winning lottery ticket to a stranger, I had finally arrived in that clear serene place of knowing that I did the right thing and feeling completely satisfied.
I didn’t want to be away from her. Even though she wasn’t speaking to me and rightfully upset by my behavior, I wanted to be with her. I wanted to be with my girls. I couldn’t stand the thought of being away from them.
Let someone else enjoy their complimentary upgrade, their over-sized seat, fancy food and free drinks.
I’m perfectly happy.
I have everything I need.