The list test

A good marriage requires consistent communication. Whenever the Carpenter and I begin to rest on our communication laurels, we throw in a “list test” for good measure.

The list test is a time-honoured tradition where the Carpenter enlists me to go on a hardware store expedition. My instructions are simple if you are a tradesperson – but if you are a writer who thinks making a daisy chain out of coloured paperclips is an engineering feat, then those instructions present a challenge.

The most recent list test took place this past Sunday when I was sent in search of porcelain tiles (which we had already agreed to; another test passed), the floor bonding grout and spacers.

The Carpenter documented his list of required construction supplies on a scrap piece of paper, then handed it to me with these poetically phrased words: “I need these.”

I mentally salute him (because he frowns on my sarcasm in moments like these). I know my mission. The Carpenter has entrusted me to interpret the list, hunt down the items, gather the supplies and return home with the bounty. The prize? He will use the supplies wearing his tool belt. This works for me.

I bribed my son into coming along, because I knew I couldn’t lift the tiles or the bags of grout. My job was to secure the items, not load them. Check. Because I have a photographic memory (and the ability to read what’s on the end of the aisles), I found the tiles with ease and set the teenager to work. It was all going according to plan.

Spacers? Please, a monkey could handle that job. Too easy.

And then came the grout, and I was stuck. I stood in the aisle with the muddy mixes on both sides of me, some in bags, some premixed, some for under the tile, some for between the tile. Oh no.

Finally, a store employee came by and witnessing my anxiety, offered to help. He didn’t help. He asked me more questions than I could answer, and then told me that based on my details everything my spouse was doing was wrong (dumb girl). He suggested I verify the construction details before I go any further.

Now you can look at this one of two ways: the Carpenter wasn’t fully clear in his instructions to me because he too need clarification on the best grout for the job, or he assumed I understood his floor tiling methods far better than I did, and could thus engage in asking the right questions. Turns out both were right. However, the sales associate was wrong. Did he dare question the Carpenter? Mad man.

In case you had any doubt, I passed the list test. It was as easy as calling the Carpenter and telling him that the salesman said he was building the floor all wrong. Kaboom.

I will not share with you the phrasing that came over the mobile network that day, but suffice it to say, I got to scrap the list and come straight home. I may have failed to retrieve all the supplies, but I got points for knowing the sales associate was a fool for questioning my man. I used the sales associate to infuriate the Carpenter and abort the mission.

And that is how you pass the list test.



Kelly Waterhouse