My husband Brian stomped through the front door, flung his attaché on the couch and slumped past me toward his computer – his bastion of solace.
“Good day, sweetie?” I asked knowing perfectly well it wasn’t.
A muffled growl was his only response.
“Do you want to talk about it, or do you want to eat cookie dough ice cream and listen to Wilson Phillips?”
My sarcasm had its intended effect, and he rolled his eyes.
“I had a rough day at work,” he confided.
Rough days for him are unusual. As an optical lab manager, he is responsible for cutting lenses for eyeglasses, maintaining equipment and managing staff. He loves his job, and he’s very good at it. Like everyone, he sometimes comes home tired or annoyed, but rarely angry.
“I was filling in at our other store today,” he began. “They have a joke that every time I come in, a piece of equipment breaks.”
“You?” I asked aghast. “The man who can fix anything?”
He once repaired a piece of equipment that the manufacturer had given up for dead. He’s brilliant with machines and he isn’t used to being criticized.
“Yeah,” he snorted derisively. “Right when I came on my shift, the edger went down. I literally put my hand on the outside of it, and it shut off. The store manager came in and said, ‘What did you break this time?’”
Putting your hand on the outside of an edger can break it like putting your hand on the hood of a car can change the oil. It isn’t possible.
“It broke because they hadn’t been doing the regular maintenance,” he groaned.
“That’s what you’re mad about?” It seemed like a puny thing to me.
“You wouldn’t understand,” he sulked.
I nearly collapsed. “I wouldn’t understand?! I’m a writer. Half of my job is to take criticism! ‘This is too long. This is too short.’ I got an email last week that said ‘You’re grammer isn’t good.’ Or the worst insult of them all: ‘I don’t think your writing is funny!’ Then don’t read it!”
He stared at me with renewed respect.
“How do you handle the criticism,” he asked.
“Simple,” I replied. “I close my eyes and imagine the person criticizing me has bad hair.”
“Bad hair? That’s it?”
“I’m not done. I imagine them with bad hair. Then, I imagine they’re being eaten by a manatee.”
“Manatees are vegetarians,” he replied.
“Which is what makes it funny,” I retorted. I stared at him hard for a moment and imagined a sea cow chewing on his head. Then, I smiled.
“What’s so funny?” he asked. Realization hit. “You’re imagining I’m being eaten by a manatee aren’t you?”
“No,” I said unconvincingly.
“See,” I said triumphantly. “It worked. Now the man who knows how to fix machines knows how to fix bad days caused by critics.”
Nora Blithe is the author of the syndicated humor column “Life Face First.” Read her blog online at doorinface.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.