I've wondered what it would feel like to be a baseball pitcher who's sitting there in the dugout with eight perfect innings complete. What it'd be like to pick up your glove, jog out to the mound one last time, and know you are only three outs away from the highest achievement a pitcher can reach.
I had a glimpse of that feeling during the final hours of our moving day. Now, granted, I wouldn't say I was sitting there with a perfect game. I'd walked a few batters, and our team made a couple of errors in the field like ramming the couch into the hallway wall.* So maybe just a no-hitter. At the start of the ninth inning, the opposition had zero runs, zero hits. The fans were getting ready to Fly the W, begin their "Go Chris Go!" chants.
I was right there. I could feel it. History was in my hands.
If marriages had play-by-play announcers like if Joe Buck and Cal Ripken Jr. were calling our moving day, they'd be saying things like, "Where does this performance rank with the all-time greats?" One of the announcers would say, "Now, let's hang on a second, there's still some time left. This thing's not over."
And they'd be right. It was getting late, and I probably should have called it a night. Bring in the reliever, no shame in an eight inning effort. But I was like Pedro Martinez in 2003 insisting I stay out there and finish the effort. The manager decided to keep me in, go for the complete game despite already logging 120 pitches.
I should have known I was in trouble when I rammed my knee into a corner. And then I stubbed my toe. Then I almost dropped a wine glass.
As a member of the tall and skinny tribe, we tend to get more awkward and clumsy the later we go into the night. For example, next time you are out at a bar and hear glass shatter on the dance floor, nine times out of ten that's because one of my tall and skinny brethren got a little too into a dance move, threw a stray elbow.
Actually, if you're still out at 2 or 3 a.m., look around, you'll see no one standing above 6'3''. We've all went home for the night. Not because we've had too much to drink. No, it's a self-imposed curfew because we know that after midnight we have the grace and balance of Cosmo Kramer.
But I kept going. Kept moving boxes around. I wanted the no-hitter. I needed that no-hitter.
I did finally decide to take a quick rest, bent my knees to sit down on a box.
I stood up, looked behind me, and there was the picture frame. In the frame is our last name, O'Brien, spelled out using different shapes; the 'O' is a basketball hoop, the 'i' a lighthouse, etc. This was a wedding gift from Ashley's lifelong best friend, Kelly, who was also Ashley's maid of honor.
The glass was shattered like a freshly dropped iPhone. I had just given up the 450-foot grand slam. No-hitter: over. Three-run lead: gone. Loss: very likely.
Ashley came in and was rightfully upset. If this were a one-time mistake, it wouldn't have been a big deal. But I'm the guy who also ruined our nice Calphon non-stick wedding pans* from sloppy care, and a few weeks after moving day, there I was in the kitchen accidentally shredding a couple of corn on the cob holders in the garbage disposal. [Cue the Rick Perry, "Oops."] The shattered picture frame glass was just another goony mistake in a career of countless other goony mistakes.
Marriage arguments are a different type of fight.
It's never just about the picture frame. There's always the iceberg effect, something else going on underneath the surface. That's why, when I was single, I would watch a married couple get into an argument about something minor--forgetting to get the carton of milk, leaving out the frozen pizza--and wonder, man, how did that become such a big deal? All this crying over unspilt milk? It's just a Digiorno?
But I had no idea how intricate a marriage argument could be. As an outside observer, I was like the guy starting to watch Game of Thrones now vs. starting all the way at the beginning. Things were going way over my head because marriage arguments make references to Season 1.
After the picture frame crunch, I was preparing for the upcoming iceberg. I figured it could go one of two ways.
Iceberg 1: "This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things." This is just like the pans. You're like a 12-year-old boy stumbling his way through adulthood.
Iceberg 2: "The Friends Fair Time Rule." I make time for your friends, and you literally just sat on mine.
I immediately went on the defense.
I'm convinced all of us have this little Defense Attorney in our brain, who kind of looks like Anthony Scaramucci. The little Defense Attorney's sole job is to make it feel like you never, ever, make a mistake. I wasn't sure how he'd spin this one. I mean I did sit on the picture frame. There's no gray area as to who made a mistake.
His argument: Remember the summer of 2016? The era recognized in the O'Brien household as the series of unfortunate iPhone events.
Background: Ashley, who danced professionally, is everything I am not in terms of grace and general balance. But, in an incredibly rare one or two-month stretch, she uncharacteristically dropped one iPhone in a lake and then had another iPhone jump into the washing machine a few weeks later.
It was rare, probably two of like four total klutz moments in Ashley's life, but my little mental Scaramucci was padding my ego, telling me about how cool, calm, and composed I was when I heard the news of those fallen iPhones. You didn't even yell, it was amazing! Truly inspiring. And she's gonna give you crap about a picture frame?
Marriage is full of forgiveness; it has to be, but rarely are past mistakes truly forgotten.
And these tally up on an unofficial ongoing scoreboard. So yes, the iPhones were a severe financial hit, but those were also two pretty big points for me on the scoreboard. And those are invaluable. Money can't buy marriage points.
For instance, if it were possible to have a scuba diver go down to the bottom of the lake, find the phone, save the day, and do it all pro-bono, you really have to weigh the pros-and-cons of the financial savings vs. the points. It's a pretty tough call.
My scuba diver type of plan for the picture frame was a far more practical fix. We've got this little frame store not even a block away from our place. I remember them advertising how they'd frame your newspaper articles after the Cubs won the World Series. I told Ashley I'd go in, get it fixed. She said don't even bother; which I interpreted as her wanting to keep the grand slam on the board.
I went in and expected to be hit with a crazy expensive quote. I assumed there was probably like one custom glass maker in the entire world who lives in a cave somewhere in New Zealand and does custom glass work in between making custom swords for the Game of Thrones cast. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to hear it would be $100, $1,000, or $36,000 to get this fixed.
But what I wasn't expecting was $12. Really? That's it. Paid in cash, and later that day proudly brought home the frame, my swagger when I walked into the condo was kind of like Ben Stiller bringing back the fake replacement cat in Meet the Parents. Everything good as new. Ashley was happy; the original mistake forgiven, but not forgotten. The frame now hangs in our living room, out of my reach.
In the end, it wasn't technically a perfect game, but I did get the call reversed. And you know what, if you can still manage to Fly the W on moving day, I consider that a pretty big win.
Burnt Ends aka footnotes, the extra fat from the story that's usually good with some bbq sauce:
*Errors - However, throughout the game, I had been bailed out by my teammates time and time again with spectacular diving catches and heroic double plays.
*Nice Pans - In my defense, those had Bed Bath & Beyond lifetime warranty so I did get a do-over there. Shout out BB &B)
This is the last of the "Moving Sucks" posts. If you're new to the series, Part One, Two, and Three can be found here. I have a few more stories to tell about that day (and the weeks that followed) including the time I accidentally stole my new neighbor's bike. All this will be put together in an e-book called Moving Sucks which I aim to have out on Halloween.
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