Our corkscrew has resided in the same drawer for a year and a half, the same length of time that my husband and I have occupied our current home. Yet, when it is time to open a new bottle of wine, my husband rummages through several drawers to hunt for this device. The opening of wine bottles is a regular occurrence in our household, so his difficulty in finding the corkscrew cannot be attributed to infrequency. Rather it is attributable to his lack of focus regarding items in the kitchen, my domain. He is simply not evolutionarily adapted to function in that arena.
Watching Ray in the kitchen is like observing an animal out of its natural habitat. It’s as if a Bengal tiger suddenly found himself trying to navigate the ice floes of Antarctica. Or, if a penguin wound up on the Kalahari. Sometimes I feel like a National Geographic sociologist: “Observe the male of the species as he struggles to survive in this unfamiliar environment. Watch his perplexed expression as he opens drawer after drawer, seeking the elusive device that has remained in the same accessible location for 18 months. See his look of satisfaction upon encountering the device. Note the blank look which indicates that the location of said device is a piece of information that will not be stored for the next time.”
Two days ago Ray was searching for the jalapeno peppers that I told him were in the refrigerator in our garage. There’s not much else in the refrigerator so they should have been easy to spot. He opened the fridge door and promptly announced, “I don’t see them”. Whereupon I walked confidently to the appliance, reached behind the dozen eggs that had obscured his line of sight, and retrieved the container of jalapenos lurking there. It didn’t occur to him to move those eggs or to investigate farther than a perfunctory opening of the refrigerator door. The refrigerator may be in the garage but is a de facto inhabitant of the kitchen and, therefore, beyond the ken of my husband.
There are tasks in other areas of the house which prove themselves to be beyond the capabilities of my otherwise capable husband. These include but are not limited to: wiping the bathroom counter, putting the tube of toothpaste in the drawer, throwing away used bandaids, and replacing the plastic bag in the bathroom trashcan. When he is finished with a container of shampoo, the used container remains in the shower. If he inserts a new pair of disposable contact lenses, I could win big money by betting against his discarding the plastic container from which the lenses were extracted. His is the comical demeanor of the absent-minded professor, one who can’t be bothered with mundane household chores but who will reliably develop better ways to operate complicated machinery. He writes software that boggles the mind of the average human. One can almost hear his proverbial wheels spinning as he demonstrates that, although his body may be in the bathroom with the dripping wet countertop, his thoughts are hovering elsewhere amidst the virtual axes in his ever-creative mind.
His creative mind is in its element in his environment, the workshop. This is an environment to which his brain is especially adapted. Here, he is able to locate every tool, every piece of equipment and an infinite variety of hardware. Spanners, screwdrivers, Allen wrenches, ball peen hammers, soldering irons, rainbows of electrical wires…all these are easily located. Ask him for triple A batteries? No problem! Screws? Would that be metric or standard? Apparently the corkscrew is not even a distant relative of these easily-located screws.
I marvel at the skill with which items in Ray’s workshop are located and utilized. He knows exactly the right tool and hardware to repair any item in the house. He is intimately acquainted with each power tool and wields it with the confidence and finesse of a performance artist. My own personal Merlin can transform scrap bits of wood into beautiful decorative items for our home. Once his creations are done, he employs his unerring eye to locate the perfect location for each creation. Just don’t ask him to locate the corkscrew.