The Barnacles of Life

Machovka-Washing-machine-3One day, my boss caught me in the hall.

“I want you to give a presentation on the Total Cost of Ownership,” she said.

“I don’t know a thing about it,” I told her.

“Precisely!” she said.

A few weeks later when I stood to give my presentation, the plan was to deliver a speech so excruciatingly detailed that my boss would never ask me to do anything like that again. But before I could begin, an over-eager fellow in the back of the room raised his hand.

“We usually wait until the end of the presentation to field questions,” I told him.

But he kept squirming, so I relented.

“Did you know you have a dryer sheet clinging to your pants leg?” he asked.

“No, I did not know that,” I said.

But I should have.

Dryer sheets flutter everywhere in our house. They migrate out of the laundry like geese and take wing in the hall.  Scooter chases them madly and our cats use them as skateboards. At night they float across the slick wood floor of our bedroom, looming in the dark like icebergs off Greenland.

I am not sure how they proliferate like they do. When my wife puts one in the dryer as she loads it, I pull out four unloading it. At least those are the four that I count – because no matter how carefully I examine the clothes I always miss the majority of them – which then turn up in the most unlikely of places.

During church services, I pull them out of my sleeves like a magician.  At formal functions, I am forced to dig for them when they scratch in places where one should never dig nor scratch.

Still my wife insists upon using them. She buys into anything that promises to improve our lives. I am the opposite. I don’t trust technology of any kind. I know it too well for that.

All things new spawn their own set of problems.  Dryer sheets were invented to fix a problem caused by clothes dryers – another thing invented to improve our lives.  You see, when a dryer tumbles our clothes around and around, it literally scrambles the atomic structure of cloth, chasing the positive electrons out of our socks and the negative electrons out of our underwear, resulting in our socks clinging desperately to our undies. Dryer sheets solve this problem by assuming the job of clinging, which is why you find them stuck to the back of your pants at work.

I explained all this to my audience – I thought they would understand. Instead that same impetuous fellow waved his hand again.

Once more I relented and let him ask his question.

“What does any of this have to do with the Total Cost of Ownership?” he asked.

“I just explained that every time you solve one problem, you encumber yourself with a host of other problems,” I said, “but it is bigger than that.”

Every time you acquire something, a whole lot of other things come rattling along with it. Remember buying your first car?  Did you consider the cost of insurance, annual title fees, tires, repairs and depreciation?  None of these costs were included in the sticker price.

When you buy a smart phone, do you consider the additional cost of texts, voice messaging, a data plan and apps…

All of these costs cling like barnacles to our lives and they all must be accounted for.

I detailed how this happens with computer systems. There are the ever escalating licensing fees, the mandatory upgrades, the price of falling behind the curve, the cost of retaining skilled professionals to maintain the system and so on…

In the end, my boss was pleased. She even complimented me on the brilliance of using a dryer sheet as a prop.

I thanked her – but I had to ask, “Who is the guy with all the questions?”

“Oh, that’s Ravi. He came on-board to support a project that unfortunately has since been canceled, I don’t know what he does now — other than attend meetings.  I’ll have to look into that.”

Author: Almost Iowa

31 thoughts on “The Barnacles of Life”

  1. And using a dryer requires us to buy many pairs of socks that are identical. That way, when those infamous socks that are food for the dryer don’t return with their mate, I just add it to the pile of other singles like it. Voila. A pair.

  2. And here I thought it was love–true love–that made the socks cling to the undies. And the undies cling to the socks, because it wouldn’t be true love if it didn’t work both ways.

    1. Love like everything else is tragically inequitable. Undies tend to be intimate and needy things who cling to whatever they find. Socks are tougher — used to being trod upon. While they often come in pairs, they can’t wait to wander off on their own.

  3. Better dryer sheets sticking to your pants, than a piece of toilet paper.
    While the dryer sheets cause socks to seek out undies, a little known fact is that not all socks find undies. Some that lose out go thru emotional meltdowns, then physical meltdowns, and disintegrate in the dryer vent. Hence the missing sock…….

  4. I love your barnacles analogy. And it is so true that everything new spawns (what a great word!) its own set of completely unpredictable problems. The domino effect of life, I guess. My favorite line in this delightful post is “like a magician….” You are so darn good.

    1. To be truly satisfied with life, we must find pleasure in all the little things that cling to the more important things.. like the way dryer sheet tag along with marriage. In time, the very things that annoy us, become endearing.

  5. That total cost of ownership business is a concept I’ve not heard described in so many words, but I’m part of it — the cost, that is. Buy yourself a boat, and it’s only the beginning. There’s insurance, slip fees, repairs, and maintenance — which means a whole fleet of people to do things like varnish the wood (that’s where I come in).

    Pehaps to my benefit, I’ve always taken Janis’s words as both ironic and cautionary. In business, low overhead is good, and in life, low maintenance isn’t so bad, either.

    1. I spent several years hitch-hiking about with Bob Dylan’s lyrics to Like a Rolling Stone rattling around in my head, “When you ain’t got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose” Now, I have something but a whole lot less than I did and I get most enjoyment from things that don’t cost anything – like walking Scooter down a gravel road.

  6. I see several people have already mentioned the “sock” mystery, which also plagues my laundry room. I imagine the urchins who visit in the wee hours take great joy in swapping dryer sheets for socks. Explains a lot, right?

    As for the rest of life’s barnacles, we tend not to notice until we’re keel-hauled across them all. I guess the only answer is to “own” less.

    1. As for the rest of life’s barnacles, we tend not to notice until we’re keel-hauled across them all. I guess the only answer is to “own” less.

      If by getting keel-hauled, you mean losing a job or taking a pay-cut, it is amazing how much you can cut out of the budget when you are forced to. We are living on the third less than we made last year at this time, and haven’t felt much of a change in lifestyle. Much of that income went toward “the cost of working”.

  7. Great topic and barnacles is a perfect analogy. Early in our relationship I convinced Hub that ‘debt-financing’ was SO NOT the key to stress-free living. He quickly embraced that. This concept of the barnacles has been a little harder to sink in with him, as he doesn’t agree that all the extra car-related costs have made his car more expensive than what he originally thought. Barnacles amok!!

    I like your barnacle concept so much I’m going to use it with my grandkids).

    As for dryers, bed sheets are the only thing we use ours for and, even then, without those clingy things which make my nose twitch with those awful fake scents.

    Honestly, I prefer washing dishes by hand too. The fewer machines and less motor noise, the better. There is a certain serenity to washing & drying dishes and hanging laundry.

    1. This concept of the barnacles has been a little harder to sink in with him, as he doesn’t agree that all the extra car-related costs have made his car more expensive than what he originally thought. Barnacles amok!!

      If you use something like Quicken or even some banks are doing it now with credit/debit cards, you can categorize you spending and view a monthly reports… It is rather stunning to see.

      1. Good idea -thanks. We did that 6 years ago with too many weekly stops at Starbucks and figured out how many rounds of golf we could play instead.

        But men and their cars … Well he loves his car 😀

  8. Sitting in bed reading the internet on those new devices we own when we could be … Ah, the costs of ownership, but I loved your story

  9. Hahaha great story! Don’t even get me started on how the dryer seems to eat all of my socks leaving a bunch of widowed socks in its wake.

  10. So that is what they are for? Thanks, man. I always wondered why Mrs. Bardie kept throwing the darn things in the dryer. Now I know. I just have one more question. What happens to my socks that disappear?

  11. I’m picturing you with the dryer sheet sticking to your leg. This was a great story, but, yeah, stuck with that image. I have pulled things out of my sleeves like that.

  12. Great story and the last few lines are so typical of a business meeting. Sometimes no one knows what the next person is doing. 😳

    1. True, and with civil services sometimes the next person is not doing anything. Most of the people I worked with were dedicated and put in long hours…. but then there were the loads.

  13. In one of my past lives, the job included a lot of teaching and presentations to groups of professionals. If you know your subject and are still willing to learn, a tough audience becomes a little less intimidating. The problem was travel. Some of the “shows” were out of state but most were within driving distance. Often that meant rising VERY early in the morning and up to four hours of dodging deer and delivery vans to arrive and set up. Not a problem most days. But there was this one early morning sortie that was a challenge. Almost to my destination, I stopped for a hot cup of coffee and a place to make “room” for it. The sun was not quite up yet but there was just enough light to see that, as I stepped out of the car, I was walking on one brown loafer and one black. Dressing in the dark has disadvantages. The Kmart was just opening as I rushed in for that inexpensive pair of “rescue” shoes. When I moved on from that job I took that “spare” pair of loafers from the trunk before turning the work car in. Oh, and the shirt, tie and Jockeys too. Once a Boy Scout…

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