That Over There

couple3My wife and I were making supper when she gestured toward the counter and said, “Hand me that over there.”

We often say odd things like this and what rarely makes sense to any one else, usually makes sense to us.

It is because we have been at this business of living together long enough to stay mostly in sync – but every once in a while something slips out of gear.

“What?” I ask.

“That,” she says without indicating what that might be.


THAT,” she says, again gesturing wildly at a kitchen counter full of thats.

Here we reach an impasse. She could simply walk over to the counter and grab the thing she wants but it suddenly has become more important to her that I grasp what it is she is talking about.

It is a crisis of sorts.

Not a big crisis, mind you, but a crisis none the less.

Imagine if something like this happened in baseball.

A batter hits a line drive. The short-stop leaps to snatch it out of the air. He sees a runner advancing toward second base but finding himself off-balance, he flips the ball to the pitcher.

Who looks at it, completely dumbfounded.

His expression reads, “What am I supposed to do with this?”

And everyone on bar stools across the country talks about it for the next two weeks.

It is not a failure of communication because nothing was communicated. It was a failure of trust.

Teams function more often by anticipation than communication. They perform at a level where it is almost impossible to observe the cues, if there are any.

Sometimes this can be deadly serious.

I used to work in a steel foundry where the thunder of machinery was so intense that you wouldn’t know if two dinosaurs were devouring each other a few feet behind you.

It was so loud that our only method of communication was crude hand signals. There was no way to discuss or explain or risk a mistake by playing charades. You simply had to anticipate what the other guy was thinking because his life and your life depended on it.

You had to trust each other to know what things like ‘that over there’ meant.

The same with marriage.

You have to know when your spouse is down, so you can lift them up. You have to know when they are sailing too high, so you can gently settle them back down to earth.

You have to know when you did something wrong and when to let go after being wronged.

You have to know what the other is actually saying, when their words say something else.

So it is a big deal when tiny miscommunications crop up, which is why she wouldn’t stop to explain or even walk over to get what she wanted.

She had to get us back in sync.

It didn’t take long.

“Oh…You mean the thing?” I finally said.

“Yeah, the thing.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so?”

Author: Almost Iowa

60 thoughts on “That Over There”

  1. We both admit / we’re losing it /exasperating/brain fart shit/Better just get used to it!

    1. It is familiar to anyone who has had another in their life for any length of time. It is even getting that way between me and Scooter…. Which is scary. 🙂 🙂

  2. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! All of you! I am currently not married, but my cows did the same thing. Mooing at me and looking toward something. One morning I got up and the pond was froze over. The cows were looking toward the back door waiting for me to feed the cats so they could encourage me to hurry up. Patience is not a virtue for a cow…

  3. The first thought that entered my poor little mind was, “I wonder if ‘that there’ is a contraction of ‘that thing there’? Then, I realized that down here in Texas, ‘that there thing’ is another way to phrase it. The dynamics of the question and answer are just as you describe: wonderfully well, by the way.

    The hand signal business, I get. When the crews showed up with their cranes and such to untangle the messes in the marinas after hurricane Ike, it was fascinating to watch the crane operators and guys at the front of the barges communicate only with hand signals. I asked one why they didn’t use 2-way radios or such. He said that the hand signals were faster, more dependable, and less open to interpretation. That’s just opposite of what most people would expect, but there it is.

    It reminds me of a William Stafford poem titled “A Ritual To Read To Each Other.” The final stanza is:

    For it is important that awake people be awake,
    or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
    the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
    should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

  4. I’m not sure if it’s because my wife was born in a foreign country, but in our house the term is “thingy”. And yes, it is permissible to use it more than once in a sentence, with two different meanings.

    1. The reference to a “thingy” reminds me of a wonderful song by Grace Fields THE THING-UMMY-BOB. Here is a bit of it:

      She’s the girl that makes the thing that drills the hole
      that holds the spring that drives the rod that turns the knob
      that works the thing-ummy-bob.
      She’s the girl that makes the thing that holds the oil
      that oils the ring that takes the shank that moves the crank
      that works the thing-ummy-bob.

      It’s a ticklish sort of job making a thing for a thing-ummy-bob
      Especially when you don’t know what it’s for
      But it’s the girl that makes the thing that drills the hole
      that holds the spring that works the thing-ummy-bob
      that makes the engines roar.
      And it’s the girl that makes the thing that holds the oil
      that oils the ring that works the thing-ummy-bob
      that’s going to win the war.

      1. Cool song. I wasn’t familiar with that one, but it reminds me of the “thing-ama-bob” and “thing-ama-jig” variations my folks used to use.

  5. Greg, you are in your usual great “form” with this “thingy” post. You know what I mean! Brings back memories of one son always asking where things are in the kitchen. My standard answer, “ In the oven,” and I’d get an exasperated “Mommm!” 📚🎶Christine

  6. “You have to know what the other is actually saying, when their words say something else.” A critical key to success in marriage.

    My favorite conversation went like this:

    Her: What do you want for dinner?
    Me: Do you have the stuff to make that stuff?
    Her: I do.

    1. I was single for years and I loved every minute of it – until conflicts arose.

      Self: I think I’ll have a beer.
      Self: It’ll make you fat.
      Self: Mind your own business.
      Self: You can’t talk that way to me.
      Self: If I can’t who can?

      Fight club.

  7. My marriage is pretty happy. We are together almost 20 years. We have a good time and don’t fight very often. I guess we “get” each other in that way. But reading your post reminds me that this is still missing from our relationship. My coworkers “get” me faster than my husband in this way. We spend 40-60 hours together each week. My hubs and I spend 8×7=56 hours of our precious little time together sleeping. Most of the rest caring for children and a house. It’s really hard to force this silent knowing if you haven’t already developed it. But I guess it’s never too late.

    1. I experienced the same thing in the workplace – but it is perfectly understandable. The work environment is structured, meaning that it is literally defined by roles. Someone, usually a manager, has designed your job and though you may have done some of that designing yourself in an informal manner, there is still boundaries that define how you interface with others. It makes it easier to work as a team.

      At home, in the 21st century, we are less defined by roles and no one but ourselves structures our lives – that makes it harder, especially when you are raising kids. Over time, things get easier.

  8. So… marriage guidance and humor really do go together. I’m so glad you found the “thing” but do you know which where-is-it the what’s-it’s on, ’cause I’ve been looking for it for ages?

  9. So marriage is like working in a steel foundry, huh? Life or death? Ha ha. Lots of wisdom in here along with the humor, Greg. I’m glad you got back in sync. 🙂

    1. So marriage is like working in a steel foundry, huh?

      There are times, when I wish I was still working there, so I would have a place to go to relax and I am sure that during those same times, she wishes I had a foundry to go to also.

  10. Haha! I love this. My son was over the other night and I said to my husband, ‘Hand me the Uzi knife.’ Son looked aghast. Husband smiled and handed me the large serrated knife. I love that everyone has their own language.

    1. Not at all.

      The next time you have that conversation, conclude it with “I was thinking you need a beer.” While that might not be what you were thinking, it will make him fall, instantly, further in love with you. No counselor could get that kind of result. 🙂 🙂

  11. Only experience creates that kind of understanding! I totally get it. When this conversation comes up, my wife will ask me to “define” said “thing”. It immediately put us back in sync! Spot on and 33 years strong!

    1. Often times when we say things like “that over there.” It is because our aging minds have temporarily forgotten what the name of the ‘that’ is and the definition can become equally as confusing.

      “I meant the thingy with the plastic handle and all the little thingies that you use to slice.”
      “Slice what?”
      “Oh, you mean the apple peeler.”
      “Uh……where is it?”
      “Gosh, you are pathetic.”

    1. At a certain point, you just know what the other is thinking.

      “You know what.”
      “No, what?”
      “I know what you were thinking.”
      “You better be, Mister.”

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