The Art of Incompetence

I was sitting at my desk at work sometime ago, back when I actually had a job, and an IM popped up on my monitor.  It was from my work-friend Jen: “Does Heidi have a pet name for you?”  I replied “Yes; why?”  “I’m taking a survey.” she replied.  I responded “She calls me Commander.”

“WTF!!!!?” she exclaimed.  “Are you serious?”  Knowing I had offended her feminist sensibilities, which kind of made me happy, I continued “Yes; but of course I call her Captain.”  “Whatever.”  Her disgust was awesome.  The joke was on her though.  I was in the Coast Guard and they along with the Navy have different officer ranking titles than those in the Army, Marines, and Air Force.

In the air and land forces a Captain is the first rank that commands any real responsibility.  The two ranks below it Second Lieutenant (O1) and First Lieutenant (O2) are really training ranks.  You’re learning to be in charge of people.  When you hold either of those ranks, your Sergeant (a high enlisted rank) is functionally in charge of you even though he has to salute you.  Further, there is no Commander rank in any of these forces; commander is a function.

In the nautical branches, however, Captain is the highest ranking field officer—but that’s not all.  Captain is also a title.  It is possible to hold a different rank and still hold the title of Captain.  The Captain is the Commanding Officer of a ship, regardless of rank and Commander is the rank directly below the rank of Captain.  For the uninitiated it can be a little confusing.

The point: In my house, my wife is in charge of me and everything else in our lives, and I am in charge of the dog and the guns.

Now, it would be very easy for some of you to read many of my entries here and draw the conclusion that I think I’m in some way superior to my wife.  That she is a crystal-gazing, new-age, incantation-chanting hippie and that I think somehow that’s beneath me because I appreciate science as a way to deal with this thing called Life.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Well, it’s sort of true.  She and her sister are both kind of new-age, incantation-chanting peace-nicks and crystals are very important to their approach to the world.

That said, in every way my wife is my superior.  She is better looking, smarter, more competent, more athletic, and she applies her moral integrity with better intuition.  In any pursuit my wife can best me with the exception of drinking and arm wrestling.  When I can get her to the range, she’s even a better shot than I am—but when it comes to drinking she’s a lightweight and I’m much stronger, mostly because of all the 12 oz curls I perform nightly.

Recently she demonstrated this near universally superior capability in a debacle I’m calling the Unsang Postnatal Affair.  I was reminded of this moment of humiliation as I left my office two minutes ago to snag the last cup of coffee from the kitchen.  I glanced at the stack of mail next to the wine rack filled not with wine but bottles of health supplements Heidi and Cindy are selling.

Next to the stack of envelopes containing notices, credit offers, and bills was a sad little box from the U.S. Post Office.  Can I just offer that I hate going to the Post Office almost as much as I hate going to the DPS office?  In Texas we have the Department of Public Safety, which oversees, among other things, the issuance of drivers’ licenses, and it’s no better than the DMV most other states have.

This is one of the few areas in which Texas is no better than any state in the Union.  When we finally do secede, it is my fervent hope that we will create some innovative way to regulate who can and cannot get behind the wheel of an automobile.  They suck in the biggest possible way when it comes to dealing with a public trying to renew that laminated little card.

Anyway, this beat-up little red white and blue, corrugated cardboard package with clearly marked postage had an address label affixed with the address scribbled over.  Accompanying this childish gesture was a big ugly, red finger pointing to the return address preceding the words RETURN TO SENDER in all caps.  It’s a thinly veiled insult that can be loosely translated as “The sender is an idiot.”  Uh, that would be me.

Two weeks ago my wife sent me to the post office with the package, which was addressed to a former colleague and friend: a Korean woman named Unsang.  Unsang recently delivered a baby and my wife wanted to do something nice for her to commemorate the new birth.  So she packed up some baby stuff in the USPS box, put an address on it, and handed it to me with a directive.  “Mail this.”

I was on my way out the door anyway, so I simply said “OK.”  A half hour later I received a call from Heidi.

“Where are you?”

“I’m at Hooters with Jeff.”

“Why didn’t you take my package to the post office?”

“I’m going to drop it off when I’m done here.  Why?  Does the post office close early on Tuesdays?”

Raising her voice she said “I’ve been looking for that package at the post office for 20 minutes.”


“I had Unsang’s old address.  I’ll come by and pick it up.”

“That’s not necessary.  If you’re out just drop off the new address here, or I’ll stop by the house before heading over to drop it off.”

Heidi came by and handed me the new address, neatly penned on a piece of paper.  After finishing my fourth beer I dutifully went to the post office and affixed a new label with the new address on it—or so I thought.

Fast forward to the following week.  I had just returned from Twin Peaks and went to the kitchen to greet Heidi.  Glaring at me she held up a beat-up box and said “Look familiar?”

“What?  I mailed it.”  Pointing to the label she said “It’s the wrong address.”  I tried to read through the scribbles and said “But I watched the postal worker put on the new address label.”  Examining it more closely she said “Wait; it’s the right address, there’s just no apartment number.  Good job.  And do you think you could skip beer and lunch with the guys just once and clean the pool instead?”

Her glare intensified.  Cindy wandered in.  “Why are you upset Heidi?”  Deeply sighing she just tossed the box onto the kitchen island.

I responded to Cindy: “Because I addressed a package wrong, wasting $5.40 on postage and delaying Heidi’s nice gesture to Unsang because the package was returned.  Then I drank beer instead of cleaning the pool.”

As I was writing that, it all sounded so unpleasant—and it was.  However, guess who’s not going to be asked to mail packages anymore?

Mission accomplished.



1 Comment

Filed under Marriage

One response to “The Art of Incompetence

  1. 🙂 Lovely writing. Glad to you survived to delicately relay this very lively story!

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