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"Mr. Chowder is incapable of writing a bad sentence." – The New Yorker

Living with a SWiMCAT

Living with a SWiMCAT

I live with a SWiMCAT.  Maybe you do too, or maybe you are one.

I’m proud to say I made up the acronym.  It describes my wife: She Who Must Control All Things.  For short, a SWiMCAT.

I know, I know.  The “i” is just there because you say it when you pronounce SWMCAT.

To find out if you live with one of these creatures, ask yourself: is there anything that you do at home that does NOT have to be redone?  (You brought the plants in from the balcony for the winter, sure, but did you have to put them in the window sill?)

Right: that was kind of a crazy idea.  Should have been the other window sill.   I see that now.

It was my birthday recently, and one present I got from the SWiMCAT was a little clock.  I liked it; but where to put it?  I suggested err um the kitchen table.  There was no discussion.  An hour later it was gone.  I found it in my wife’s room, where it still sits, keeping the time.

Once upon a time the SWiMCAT took it upon herself to create a little montage of pictures on the wall of my room.    What I had on the wall was: nothing.  (This was my kind of wall.  I don’t make holes in walls.  If you make a hole in the wall, eventually someone is going to have to spackle it over, sand it, and paint it.  Too much work.  I like me a nice blank wall.) But as a present to me my SWiMCAT made this pretty little collection of paintings and banners and snapshots.

Very Cute.  It has my daughter’s artwork, my grandfather’s painting, and my mini-Messi jersey, all very important.  And the accurate image of my wife and myself disguised as mushrooms.  But in my wall there are now many holes. Every day I look over there and think of spackling.

A more typical SWiMCAT gesture would be my favorite vegetable peeler.  It always sits in one place, the Gadgets section of the silverware drawer.  Except when the SWimCAT puts it somewhere else.  Sometimes she moves it to another, mysterious place.  When that happens, I can’t find it in a month of trying.   And it does happen.  I once asked why she moved it around; why couldn’t the vegetable peeler be in a place where we can find it?   “Because there is another vegetable peeler,” she said.  It was a pleasing leap of logic, so I left it at that.

I once asked her older daughter (who is also a SWiMCAT), why they did what they did — why everything had to be planned and plotted out, maneuvered in the mind, as if all of life is a gigantic chess game, with every move impacting all of the universe.  My SWiMCAT’s daughter thought about my question and let it rustle around in her brain, like a dog looking for a place to sit down.  And then she said, “I think that men like it when someone else does the planning, don’t you?”  So that’s the rationale: SWiMCATs do it because other people like it.  It’s their gift to mankind.

Now the Ultimate SWiMCAT move, which takes years of practice, is this one.  (Please don’t try this at home.)  I noticed one day that the toilet roll always seemed to be sitting on its roll in the same way, so the paper swung out on from the top, rather than from the bottom.  So on impulse I turned the roll around.  Sure enough: next time I went in the bathroom, the roll had been turned around the other way.

I tried this several times.  It would always get turned around again.

We never spoke of this.  It just happened, time after time.  In a life of perilous uncertainty, some things are eternal, adamant.  Change, it turns out, does not have to happen.  In fact, it better not.

This, I think, is the motive for the SWiMCAT’s swim.  Too much in life is out of our control: better control the things we can.  Toilet rolls.  Control the way the toilet paper swings, and you will never die.

It isn’t a choice, by the way.  A true SWiMCAT has to decide which way the toilet paper hangs.  There is nothing too small for a SWiMCAT to pay attention to.  Nothing unimportant enough to ignore.  Life is seen through a magnifying glass, it must be made perfect, and so much is just plain wrong.  Time’s a wasting.

  1. Rick Ray09-28-2012

    As my wife will quickly volunteer, I am a SWiMCAT.

    • ken.chowder09-29-2012

      Rick, you cannot be a SWiMCAT. But you can be a HWMCAT (pronounced Whim-Cat), if you must control all things. The crucial aspect of this quality is that you feel the uncontrollable urge to eradicate any changes made by your housemates. I understand that it feels something like a ferocious itch.

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