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Remote control Mouth

As I mature, I always hope I'll learn from my experiences. Yet I still have short out-of-body experiences where I watch myself repeat patterns I should have learned don't work.

One of these patterns is the "Just call and ask them," call. This is a seemingly simple request, whereby my wife directs me to call and ask questions of some person or business. It also always (it's no exaggeration when I say always) turns into a seemingly endless series of calls and re-calls where each time I hang up she details what I should have asked but didn't, and shouldn't have but did.

This means I must call again and ask the new questions--only to learn upon hanging up that I once again didn't ask something she didn't tell me about before the call so I couldn't have known I needed to ask. If you're confused you're not alone.

Forty minutes and at least four calls later, I've gotten so little information she feels compelled to call and, in one minute, find out what she wanted to know in the first place. After all these years I'm still not clear how she considers this "time saving." At least not for me.

Here's a good example that just happened. My niece, Ocea, is having an engagement party and we're looking for a hotel close to the event. I find a place my wife deems "good enough" because that's where the Clintons stayed when Chelsea was at Stanford.

I get all the rates online (in this case it's far cheaper to go directly through the hotel than any other travel related site--even those promising the lowest rates). I present her with all the options so she can make an informed final decision. This is what I call time-saving.

But it isn't enough information. So she wants me to call and have them fax a floor plan. I think, "Aha, this time I'm not going to play 'telephone,' I'm going to make her call!" I give her the number and say she should call and request exactly what she wants.

She calls and a few minutes later a fax arrives with just the info she wanted. How simple it all seemed. But now we have to make reservations and doing it online isn't good enough because we can't specify a room in exactly the right place, meaning, 1) not overlooking a road or parking lot, 2) not overlooking the pool, 3) on the ground floor, 4) not near a elevator, ice machine, vending machine, or other high-traffic area, 5) non-smoking, 6) quiet, 7) recently remodeled but not with fresh paint, 8) quiet, 9) with a soft bed if possible (it never is), 10) the best room possible for the least-possible money.

Thinking I can once again avoid the telephone tangle, I give her a printout of the phone number and all the info she needs including room rates and details, and suggest she make the call.

A day goes by. Then, she hands me back the papers and says, "Call and ask them if we can choose the room online." I say, "I know we can't choose the room online," to which she replies, "Just act dumb, maybe you'll learn something." I think, "I always act dumb but it doesn't seem to get me anywhere."

I say, "I refuse to call!" then, of course, I call. I speak to a nice woman who informs me that I can't choose my room online or even on the phone because rooms are assigned upon check-in, and I gleefully think, "ooh, I did good!"

But when I report this to my wife, she doesn't buy it. "Who'd you talk to?" she asks. "I talked to reservations," I reply. She says, "No, you didn't want to make a reservation, you wanted information about the hotel; you should have talked to the nice woman I talked to the other day," though she didn't tell me her name or department, and of course didn't say that before I'd called.

It's like when we're driving and I pass a street and then she says, "You should have turned back there," as if I could magically roll back time, or perhaps learn and next time turn before she tells me.

At this point I see the whole thing once again spiraling into an endless series of calls. It used to embarrass me to have to call the same people 13 times, each time with one new question. Then I realized 1) I don't know these people, 2) they don't know me, and 3) they probably get calls like this all day long from men whose women use them like remote control mouthpieces.

Even so, I know it doesn't work and don't want to go through it again. As my wife is so fond of saying about other people, "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity." When it's about herself, it's, "I'm just optimistic." And she is.

Her optimism has only served to make me a realist. I wanted to put my foot down, hand her the papers and say, "You call--I know you have a mouth, I've heard it!" Instead, I called again. And again.

Then when I repeatedly couldn't get the answer she wanted, she called three times and talked to three different people, each of whom gave her a different and conflicting answer. Joy--she was now more annoyed with them than with me.

"Why didn't you just reserve it online?" she asked. She was right again, why didn't I?

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