One gets educated to get a job, solve problems—advance the world a notch or two. There’s critical thinking, communication, math, and all kinds of skills that go into making the 21st century maven. After an education, out pops the new person, newly equipped.
Those of us with diplomas are already out there contributing, and occasionally an old familiar challenge tests everything we’ve learned—moving. Moving from one house to another, for one thing, requires a prompt. But in this case, an instructor isn’t there to write the prompt. That would be too easy. The educated mover must write the prompt and execute the instructions. A lot of spatial considerations factor in as well with the moving and placing of furniture and wall art. This is where I’m an ardent feminist; it takes a woman to plan much of this.
Some tasks, though, require the sleuth knack that a student picks up in an education. Recently, Clark Anderson—brother to my wife Tandy—stored a piece of history in the house into which we’re moving. It’s a jacket worn by Clark’s great uncle Jack Tandy, who was a captain in the Marines during WWI. Clark put it into a closed plastic bag with half a dozen or so mothballs and placed it on a high shelf in the laundry room and went back home to California.
People shuffling in and out of the house during all the moving commented on the heavy mothball smell on that end of the house, but no one could figure out how a closed bag on a high shelf could account for the pungent smell. It is a strange one. Someone got the idea once to combine “insecticide and deodorant” to create mothballs (Wikipedia).
Meanwhile, no one wanted to get a short stepladder and reach up high to get the bag down, and besides, how could a closed bag cause this? Tandy emailed Clark, and he replied that he had put a few moth balls in there with the jacket and there might be an open box in there too. Tandy interpreted the “in there” to mean in the bag.
She asked me, “Would you get the bag down and look inside?” which I did, and there were the six small mothballs. But how could they be causing the smell? I took them out anyway and disposed of them outside.
Ten minutes later, Tandy handed me an item from a box she was unpacking, and I walked over to another shelf to place it, and right before my eyes, stood an open box of mothballs. Aha!
We’re not close to being moved in yet, so when we returned home later, she called Clark and told him the story laughing, and Clark said, “I told you in an email.” Tandy had deleted it, but Clark checked his sent box, and their discussion centered on the ambiguity of “in there,” which Clark had intended meaning the Laundry room, but Tandy interpreted to mean in the bag, to which Clark conceded, “I could have communicated more clearly.” Things like this can either drive one mad or fuel the relish for small details in communication. In our family, it’s the relish that wins.
The stream of people in the house recently included a number of highly educated family members. Thankfully, they all get along and have a sense of humor. No wonder wars get started though. I think though maybe we need a refresher visit to campus to sharpen our real world applications of our educations.
As a postscript on Uncle Jack, Clark says, “I also had his pearl handled dress sword engraved ‘Jack Tandy.’ It got stolen out of my farm house. Ask your readers to watch out for it and collect a reward.”