Don, a computer programmer and amateur saxophonist, spent the better part of a year driving his long-suffering family all over the Midwest in search of the perfect replacement for his aging horn. After a particularly memorable trip involving carsick twins and pursuit by an outraged Rottweiler, his wife finally demanded he buy a sax, any sax, or he and his old horn would end up sharing a rented room with a hot plate.
Michelle, a statistics professor, is the go-to gal when her friends are in the market for anything from a microwave to a labradoodle—because whatever it is, she’s exhaustively researched it. Ironically, Michelle rarely buys anything herself—in fact, her dishwasher bit the dust three months ago, but she just can’t commit to a new one when she suspects that with just a little more digging, she’ll nail down the perfect choice.
There’s a great “Mad TV” sketch on YouTube guest starring the incomparable Bob Newhart as—what else?—a psychiatrist. His patient tells him she has a pathological fear of being buried alive in a box. He has two words of wisdom: “Stop it!”
Somewhat taken aback, she goes on to detail her other issues: she’s bulimic, she’s been stuck in a series of abusive relationships, she’s a compulsive hand-washer. “Stop it,” he says. “Just stop it, what are you, some kind of nut?”
After five minutes of this, she’s had it. Outraged, she protests that she hates this therapy, it’s moving too fast, it’s ridiculously simplistic. “You want more?” asks Newhart. She nods. He leans across his desk. “Stop it or I’ll bury you alive in a box!” he shouts.
When my son was about 18 months old, he figured out how to open the refrigerator, a development that came to my attention one morning when I heard him give a sudden wail from the kitchen. Heart in my throat—had he burned himself? Was something broken? Was he bleeding?—I ran in and found him standing in front of the open refrigerator and holding half a cherry tomato, his face covered with juice and seeds and the flush of outrage. “It kachoo-ed at me!” he sobbed indignantly.
What a cool, fascinating deduction! Based on his limited experience—he had never eaten a tomato before, but he had, apparently, been sneezed upon—he came to a brilliant, though entirely wrong-headed, conclusion. It took me a while to convince him that the stuff I was cleaning off his face was not, in fact, tomato snot.