A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went to the DIY store on a rare, but cherished, child-free shopping trip. I had a short list of things to buy and, mindful of the fact that our toddler was probably in the process of wrecking our kindly babysitter's house, I set about gathering my bits and pieces on one of the over-sized trolleys.
In the gardening section, on my way to purchase any plants that are to be found in the Easy Care section, we passed a display of barbecues. Now, I have a rather nice balcony and a husband with pyromaniac tendencies, so the purchase of a barbecue seemed (at the time) like a no-brainer.
"You go and pick out a barbecue," I said to my husband, "I'll get a few pots of herbs and meet you back here."
Oh, readers, I am so naive. My husband is the worst shopper ever. He's a ditherer, and any household purchase is treated with the same level of earnest marathon dithering, regardless of what it is. He has spent the same amount of time vacillating between new toasters as he has between new cars. It's exhausting. It's exhausting because it always follows the same pattern and I allow myself to become embroiled in it every single time. When I came back from the plants section twenty minutes later on this Saturday evening, my trolley loaded down with a Scarborough-Fair-like selection of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, my husband was in the midst of Phase One, a look of concentration on his face. I whipped out the phone and sent the babysitter a text: we were going to be delayed.
Phase One: Establish That All the Goods Are Of Shoddy Quality
Phase One involves going up to every article on display, shaking/pulling/poking it roughly till it trembles and wobbles, then declaring that these articles are of inferior quality and will not last a single month. They were made by clowns. They'll be on the rubbish heap within the year.
"They will if you keep bashing them about like that!" I shriek, as he violently shakes the barbecue to reproduce the hurricane conditions he seems to think we will be using it in.
Reluctantly, he stops, looking disappointed that the little €29.99 hasn't fallen apart and proved his point.
Phase Two: Rhetorical Traps
Having systematically mauled all of the barbecues on display, he stops at one.
"I think we should probably go for one of these round barbecues with a lid. This one looks good," he says. Finally. A decision has been made, praise the Lord!
"Grand," say I. "They don't take up much space and a lid is handy."
"The thing is, you could burn your fingers on the lid. Do you really think it's safe?"
"Well, barbecues by their very nature tend to be hot. But didn't you want a lid for storage purposes? And I thought you said you wanted a round barbecue because they don't take up much space?"
"But aren't they a bit small?" he wonders sadly. "Do you think they'd be big enough for us? I don't know (shakes barbecue violently) ... this seems a bit on the small side, don't you think?"
At this point you might have noticed that I, apparently, am the one who wanted a round barbecue with a lid, this one specifically. Readers, I do not give a flying fig about barbecues, round or otherwise. I would agree with him on anything, just to get the heck out of there fast. But he outsmarts me every time by making me agree with him and then disagreeing with me. It's dizzying and costs a lot more energy than I care to expend.
Phase Three: Philosophical Klugscheißen with Shop Assistants
In German, klug means smart or clever. Scheißen, as you might guess, means, um, pooping. Together they mean something similar to smartalecking. At some point, my husband will be approached by a bored shop assistant, launching the third and final phases of the shopping expedition: Competitive Smartalecking with a Layer of Philosophical Meandering.
Let me tell you that, by this point, I will have said, clearly and concisely, that I want to go home at least four times - as in: "Please make your mind up. I would like to leave in the next ten minutes." However, overcome by the plethora of shoddy, second-rate barbecues, my requests are disregarded. I have no other option (well, no other option that's any fun) but to resort to passive aggression. When the shop assistant arrives, I heave my pregnant self off and begin a slow perambulation around the store, waiting for Phase Three to finish.
The first time I wandered past my husband and the shop assistant on this particular Saturday, they were trying to figure out which barbecue is most likely to withstand extreme weather conditions and not burn fingers. The second time I puff-puff-puffed past the duo (I am nine months pregnant you see, there's a lot of huffing and puffing involved), they were bemoaning the downfall of German manufacturing and listing the shortcomings of the barbecues made in China. Third time around, they had long since left the realm of reality and were fantasizing about the perfect barbecue, painting pictures in the air of a grill set-up that could survive a tornado, flash-flooding or a blizzard, be easily storable yet kind to sensitive fingertips. I lowered my pregnant bulk on to a stack of charcoal sacks and glared at my husband evilly till he returned to earth.
"Pick - one - out!" I hissed. " I don't care which one. I don't care which shape. I don't care what price. Pick one out in the next five minutes or I will clock you with this pot of thyme and leave you unconscious among the charcoal."
He picked one out - quickly, after all - and hauled me up off the display. At this point I was hot and tired, my feet hurt, my plants were wilting. He, on the other hand, was exhilarated by the thrill of his purchase and on the high best known to bargain hunters and coupon users.
As we drove home, our car jammed with plant pots and the barbecue, it started to rain. And it has more or less rained since then. The barbecue hasn't even been unpacked yet: it sits in its box, looking gloomy on our balcony. But never mind: my husband has decided we need a new sideboard! A shopping trip is eminent.
Readers, I can't wait.