"WHAT do you think you're doing?"
I hate that sentence, especially when spoken - usually a little more vigorously than necessary - by my wife. There's no way to answer that doesn't sound, well, snarky. What can I do? Despite the blatant obviousness of my perfectly logical actions, she still wants me to say it out loud.
''I'm pouring the laundry soap down the drain.''
See what I mean?
I tossed the empty soap bottle in the recycling bin and reached for a box of powdered soap. As I began pouring it into the trash can, I arched an eyebrow at my wife. ''So, um, if you knew what I was doing, why'd you ask?''
She snatched the soap box from my hand - with a little more vigor than necessary. ''What I meant,'' she hissed through clenched teeth, ''is WHY are you doing that?''
''You didn't ask me that.''
''Yes. I. DID!''
No, she didn't, and I was about to correct her on this bit of confusion, but thought better of it when I turned in her direction. I wondered if I could steam carrots for supper by holding them close to her ears.
''Well,'' I said, deciding to humor her, ''we won't need laundry soap anymore. So I'm freeing up the space.''
''Look, buster, if you think we're joining a nudist colony in January...''
''No, no, nothing like that,'' I said. ''Here, look at this article in the newspaper.''
I handed her the story about self-cleaning clothes. Engineers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Hubei University for Nationalities in China created an ecologically friendly chemical coating that, when exposed to sunlight, activates cleansers and odor repellents. Simply set your dirty clothes out in the open air, and two hours or so later, you gather up clean laundry.
''See, all we gotta do is get a hold of a tub of those nanoparticles, dunk everything we own, and we're good. Oh, I forgot to tell you, I listed our washer and dryer in the classified ads this morning.''
My adoring and doting wife stared longingly at me. ''When you get that tub, I know the very first thing I'm going to dunk. Oh, it will be good.''
I waved aside her compliment. ''You know,'' I said, ''the guys and I in our dorm almost invented this ourselves back in college.
''We could use our quarters either on the washing machines or Space Invaders. Did you know that if you turn a shirt inside out and drape it over a desk chair, the smell goes away in five or six days. The pizza stains are hidden, too.''
My sweetie shook her head at my sheer genius. She scooped a handful of laundry powder out of the wastebasket, bringing with it a shred of cheese, a scrap of cardboard and an old bandage. She sighed and let it drop. "I better go borrow some detergent from Dee."
I guess she didn't want to wait for the self-cleaning clothes to hit the market.
I didn't say anything. I was too busy trying to squeeze the gas can for the lawn mower into the refrigerator.
''WHAT do you think you're doing? No, wait. Don't tell me. I don't want to know.''
Good. It saved me from another vigorously unnecessary explanation.
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