When my husband, Olof, asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I didn’t hesitate to request a top-of-the-line sewer auger.
Now, this might suggest that the romance has gone out of the relationship or worse, could be considered a dismal metaphorical condemnation of our union.
But no, I really, really wanted my very own sewer auger.
We live in a house that was built by the lowest bidder after the war with all non- square corners and apparently without benefit of building materials that had become scarce during The Conflict. It is our only explanation for the shoddy construction. An abundance of pipe-invading trees and shrubs, not to mention a decade or so of Lego-flushing kids, kept us on speed dial to our local plumber.
But often the problem was our kitchen sink, which could be cleared ourselves (that’s the royal “ourselves”) with a good sewer auger, which just happened to belong to our neighbors. They were very nice about lending it to us as needed but after a certain point, I began to fantasize about the luxury of having our very own.
You’d think Olof (the “ourselves” mentioned above) would have been deliriously happy with this idea but was instead horrified. He did not feel that a birthday auger augured well for our marriage.
“Not a snowball’s chance,” he replied. “Besides, aren’t you the one who complained that your first husband got you stuff for your birthday that was really for him?” he said.
“Yup,” I said, “Skis, and box seats to a Chargers game.”
“And what happened?” he continued. “I’m now married to you,” I said. “Exactly. It is against the Code of Husbands to get a wife a sewer auger for her birthday,” he maintained.
“But not if that’s what I want,” I said. “I didn’t ski, didn’t want to ski, and I hated football.”
“I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head. “This wife birthday thing is fraught with peril. There’s nothing more terrifying to a guy except Valentine’s Day.”
“But I’m serious,” I said. “It would warm my heart the next time the sink backs up on a Saturday night” — it’s always a Saturday night — “that ‘we’ could just wheel in our Ferrari-of-sewer-augers and have at it.”
“This is a second marriage for both of us,” Olof reminded me. “I like to think I’ve learned something. Buying a wife a sewer auger for her birthday would be a classic rookie husband mistake. I once bought my first wife a really expensive vacuum cleaner for her birthday.”
“And what happened?” I said.
“I’m now married to you.”
“Well, I’d consider a vacuum cleaner grounds for divorce, too.”
“OK,” said Olof, “I’m willing to buy you the sewer auger of your dreams but you can’t have it within even two months of your birthday. So you’re going to have to think of something else.”
“I also really want a hose caddy,” I suggested. “The kind that’s mounted on the house that I can just crank up. The hose on the patio is making me crazy.”
“Inga,” he said, exasperated. “I can’t get you a hose caddy for your birthday any more than I can get you a sewer auger.”
“Well, I really do need a new salad spinner, too. “
“No! NOTHING PRACTICAL! It’s your birthday! I have no desire to be married a third time.”
“The hose caddy could be for Christmas,” I suggested. “Remember, it includes installation.”
“Surely there is something totally frivolous with no practical value that you want?” he implored.
And that’s how I got a two-pound box of Godiva chocolates for my birthday. And magically, a deluxe sewer auger, a hose caddy, and a salad spinner appeared from an anonymous donor a few weeks later.
So bring it on, kitchen sink. Clog up to your pipe’s content. We’re ready!
— Look for La Jolla resident Inga’s lighthearted looks at life in La Jolla Light. Reach her at email@example.com