Wednesday, August 31, 2011

James' Super Power

So James has a special talent. I’m not certain that it is necessarily God given but he has such an enormous helping of it that it is amazing.  You see he has the ability to break, destroy, smash, annihilate, pulverize and generally render unusable anything that is even slightly precious.  Even when he is not physically present.  I will elaborate.

From the moment I met James, he has been systematically destroying all things that are precious to me.  It started before we were even married so I guess I can’t really say I didn’t know about it but I really thought it would get better with time.  I can’t remember the first thing that he broke of mine but one that really sticks out early on in our relationship was the time that he borrowed my sleeping bag and pack to go on a missions trip that involved extreme camping.  He came home after a month and delivered the pack and sleeping bag back to me.  He had managed to rip a small hole in the day pack part of my pack and also rip a small hole in my sleeping bag.  Add to that the fact that the sleeping bag smelled like it had been inhabited by a pack of skunks with questionable personal hygiene and I should have been warned.

It took a trip to the dry cleaners and then some serious home remedies to make the sleeping bag smell habitable again but the hole will always be there (I did patch it but I can see where it was and it is no longer waterproof). These two items were not inexpensive ones.  I had managed to own and use these on many occasions without maiming them in the slightest.  The pack had travelled with me from New Zealand to Poland and back via the UK and again from New Zealand to the USA.  I mean, this thing actually made it through Heathrow airport baggage handlers without any damage and James managed to put a hole in it.  That requires some skill.

When we first got married I remember being quite upset as he seemed to be systematically working his way through the dinner set that we had gotten from friends for a wedding present.  I talked to his mother about it one day and was expressing my pain to her about this when she gave me some wonderful advice.  “Save the pieces up when he breaks something and put them in a box.  One day you’ll have enough to make a mosaic tile and then you’ll have a memory of all the pretty things”.  I remember crying that at this rate I’d have enough tiles to redo the whole kitchen.  I did do what she said though, I got a box and I still have that box.  In fact I have two boxes, one in the USA and one in NZ since his skills are so well developed that they pay no attention to international boundaries.

I had wine glasses that had survived the trip from New Zealand to the USA in a suitcase but they were no match for James. 

There was one time when we were living in the USA just after we were married and my dad was moving some stuff around in his garage.  He had a box of mine that he had picked up and unfortunately dropped it from the top of his very tall ladder.  He heard the unmistakable sound of breaking glass and saw the label declaring that it was mine and had contained extremely breakable and precious things.  He called and broke the news to me and I remember thinking ‘well at least that saves James a job’.  See we were moving there and I know that as soon as he had his hands on those things their time would be up.  It’s possible he would have dropped that very box from that very ladder given time.

There was the time when he sat on a mechanical pencil that I had had for years (I’m a bit precious about my writing instruments), I literally spent the next 5 years looking for the exact same pencil without being able to find one.  Finally when we moved back to the USA I found it.  I actually bought two of them just in case and what do you know, almost immediately he managed to lose the eraser cap off one of them.

My grandmother gave me a very old and very cool looking electric mixer.  It still worked and I used it often when we lived in New Zealand.  It had two very sturdy glass bowls, one small and one large that sat on a little turntable that allowed them to spin as the beaters moved.  I was always very particular about where it lived and how it got packed into its cupboard.  James never touched it.  One day as we were packing up our house in New Zealand the mixer had been placed on the bench below the wall shelf containing the spices. 

James decided to do some cooking and reached for one of the spice jars.  It happened in slow motion.  The cayenne pepper of doom slowly flipped end over end all the way down to the mixer.  With a resounding crack the large bowl broke into several pieces.  I’m pretty sure I cried. 

Over the years I have had to reassure myself that these objects are just things, that what matters more is relationships and that they can be replaced.  I’ve done pretty well I think.  Then one day I was getting frustrated.  James had quite an accumulation of dishes next to his bed, included in this accumulation were two of my wine glasses.  These wine glasses had been given to me by two different friends for my 21st birthday (a big deal in NZ) and I had transported them from New Zealand to the USA without breaking any of the sets.  It had been making me nervous for quite some time whenever the kids would jump on him in bed and make those glasses rattle.  I had mentioned more than once (read as nagged) that it was making me nervous and could he please take them down to the kitchen.  To no avail, they still sat there mocking me with their longevity.

So one day I decided to take the bull by the horns and move them myself.  Well actually I employed one of my minions to do it for me.  I stationed myself in the kitchen and I sent her up the stairs to transport the various items down to me.  On one of the trips down she mentioned something about how precious these things were.  I stopped what I was doing and I said to her that yes they were precious but that they were just things and that people are far more important than things.  She returned to her job. 

The first wine glass came down the stairs without a hitch, it was delivered to me in one piece and I began washing it up.  The next thing I hear is the sound of breaking glass and then the piercing screams of a small child, who I imagined had just fallen headlong onto the item cutting her face to shreds.  That’s what the screams sounded like anyway. 

I raced up the stairs with my heart in my mouth praying that she wouldn’t be permanently disfigured and there she was standing in the middle of a scene of wine glass carnage.  There were no cuts but she was devastated that she had broken my precious glass.

I knelt down and took her in my arms and with a tear in my eye I said the words “its ok, its only a thing” in my head I screamed ‘but it was MY thing’.  It turns out she had tripped on some of his clothes that hadn’t quite made it to the hamper.  It was at that moment that I realized his talent had gone beyond reasonable.  He had managed to break something while not being physically present.

He bought me a GPS for Christmas and it came with a little thingy that sticks it to the window of my car.  I had it stuck up there right where I wanted it.  It had been there for quite some time, months in fact.  Then James drove one day and apparently it needed to shift just a little bit to the left.  I told him not to mess with it but he just couldn’t help himself.  He got it off the window and repositioned it.  I don’t know how it happened but the whole thing just fell apart in his hand.  It could not be fixed.  Now I have to prop it up next to me and sometimes even hold it so I can see it properly.  I have not been able to find a replacement sucky thingy yet. 

I think there may be a certain amount of covering up going on too.  I was putting something in the rubbish bin one day and found a fork in there.  Thinking that it had been thrown out by accident I fished it out and cleaned it off.  I noticed that it was the really annoying one with the bent tine (you know who had bent it trying to use it to fix something else he broke).  It seemed that I was the one who always got that fork at dinner time but I had tried to bend it back with no joy.  I exclaimed that I had found it in the rubbish and James said “oh, yeah, it was broken so I threw it out”.  I was horrified.  How could he throw out part of the cutlery set?  There wouldn’t be the right amount of knives and forks anymore.  My world started spinning.  My little perfectionist bubble was bursting.  How many others had he gotten rid of?  Should I count the cutlery?  I had noticed that teaspoons had been diminishing and had been purposely ignoring the fact because thinking about it could make my head explode but this was worse.  Imagine having a dinner party and setting out the places only to find that there was an uneven number of knives and forks.  I got out the hammer then and there and bashed that tine back into place.  Don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that before but its amazing what happens when desperation sets in.

I remembered the time I had found one of my most precious books, a book of dog breeds that my parents had bought me for one of my birthdays as a child.  I flicked through the pages and noticed that the flyleaf was ripped.  It had had an inscription that my Mum had written for my birthday.  I don’t remember what it said but it was important to me.  It was gone.  I asked James about it and he looked very guilty.  What had happened was that Emily (who was a baby at the time) had got hold of the book and ripped the page out.  He thought it was irreparable and had thrown out the page thinking that I would be upset if I knew it got ripped.  I explained that I would rather have a ripped page with tape on it than lose the inscription and started heading for the rubbish bin.  He looked pale and then explained that this had happened weeks before.  There was no getting that page back.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t ever break stuff.  I have been known to damage and possibly seriously maim the odd thing myself but I don’t have anywhere near the kind of destructive skills that James has.  He is clearly in a league of his own.

It seems strangely specific too, its clearly accidental.  It’s not like he’s ten pin bowling with my candle sticks or juggling with my hand made pottery.  He’s not really that clumsy either.  If he was he would be breaking his own stuff too but it seems to be only my stuff he really breaks.  At least it’s the stuff that I care about since in our marriage vows I’m pretty sure we bestowed our worldly goods on one another.  His precious stuff is largely unscathed though. 

And just to top it all off, what do you think he does for a living?  He breaks stuff. It is actually his job to take pieces of equipment and software and test them under all kinds of conditions until they break.  He has to find the points of failure in these systems and make sure they don’t go out to a customer that way.  He is very good at what he does.


  1. He is just a big kid breaking must be a fun job.