I’m feeling reasonably intelligent this morning so I think I might balance our checkbook today. This is always an exciting time in the Chamberlain household because, as Forrest Gump so aptly put it, you never know what you’re gonna get.
I always follow the same routine before I do this task. I eat a full breakfast, take a shower, clean up the kitchen, take a deep, long breath and then face my calm, serene self in the mirror. I tell myself I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and dammit, people like me. I take the time to memorize my features so that I can recognize my own self three hours later when I have been transformed into a raving, seething, psychotic lunatic who would eat her own young if it meant the last entry in our checkbook would read BALANCED, THANK YOU GOD.
You may have noticed that there are four months worth here. That’s because I can find the courage to complete this task only three times a year and that’s because I’m married to a tall, dark, handsome man who has THE most creative way with numbers you have ever seen. In my previous life, I handled all the household finances, wrote every entry in the checkbook, balanced it every month to the penny and believe you me, I would scour the earth to find a penny that dared go AWOL on my watch. But now? Nate is in charge of the entries and everything I ever learned about addition and subtraction has become obsolete because nowadays there’s math going on in our checkbook that hasn’t even been invented yet. But that’s ok, because Nate has a system. I have spent the last eleven years trying to understand this system with no success. But I don’t give up easily and three times a year, I try my hand at it again.
I don’t bother using paper in my adding machine. I don’t think they make rolls big enough for the numerical gymnastics that are about to happen. I keep the phone handy as it is inevitable that I will be calling Nate periodically throughout the day to yell questions such as WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME? and WHY DON’T YOU JUST HIT ME OVER THE HEAD WITH THE WEED WHACKER AND BE DONE WITH IT ALREADY? To which he will calmly respond with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” or “Huh.” Then I will cry. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The red pen is crucial. Nate’s entries in the checkbook are in blue. Mine are in red. It’s kind of like a miniature version of the electoral smart board on CNN but without Wolf and the best political team on television.
I won’t cross out entries. I won’t scribble over numbers, I won’t have arrows pointing this way and that. That is entirely too confusing and makes our checkbook messy. I don’t do messy. Instead, I will simply use the red pen to make brand new entries explaining why the preceding twenty entries in blue are terribly, horribly wrong. That way, when Nate gets home, I can simply place the checkbook in front of him and he will see all the red and immediately know everything he ever wanted about my day. This negates the need for Nate to actually ask me about my day and this, in turn, relieves any need on my part to actually speak and that ultimately serves to protect Nate from any desire I may have to tackle him to the floor and choke him with his very own tongue. We’re like a well oiled machine that way.
The balancing of our checkbook is, at its core, a battle of wits between Nate and me and even though I’d like to consider myself better armed, make no mistake about it … I want Nate to win. I really do because in this instance and this instance only, it makes my life so much easier. Using the red pen means I’m going to have to think and think hard and I’m not happy when I have to think hard, so I am all about the blue. GO BLUE GO.
So this morning, I’ll prepare myself for battle, take one last look at myself in the mirror, shout BRING IT ON, BABY to no one in particular and the blue vs. red smackdown will begin.
History has proven time and time again that the smackdown will be over in about three hours. Team Blue will have been decimated and Team Red, specifically ME, will have lost approximately two pounds of weight in the form of stress sweat, together with the ability to form a coherent sentence. And the carnage … oh, the carnage.
WARNING: the following contains graphic material and may not be suitable to viewers of the anal, obsessive-compulsive, my-checkbook-balances-every-single-month-and-I-always-wear-matching-socks persuasion:
Wow. That’s a lot of red. Kind of awesome in a psychotic-psychedelic sort of way. See all of those “should have”, “mistake on”, “never recorded” and “duplicate” notations all over the place? Those are my routine moves – no biggies.
My favorite strategy, my absolute favorite one, the one that just makes me quiver in ecstasy is the “adjustment to records.” That’s my big gun, so to speak … the one I use only as a last resort, after I have attempted every mathematical combination of numbers humanly possible, ransacked our office in search of statements from the last year to verify running totals, called Nate 327 times for clarifications, eaten an entire Tony’s pizza, bitten my nails until they’ve bled and screamed at God to JUST TAKE ME NOW.
“Adjustment to records” is me giving up before I become a puddle on the floor, gasp my last breath and lose consciousness. As a rule, I try not to employ this tactic unless and until I have banged my head repeatedly against this:
So here I am this morning, preparing for our next battle. I just love the smell of potential nervous breakdown in the morning.
If I’m not back in two days, send out a call for help. Nate will need it.