My wife and I argued over a plant tonight and it isn’t even our plant. During our usual de-briefing after a busy day, she told me the following story about her workplace that I think will resonate with many readers. I am changing most of the names to protect the innocent and this is, truly, a tale of innocence and guilt. The conversation proceeded as follows.
DONNA (my wife’s real name): You know that Gracie, the boss of my department, has been away in Europe on an extended vacation for six weeks. Before she left, she asked me to water the plant in her office. When I said “No, I’m not good at that sort of thing,” she asked Francine instead. Gracie finally came back to work today and you can imagine what happened.
ME: Francine forgot to water her plant and it died.
DONNA: You got it. Gracie was so mad, she started yelling at Francine, “You’ve killed my plant.”
ME: I’m with Gracie on this one. I’ve never understood it when people say they can’t look after plants. All you have to do is fix it in your mind that when you go into work on Monday, or Friday, or – pick a day – you’ll water her plant. It just takes a little mental “reminder bell” whenever you think of the boss being away.
DONNA: But it’s way down at the other end of our office.
(I happen to know that the whole work area is only 100 feet long at most.)
DONNA: If she’d only been away for two weeks, I’d have agreed to do it. That way you can sprinkle some water on the darn thing at the last moment and nobody will know the difference.
ME: That’s pretty sneaky.
DONNA: You can ask me to look after a dog or a cat or a bunch of kids or a big baby like you, but don’t ask me to water your plant.
Then I realize something important. Apparently the world breaks down into only two kinds of people – those who can look after plants and those who can’t. Each group has to stick together.
DONNA: If she wanted her plant to live, she should have taken it with her.
I give her a look.
ME: You mean on her trip? Buy it a seat on the plane and take it on walking tours? Why are you taking this so personally? It’s Francine who’s the plant killer.
Even as I’m saying it, I feel ashamed of myself. After all, it was Francine who had been kind enough to look after our two boys when we went to China to adopt our daughter.
DONNA: I don’t know why Gracie didn’t ask Helen to look after her plant. Helen sits right next to her and they’re good friends.
ME: I’m guessing it’s because she didn’t trust Helen to do it. She did trust Francine. It’s a warm homecoming to arrive back at work after six weeks away and find that your plant has expired.
DONNA: But she talked to Helen every week on the phone when she was away. She could have reminded her to water the plant at any time.
Donna had me there. I was starting to wonder about the righteousness of my cause. Who really was the guilty party in this whole sordid mess?
But I had an argument to win. Sometimes, when faced with such a predicament, one has to heighten the drama.
ME: Francine might just as well have pulled out a gun and shot the plant! On the first day!
Now Donna gave me a look. “I don’t think she owns a gun.”
ME: Well she could have bought one specially to do the deed. What kind of a plant is it?
DONNA: I don’t know.
ME: It’s probably better that way. When you know too much, it becomes personal and then the hurting just goes on and on.
DONNA: We should give the plant a name – out of respect. I like Penelope. It seems like a nice name for a plant.
ME: How bout Fred cause it rhymes with dead?
DONNA: Now you’re being mean again.
After many years of marriage, I’ve just learned something new about my wife. We have only a couple of plants in our house because our exposure to the sun isn’t very good. However, in the midst of our busy schedules, I’ve always been the one to water them. I assumed this was just a matter of timing and convenience and that I had a backup if needed. Now I finally understand that my commitment is really a matter of life or death.
This story is one in a series. My wife and I also argue – in an amusing way, of course – over our new iPhone (please click here) and our travel plans (click here). Plus, don’t forget “Donna and I Go Hollywood” (click here).