Lessons in cohabitation

A free spirit (FS) with decades of control freak (CF) experience shares defusing techniques with examples, in order of increasing sophistication or infraction severity. Caution: Your results may vary; favorable outcomes are not guaranteed. As rules and rituals vary widely among CFs, so do consequent triggers.


Example: You have opened the “wrong” end of a box, i.e., the end without a tab and slot for re-closing.

Action: Ideally, you have separated the seam; repair with transparent tape and store, righted, before CF has taken note. If CF has seen, apology may be helpful.

Caveat: If you have ripped the thing open, proceed as best you can, but it does not bode well for you. Expedite consumption of the commodity to hasten removal of the offending condition.



(a) Socks on floor, or T-shirt draped over chair arm.

FS: “I gon’ wear ‘um again.

Caveat: Not recommended for more than one pair of socks, T-shirt, etc.

(b) Slacks on floor.

FS: “Dat goin’ Goodwill.” (Optional: “No fit anymore,” or “I wen’ burn ‘um wit’ da iron.”)

Caveat: Temporary reprieve only; eventual action required.



(a) Food-encrusted dishes left out.

FS: “I might not be pau eat.”

Caveat: Time-sensitive; effectiveness wanes within an hour or two.

(b) Empty snack package left out.

FS: “Dat’s so I know which one fo’ buy nex’ time.”

Caveat: CF mustn’t see more than one identical empty package.



(a) Dish or utensil stored in unexpected location.

(b) Dish with food residue found stored.

FS: “You know, I tryin’ fo’ help YOU.”

  1. DIVERT.


(a) Ball-point pen left in jeans pocket has burst, depositing streaks of ink on clean laundry.

FS: “Musta been (insert child’s name).”

Caveat: Said child must be age-appropriate for ball-point pen use; ineffective if no children reside in the household.

(b) Instead of the air fryer CF has meticulously researched for compactness, ease of use and cleanup, you bought one three times larger, three times more costly, with at least three times more pieces needing cleaning.

Action: Since you have read to here, you have probably ripped open the packaging, so that the preferred technique (1) is not an option. Point out the greater capacity and multiple features of this “better” model; mention it was priced at a discount; demonstrate operation. Good luck.

  1. VACATE.

Example: The 3-in-1 oil you set on the shelf above the washer has fallen into the washer tub and emptied.

Action: If practicable, technique 1; if not, leave the premises for a few hours. Consider purchasing a new washer.


Use when: Extreme CF anger is imminent.

FS: “Ho, look. Da wind so strong, wen’ knock down da trap fo’ da ‘rannosaurus beetle.”

CF (pausing, then blinking): “Do you mean the rhinoceros beetles?”

FS: “What I said?”

CF (laughing now): “You said ‘rannosaurus beetle, like ‘rannosaurus Rex.”

Caveat: FS must be well versed in CF’s brand of humor.


(a pair of socks appearing to have been worn, on the floor)

Talk story

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