40: Drawing a Blank

40: Drawing a Blank

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Drawing a Blank

To be able to ask a question clearly is two-thirds of the way to getting it answered.

~John Ruskin

I’ve developed a condition that, unfortunately, comes with age. It’s called Missing Word Syndrome — or MWS. It causes me to forget the correct names of things and substitute placeholder words. Just like a synonym is another word for the one you can’t spell, a placeholder is another word for the one you can’t remember. And lately, forgetting words is my… what do you call it… specialty. My recall deficit disorder first presented itself when my husband, working on the electrical system in our house, sent me on a parts run to The Home Depot.

Before leaving, he showed me the part and told me its name, but by the time I reached the parking lot, I’d already forgotten it. I should have called him I know, but I didn’t want to admit that it took only ten minutes for my brain to misplace the word. And besides, I’d forgotten to bring my phone.

Forging ahead, I walked into The Home Depot on Super Bowl Sunday, which, by the way, is the best time to shop there because the place is empty. Anyway, I needed one of those gadgets that attach a switch box to drywall. I thought I could just search the electrical department until I found it. But after a half hour with no luck, I instead searched for an orange vest — one occupied by someone of my generation. Besides being more knowledgeable, I figured he’d understand my problem.

“Can I help you find something?” the gray-haired clerk asked.

“Yes. I’m looking for one of those flat metal whatchamacallits that has three hangy-down dooley-bobs that hold the whole dooziehoozit to a switch box.”

The clerk stood blank-faced.

“You know, it’s one of those gray doohickeys that looks like a boat thingy.”

He slowly scratched an eyebrow. “I think I know the gizmo you’re talking about. Tell me, do the hangy-down dooley-bobs by any chance bend?”

“Yes, they do,” I said.

“And if you flipped over the boat thingy, are the hangy-down dooley-bobs actually sticky-up doo-dads that look like smokestacks?”

“Come to think of it, they do.”

“And are there sticky-out flippy-doos on the sides?”

“Yes, it has those.” Now we’re getting somewhere, I thought.

“So, let me get this straight,” he said, “the thingamajig you’re looking for is one of those whatchamacallits with the hangy-down dooley-bobs and sticky-out flippy-doos.”

“Yes, exactly.” It was so nice to talk to someone who really knew his stuff.

“Follow me,” he said, leading me down the electrical aisle. But, frankly, a man who could understand me like that, I’d follow anywhere.

I flashed him a smile and asked, “So, what are those gadgets really called?”

“Believe it or not,” he said, “they’re called battleships because that’s exactly what they look like.”

My heart sank. Of course, how could I have forgotten?

He pointed down the aisle. “You’ll find them right there between the frazelhoozies and the madinglehoppers.”

~Pam Tallman

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