The Online Journal of Writer Kate Sykes
Behold the bottle drying rack, otherwise known as the pike of domestic contention.
I purchased this fine piece of Americana at my favorite antique store in Burlington, Vermont last Saturday. Krys and I were on the way home from a canoe paddle around Waterbury Reservoir, and I thought it would be a good idea to look for a pickling crock. He waited in the car while I went into the store, and…well…let’s just say I got a little side-tracked.
Side-tracking is a common problem for me in antique stores. I’m the person the dealers have in mind when they arrange their goods in romantic domestic tableaux that lead the wayfarer down a side-track on a one-way trip through the countryside of Yesteryear whose inevitable terminus is the quaint New England village of Buysomethingstupid.
I carried the rack to the register and the clerk told me it had come from Brimfield. She didn’t know anything about its age or origins, but I didn’t care. It was perfect. It was just-the-thing.
For the twenty steps it took to get from the register to the door, I felt good about the purchase. In fact, I felt excellent.
Number one: the rack was weird but PRACTICAL. (Weird by itself is self-congratulatory, but weird with a purpose is practically Amish.)
Number two: it was obviously made by hand. (No, it’s not art, but it was never intended to be, and there is beauty in something that simply gets the job done.)
Number three: I talked them down on the price. Way down. (Beauty may have its price, but so does bullshit.)
But the most important excellent reason I had for buying the thing was that I thought Krys would love it. Not like it. Not tolerate it. LOVE it. He brews beer, and (my thinking went) he would love that it might have come from some prohibition-era home brewery.
Krys did not love it.
The extreme not-love on his face was clearly visible through the car window, all the way across the parking lot, where he and the dog had been waiting for me for longer than was strictly necessary to find (or not find) a pickling crock.
“It’s not a crock,” I said as the window came down an inch.
“I can see that.”
“It’s cool, right?”
He shook his head.
“What? I thought you’d love it.”
What followed was a detailed explanation of why he did not love it, which hinged mostly on the assertion that we didn’t need another weird old handmade piece of non-art crap kicking around the house
The explanation further employed rhetorical questions about “what I was even thinking,” and literal questions about “what it was even supposed to be?” and other, harder, questions about “how could any sane person get from ‘crock-like pickling solution’ to that?” which inevitably led me to imagine such a solution, with a pickle for each pike, and I began laughing like the lunatic he already suspected I was.
I tried to answer his questions. I tried to explain. All the while, I tried unsuccessfully to insert the rack into the rear passenger-side door of the car. (I wouldn’t have chosen this method under normal circumstances, but the canoe was lashed to the roof making the rear door inaccessible.)
All of my formerly excellent reasons for buying the rack had begun to shrink. Now, with this new and impossible challenge before me, they shriveled up entirely.
Why had I bought this piece of junk?
I took the thing out, flipped it around and tried to force it in the other way.
What extremely practical use had I imagined for it? And what about the crock?
The dog had already taken Krys’s side in the matter. He looked warily at the thing, spun in circles, tail tucked, trying to avoid the spindles that angled first one way, and then another.
There was no way this thing was going to fit. Now even I hated it.
I took it out again and looked it up and down. No impulse-buy in the history of retail blunders was ever so confrontational. Manolo Blahniks that are a half-size too small (but were on super rock-bottom sale so you bought them anyway) you can throw under the bed. Ugly jewelry? The wrong shade of lipstick? Esoteric kitchen gadgets? All are easily lost in the bottom of a drawer. But this! This was a six-foot tall shaming stick with a dozen middle fingers pointing straight at my face.
I set it on the ground by the car. Could we just leave it here and drive away? No. I’d paid for it! Would they let me return it? After I’d haggled? After I’d hemmed and hawed with thespian virtuosity? I’d made the poor woman call her boss. (And I’d gotten a good price, too.) No. There was no going back.
I bit the bullet and began untying the canoe straps.
The brooding silence from the driver’s seat was eventually broken by a sigh, and with Krys’s reluctant assistance, we wedged it in, diagonally, from the rear.
We drove in silence. The pike pivoted. The dog cowered and panted nervously.
All the way home, I tried to retrace my steps down the side-track that had led me to the purchase. My guilt and shame had nearly erased the trail entirely, but I began to see familiar landmarks. I had once had a wooden rack for drying plastic bags, which tumbled from the counter one day and splintered into pieces. That was one use! Then there was the coat rack idea. Not to mention the valet. The scarf holder, hat stand, herb dryer, towel rack, hanging plant holder. By God, there was no end to them!
When we got home, I decided not to push the issue. We were both hot and sweaty and hungry from our paddle. There was no sense arguing. I stood the rack in a corner with the hope that if it had spoken to me, it might also declare itself to Krys.
It has now been almost a week since the pike of domestic contention entered our home. And today, I have discovered this:
Is this a victory? I don’t know. But it sure makes me laugh.