For the last twenty years I have lived more or less independently. I do my own cooking, cleaning, bookkeeping, gardening, car repairs, and home improvement. If I were in Home Ec., I think I would get a B+.
I do not deserve an A because, for the love of all things holy, I cannot fold a fitted bed sheet. I get started every time with good intentions, aligning the elastic corners, trying to fold it in half, things get all crooked, I start swearing and tearing and end up with a wadded steaming ball of sheet. It wrinkles piteously, but no one sees that anyway, because as I said, I live alone.
Ironically, my high school job was to wash and fold the hundreds of bed sheets used every day at the Tel Star Inn. I was fast, aided by the fact that our customers weren’t the type to get very adventurous in their beds, and that the hotel didn’t use fitted sheets. The manager would hold up a ruler to my stack of sheets to test how perfectly they were folded. Second only to him, I was the best, a talent I’m happy to brag about but not so happy to exercise.
I also discovered I had a talent for writing my name in flames. We had cans of spray ether used to help start the motel’s finicky tractor. Often bored waiting for sheets to dry, I’d go into the storage room, grafitto my name on the floor in perfect, invisible, ethereal cursive, and toss a match. Whooof–my name in lights. If I felt lazy I would just sit at my folding table and shoot spritzes of ether directly at the dryer burners, quoting the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz as the brief fireballs billowed.
When I blew up the room, it wasn’t from playing with ether. We had a hole in the back wall of the storage room, and winter breezes would sometimes blow out the pilot light in the motel’s giant water heater. It was my job to notice, and to relight the pilot. There is a little sign on every water heater, even the great big ones, that warns you to turn off the gas for five minutes before relighting. In the future, I’ll remember to do that.
There was no “boom.” Just a brief flash of white light, and a “huh” sound, like you make when you fog your glasses with your breath to clean them. At first I thought I was blinded, but it turned out that my eyelashes had welded together. I was still in my stance, still holding the burnt match to the pilot light like Yosemite Sam. My new hairdo smelled terrible.
If I never light another pilot light, I’m fine with that. I don’t care whether I ever again write my name in flames. I am no longer so careful to fold my sheets in a perfect stack (although when I was folding some new t-shirts at my job, two co-workers agreed I had a bright future in retail). But before I die, It’d be nice just once to fold a fitted sheet right. I know it’s not on everybody’s list of life goals, like parachuting and hot-air-ballooning. But still.