“Hurry up, call now,” my wife insists in a peremptory tone. We’re a couple of moments from home, and she wants her Man Friday to come down from the apartment to the parking block “with my pink slippers, the comfortable ones” to walk home in, slipping out from the power heels she’d worn to the party. “My feet are killing me,” she says. I wonder why since she’d worn the stilettos only for the duration of our brief mandatory appearance at a wedding, having meanwhile made me carry a spare pair of “walking heels” in a bag for her to wear while emerging from the hotel. The flunkey arrives with her slippers, but my wife is unhappy because he forgot to also bring the sports shoes she’s advised him to carry “every time” he fetches her footwear, being prone to changing her mind and deciding to go for a walk, as now – yes, at midnight – so she sighs and says, “Okay, get me a pair from the boot.”
The car boot is my wife’s spare wardrobe. That’s where she keeps extra pairs of sandals and shoes to cope with her changing moods and to alter her appearance between parties, so there’s a stack of shawls, stoles, jackets, a case with lipsticks, perfumes, other unguents, combs, safety pins and doodahs. There’s change for emergencies, track suits (which double as night-suits every time she decides to sleep over at a friend’s and make a hen’s night of it), a mirror, and things that might be impossible for a man to tell but without which, my wife once told me, “women don’t function”.
It’s another matter that the kids – who borrow the car for their nocturnal peregrinations through the city – seem to also store their own essentials of chocolates, packets of chips and other rations, deos and after-shaves, hair-gels, Ts and spare jeans, a full cricket kit (my son), gym kits (both; actually, all four of us), mobile chargers, and other paraphernalia. The driver’s muttering is of no consequence as he’s found himself shifting his tool kit from one car to another (not particularly useful should you require to repair something in the vehicle), even having to move the spare tyre (ditto, should there be a puncture).
Here’s what you’ll also always find: bags full of fruit (for my wife for when she’s feeling peckish), “cool” jackets for when my son decides to try and impress some new girl friend, my daughter’s scribbles and notes which she should keep in an office drawer but prefers to keep in the car instead. And then, there’s my wife’s jewellery stashed – “shh!” – under the seat “so the driver won’t know”. “Sir,” the driver tells me, “Madam’s hidden jewellery rolled out, should I put it back under the seat?”
Privilege doesn’t just extend to the car, however. “Hand me my phone,” my wife is likely to demand – “request”, she insists – even though it’s just an arm’s length away. “I’m reading,” she’ll explain, or “exercising”, or “eating” – all things that seem to prevent her for some reason from answering the phone. “Stir it for me,” she’ll tell the cook, even though she’s the one standing in front of the wok with the simmering curry. As she’s getting older – “busier” she explains – her requests have been getting increasingly bizarre. What else is one to make of her request to the dog trainer when, instead of asking him to take the dog for a walk, she demanded, “Can you go walk for me, please?”