My husband has a day job, but he is also a musician. When he meets other musicians, they go into long music-related conversations. Eventually someone politely turns to me and asks, “Do you play any instruments?”
And I say with understated pride, “I play the stereo.”
Some years ago, my husband and I agreed it was time to get a proper stereo system — proper in his mind. (My mind is happy with a small bluetooth speaker.) Being used to dealing with sound systems, he ordered and set up components with expert precision. But I will confess that I was testy about the cost, and the knowledge that it depreciated instantly.*
The first time we streamed a movie, I said, “Okay… I have to admit, that does sound amazing.”
Then I asked him to play my old CD of The Lark Ascending, and I heard things in the piece that I had never heard before.
But I no longer knew how to play the stereo.
Instead of a simple button or two to push, I was staring down at a literal basket full of remotes. Imagine how distressing this was, to lose my one musical talent! I was unable to turn on the stereo, but had to ask, every time, for his help. Or just give up on listening to music on the stereo, if he wasn’t home. Humiliating.
I said to him, “I will be less grumpy about the cost of this, if I can operate it, too. Otherwise, I don’t feel like it also belongs to me.”
So he wrote me an instruction booklet, and labeled the remotes:
Is there something in your home that theoretically belongs to the household, but in practice only belongs to you, because you’re the only one who can work it?
Externalize your knowledge. Write it down, print it out, on paper.**
If someone has to access your device or keep bothering you, over and over, to repeat the knowledge in your head to use a “household” device, that gets tiresome for everybody. One of the things I dislike about our increasing dependence on devices is that in practice it means that household members are increasingly dependent on the purchasers / early adopters of important, shared tech.
But my husband kindly took the time to label the remotes and make me some cheat sheets, so I can enjoy music on our stereo, without bothering him or having to wait until he’s home.
And now I can stand tall around musicians again. Once again — thanks to a few analog cheat sheets — I play the stereo.
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* Ever since we had an estate sale, I know that most household items we own — in good condition — would get about five or ten cents on the dollar. Another reason to love thrift stores.
** This becomes critical in homes operated by smart devices. If the only person who knows how to adjust settings for the thermostat and the lighting is — oh, say…. hospitalized during a pandemic, and they have the phone with them that operates EVERYTHING, it’s wise to have cheat sheets with bypass instructions for those who are staying at the house. (Ask me how I know!)