My wife and I are very competitive. Take skiing for example. I don’t like skiing. Mary Ellen says she doesn’t like it more than I don’t. We’ve been arguing about this our entire marriage. We’re equally cutthroat when it comes to not mowing the lawn. It’s exhausting.
Our newest spirited debate involves the Middle East. But it’s not something as mundane Israeli-Arab relations. It’s about the trip Mary Ellen and I are taking to Egypt in the fall. Neither of us knew much about that part of the world, so we went to the fabulous display at the Children’s Museum several months ago. Mary Ellen toured the exhibit and learned some of the history of the 4000-year-old culture while I stayed downstairs and argued with the ticket lady that the senior discount should kick in at 63, not 65. You’d think these people would know something about the ancients.
Whenever we travel, my wife gets herself all educated about where we are going. She buys books and DVDs and is glued to the History Channel while I’m upstairs watching "The Simpsons." Then at bedtime she drones on about what she learned. I’m amazed that she can keep so much trivia in her head, but it comes at a price. This is the same person who went 15,000 miles without an oil change.
By the time we get on a plane, Mary Ellen is so knowledgeable about our destination that I’m not quite sure what the point is of even going. In Germany a few years ago, the guide had laryngitis so my wife took over the tour and casually summarized the historical significance of the Rhine River. People were hanging on her every word and I got jealous so I grabbed the mic and rattled on about the history of Black Forest Cake, something I had learned at lunch by reading a placemat in Dusseldorf.
For this vacation, we are both listening to CDs in our cars, called "The History of Ancient Egypt." When my wife listens, she retains what she hears. I could probably recall the information as well, but when I pay attention to the narrator, I end up in Greenwood when I’m supposed to be in Tipton.
I finally decided that the best way to remember stuff is to repeat it in a conversation, a trick I learned as a teacher when I taught the same class in psychology five school periods in a row. By the time I got to the last class of the day, I remembered all the baloney I had written down for the first class but I didn’t have to look at my notes anymore.
I tried the verbalizing technique on Mary Ellen when she walked in the house the other day and mentioned that the White River was flooding.
"Funny you should mention that, Mary Ellen. In Egypt the overflow of the Nile River was actually a good thing, irrigating the land, providing precious water to the crops."
My wife was mildly impressed by this little gem so at a party that weekend, I tried to work Egyptian references into my conversations—words like sarcophagus, obelisk and Thutmose III. That’s the last time we’ll be invited to the McGuires’, because several guests complained to the hostess that I was trying to enlist them in some kind of pyramid scheme.
I can’t compete with Mary Ellen when it comes to learning Egyptian history. And if I even try, she says I have another Tutankhamen.