Twenty Years Ago: From Dan’s Papers July 17, 1992

“Happy Car”

Our houseguests this weekend were from Moscow. The wife, Verushka, speaks English quite well. The husband, Sergei, speaks almost no English but understands it when he hears it.

And so it was that at ten o’clock Saturday night Sergei and I were downstairs in the living room watching television. He was sitting in an easy chair. I was lying on the sofa, just about to doze off. Verushka was in the kitchen.

From upstairs, on the balcony, my wife yelled down to me. Would I be willing, before I came upstairs, to do her a favor? Sure, I said. She then told me the favor she wanted done, which certainly seemed okay with me. Then she went into the bedroom, closed the door behind her, and went to sleep.

About a half hour later, I woke up, still on the living room sofa, and decided I would get myself to sleep upstairs too. I said my goodnights to Verushka and Sergei, and then I remembered that my wife had wanted me to do something before coming upstairs.

What? I had no idea.

For those of you who have not gotten past the age of 40, I can report that one of the strangest things about it is that you can’t remember certain things. For example, you can walk into a room and not remember why. Or you can go out to a store and not remember why you did that either. It is the spookiest thing.

I’m told that not everybody suffers from this as they get older and I can report that my wife is one of those who does not. She remembers everything. I have to write things down.

My theory about this, incidentally, is that all of us have a certain brain capacity and as we go through life slowly shoving things into it we ultimately fill it entirely up. Nothing else fits. So, for example, I can clearly remember many details about the Second World War, which I studied at length some years ago. However, I cannot remember what I am supposed to do tomorrow at 10 a.m. unless I write it down. That’s my theory anyway.

So here I was at eleven o’clock in the living room of our home on a Saturday night, about to go up to the bedroom wherein lay the I Always Remember Everything Wife, and my mind was racing ahead trying to remember what it was I was supposed to do. I could not.

Necessity is the mother of invention however. I had an idea. There were three of us, Dan, Verushka and Sergei who had been in the living room when the request came down. None of us three had the full answer. But each of us had a part.

“Do you remember what it was that my wife asked me to do?”

I asked Sergei. I knew that though he could not speak English, he could understand me.

Sergei turned to Verushka and spoke to her in Russian. Verushka had not heard what my wife wanted, but she could translate.

“Happy Car, he says.”

And so it was I went out into the parking lot and put the top up on Susyn’s convertible.

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