Heavy Calculations

We’re sitting in our hotel room and my husband is glaring at the computer and muttering complaints.

You see I say “the” computer.  Actually, it’s my computer  My husband’s own laptop got squashed under his footrest on the flight over here.  It now sports a lot of wiggly bright lights and a black blot straight out of a Dali painting.  He’s still chapped about it, but has made up for it by hogging my computer a lot of the time.  That’s marriage for you.

But right now, he’s enraged with the hotel’s Internet service.  Which strikes me as crazy, I tell him.  You come to Italy for the food and the stunning scenery and the design; you do not come to Italy for the efficiency.

“They just sent somebody up here to fix it,” he says.  “He had a phone line.  Not a computer line.”

So, my husband had marched down to the desk to straighten them out about high-tech concerns.  “I wasn’t snotty,” he reported.  “But the woman got all defensive, anyway.”

Oh, sure, I think.  I know what my husband is like when he’s “not being snotty” about high-tech matters; he usually comes across as being — what would the word be? — oh, yes!  “I bet you were patronizing as hell,” I say.

He ignores me.  I wonder why he is focusing on something so unimportant when — thanks to him — I am quite traumatized.  When we got to the hotel, I had hopped on the scales.  I knew I’d been packing away the pasta and the limoncello (my new drink of choice: it’s sweet; it’s alcoholic; I’m in love).  So I just wanted an idea of how things were going.

“What’s the conversion from kilograms to pounds?” I asked my husband.

“Two point five four,” he said with an air of authority.

Two point five four?  I did the math.  Then I had to sit down.  I never weighed that much even when I was ten months’ pregnant with my firstborn.  “There’s no way that can be right,” I said.

“Yes, it is,” he said.

“Can’t be.”  If we had the Internet, I could look it up.  But we don’t.  I open my Italian-English book and look under “health.”  They talk about all kinds of really insignificant details like hospital emergencies and the translation for “I believe my liver has just failed and I need a transplant.”  But nothing about a vital issue such as, How much, exactly, is a kilogram in real weight? Some health section.

My husband heads downstairs with my computer in a death-grip.  He’s going back to talk to the woman behind the desk about the hotel’s joining the 21st century, he announces.  I can hardly wait.

In the meantime, I sit in the room, doing a variety of calculations.  Even though my husband is a scientist and always remarkably sure of himself, this 2.54 business is clearly in error.  It is unacceptable.  I compute my weight at 2.44: Still unacceptable.  2.34: better, but not great.  Unless, say, I want to spend the rest of our time in Italy on a bread-and-water diet.

Finally, I trudge downstairs to the lobby, where my husband is commandeering my computer.  There’s Internet in the lobby, as it turns out.  Through a combination of sighs and guilt-inducing remarks, I finally wrest it away from him.

There, I find that my old email account has been hacked.  On the way back to the room, I get stranded in the elevator and realize my Italian is insufficient to convey: “Help!  I’m claustrophobic!”  Finally, I extricate myself and head upstairs.  A bit of bad luck — and all that.

But the good news is: The conversion from kilograms to pounds is two point two.  My weight is fine, my trip is saved.  I can hardly wait to tell my husband it’s a damned good thing he didn’t try to convert it with pi.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

4 comments… add one
  • Don’t let him loose on stones.

    He’s already been unloosed on stones. I’ve forgotten how much I weighed that year.

  • I am so glad to know the right conversion for kilos, and thanks to your little essay I probably won’t forget.  In England, where I often visit, kilos are used in stores for buying meat and cheese and the like, miles are used on the roads (but I think they are different miles from ours), and the mysterious stone is used on bathroom scales.  I think a stone is 14 pounds, but I never learned multiplication tables above 12, and am too lazy for that calculation.

    Glad my pain was your gain, Anne.

  • Better threaten to measure your husband’s weight in stones if he messes with your lap top again.

    Trouble is, he’s not neurotic about his weight. Or anything else, for that matter.

  • Winston Link

    My weight is fine, my trip is saved.  I can hardly wait to tell my husband it’s a damned good thing he didn’t try to convert it with pi.
    Cherry, custard, whatever, pi would convert anybody’s weight into a tearjerker!

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