You may have seen it if you drove past our house last week or the week before that: A newspaper on the grass in our front yard. As you face the house, from the sidewalk, it benignly, but quite obviously, rested on the lawn to the right, triangulated between the sidewalk, the driveway and the front walk. It arrived there Thursday before last, thrown in that unexpected spot by the newspaper delivery boy.
I apologize for letting this eyesore remain uncollected for as long as I did. But you must understand, it served as an essential research tool in a spontaneously contrived experiment to see how long it would take before someone other than me picked it up and brought it inside. The mailman ran his own experiment, at the same time, on my little family of lab rats. I know this because he, too, walked by it everyday and never picked it up and put it on our front porch
I had an experiment going on the neighbors to find out how long it would take for one of them to walk over and kick it to our front door or say something about it or stand in her front yard and stare menacingly in the direction of our house.
As the days wore on and the newspaper stayed put, and the neighbors kept their opinions to themselves, I wondered how much longer I could go on with this project. The sight of that rectangular blemish started to eat at me every time I pulled in and out of the driveway. I tried not to look in its direction, but the contrast of the bleached white pages against the deep green grass caught my attention every time. Some days, I paranoidly believed that the newspaper itself conspired against me. It glaringly proved my loss of control over my household.
I knew if someone didn't pick up that newspaper soon, I would bonk. I questioned everything. Why is the mailman doing this to us? Why did the delivery boy stage it off the beaten path? Why haven't the neighbors said anything? Am I the only person who can see this newspaper? Is it really there, or is it an illusion caused by the unstable concoction of summer humidity and heat?
Finally, I questioned the head conspirator in the plot to thwart me: My husband. Experiment aborted, I walked outside and snatched up that newspaper. When I looked at the brittle, bleached, folded paper in my hand, I grew even more furious. I marched it back inside to the den, where my beloved lounged on the sofa. "Have you not seen this in the front yard all week?"
"I saw it," he confirmed.
"Well, I have to tell you, I've been running an experiment to see how long it would take you to pick it up," I huffed. "Why didn't you pick it up?"
"I was waiting for you to pick it up," he replied, then added, "How do you know I wasn't running an experiment of my own?"
"Yeah, you and the mailman. He didn't pick it up either. And," I held up the paper and pointed at it, "it isn't even our paper."
"I know," he smiled. "It's a Chronicle."
""You know?" I questioned.
"Yeah, I looked at it."
"So you walked over and looked at it close enough to see that it's a Chronicle but you didn't bother to reach down and pick it up?"
He grinned and shrugged.
I didn't even bother saying, "I have to do everything around here." That's just old news, too. (Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist. E-mail Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her web site, www.IfMama.com.)