I do not like surprises: a true story

My sister is a participant in GISHWHES, and in the last couple of nights, she’s been excitedly telling our family which items from the July 2013 list she’s “found” (that is, those she’s been able to complete) and with which she needs help.

One of the items is “beefcake”: take a picture of three generations in a family sitting down to dinner to eat beefcake… literally. My sister signed us up for this, obviously, because right now we have three generations of family living under one roof. Fortunately, she was nice enough to warn us about volunteering us, and she even went so far as to ask for a specific day we’d all be available so that she could photograph us on our schedule, roughly speaking. Here’s how that conversation went a day or two ago.

Sister: So, when are you all available?
Me: I have Wednesdays and Sundays off.
Mom: Friday is best for me, but I could probably do Saturday morning, too.
Grandma: When I’m awake.
Dad: Uh… Ask your mother.
Sister (to me): Could you do Saturday morning?
Me (looking at work schedule): Yeah, but make sure it’s really in the morning.
Sister (to everyone): Is Saturday morning okay with everyone? I’ll work out the logistics.
Everyone (except Dad): Sure, fine.
Dad: Uh… yeah, whatever.

Okay, so that’s all fine. GISHWHES is stupid, but at least it’s fun, harmless stupid. Fast forward to today. I’ve worked a full eight-and-a-half-hour shift—on my feet 95% of the time—and I’m just hopping into the shower after a rather quick, bland dinner. My hand is literally on the shower door handle, pulling it open when my sister knocks on the bathroom door.

She asks something through the door, but the shower is already on and I can barely hear anything.

“What?” I ask.

She repeats the question, which I still don’t understand.

“What?” I ask again.

She repeats the question louder, and I catch something like “…when they get here?” but I’m still not sure what she’s talking about.

I close the shower door and crack open the bathroom door, poking my head out so that I can hear her better. “What?” I ask a third time.

“Are you coming down for the beefcake photo? [My friends] aren’t here yet, but when they get here, we’ll need three generations in the picture, like we talked about.”

I frown. “It’s a good thing they’re not here yet; I’m naked.” She makes a face, but since I don’t have my glasses on, so I can’t see her facial expression for context.

“When you get out of the shower, then.”

“Uh… isn’t that thing on Saturday?”

She looks at me, and I can tell even without my glasses that she’s losing her patience. “No, [my friend who baked the cake] couldn’t do it on Saturday because she works super early, so it’s tonight. The dumpster pool party is on Saturday.”

I wasn’t invited to the dumpster pool party, another of the items on the GISHWHES list, but that’s fine because dumpsters are gross and I have enough interaction with them at work to never think twice about saying “no” to having a pool party in one.

“So, are you coming down?” she asks.

“No.”

“What? Why not?” Now she’s irritated.

“Because I’m not prepared. I planned for Saturday.”

“What?” she asks, incredulous. “It will probably take ten minutes or less of your time.”

“I planned for Saturday,” I repeat calmly, not really able to explain why, just that I’m not at all prepared for any time tonight much less right now.

“You’re not coming down?”

“No.”

“Is that just because you don’t want to help me out?”

“What? No. I just… I have other stuff to do tonight.”

“It won’t take that long.”

“I’m going to take a shower and put on my pajamas,” I tell her. “Can I do this in my pajamas?”

“No, I want it to be a formal, dressed up thing.”

I snort. “That‘s not going to happen.”

“You have ‘stuff to do’ in your pajamas?” she asks, incredulous again.

“Yes. I have to apply for jobs and, y’know, sleep, eventually.”

Sister narrows her eyes, obviously not believing me, and then she throws up her hands and says, “Fine,” as if I’m completely a lost cause and it’s like I’m a horse she’s leading to water but remains unable to make me drink.

I frown. She turns away. I close the bathroom door, open the shower door again—the shower’s been running during our entire “discussion”—and step in.

As I shampoo my hair, I think to myself, “But I prepared for Saturday.” I sigh. Sister’s definitely angry with me, but she’s known me more than a quarter century. How can she still not remember that I don’t like surprises?

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