There’s a fascinating behavior in my family called the Wibbels fit. It isn’t about throwing things or being physically aggressive. It’s about having an emotional meltdown in front of those you love. And then usually those you love trying their best not to lash back with a well-placed (and well-deserved) I told you so.
Such was last night.
I was making a snack after 24 consisting of Campbell’s chicken and wild rice soup and a whole wheat squagel with peanut butter. As I’m reaching in the fridge for the peanut butter, Ron reaches in to get these strange mutant coconut treats called macapuno. He drops the jar of macapuno and they explode on the kitchen floor, along with shards of glass amongst my unstockinged feet.
And so it begins.
As Ron does an expert litany on how much he was looking forward to eating the macapuno, I’m trying to carefully move my feet out of the trail of broken glass. Meanwhile, we are trying to keep the cat from tracking macapuno glaze all over the carpet in the living room. We get most of the glass picked up, wipe down the floor with some spray cleaner and paper towels. And then Ron decides to vacuum.
He plugs in my new Shark vacuum cleaner and starts cleaning and begins an expert litany on how it isn’t picking up anything and the glass is still on the floor. I hope you didn’t pay more than $50 for this thing.
He then turns it off and asks how to empty it and nearly presses the wrong button that would have dumped a Brillo pad of cat hair and broken glass on the floor. He goes to the bathroom and flushes the dust down the toilet while asking me When am I going to clean the toilet?
And then Ron decides to vacuum the bedroom. Have you vacuumed the bedroom yet? I bet you haven’t done it yet? You probably didn’t do it right. And he moves into the bedroom and starts vacuuming. I, of course, have tons of dirty and clean laundry in the bedroom and so I’m concerned he’s going to suck up a sock or something. So he’s vacuuming and I’m in the kitchen peanut buttering my squagel.
A squagel is a lame name for a square bagel.
And that’s when the vacuum stop working. I told him not to vacuum the bedroom. I asked him not to. But he just had to. The suction has stopped working but the brush roller motor is still turning. We try emptying it. We try banging it on the floor. Turning it upside down. Changing plugs.
Usually a Wibbels fit is a function of household repair or appliance gone awry or a general paranoia that nothing in the living space will ever be thrown away.
We’ll return it tomorrow. I hope you kept the box. No, honey I threw the box out. It’s only been 2 weeks. I threw the box out. You should have kept the box, you should always keep the boxes for stuff like this. I know, that’s why your fucking Apple laptop box is still in my apartment and not yours. Do you have the warranty? I bet you threw it out. I don’t know.
This is when I start to really lose it. I’d asked him not to vacuum. Plus I’m mad at myself for throwing the box away. Plus I’m enraged that the goddamned vacuum stopped working.
I’m so mad that I have to eat.
Eating and aggravated emotional states taste great together. I silently and angrily eat my soup and squagel while Ron is on his laptop trying to trade trips for work. I am so mad I can’t think clearly.
This is the enraged silence part of the Wibbels fit where nobody talks because the fittist is in such a state.
I start to go through my recent receipts and papers. I can’t find the receipt, of course, for the vacuum. So I start going through trying to find the warranty or manual.
Shuffling papers and general clutter re-arrangement are also key to a Wibbels fit.
I am so mad right now that I can feel my skull tighten around my brain. I find the manual for the vacuum and scan it for any sign of troubleshooting. Nothing. I look on the back and I have to mail the damn thing to Pittsburgh for repair along with $15 for the return shipping. I blew up and they want me to pay for them to ship it back to me. Are you kidding me?
This is when I start to feel awful that I’ve been a pigheaded asshole and I am ashamed of my behavior. This phase can take 15 minutes to 15 days to begin. I start to feel helpless that I got so mad over something I can’t control.
Ron gets up and starts looking at the vacuum. He takes out the cup and pokes his finger into the tube.
There’s a famed Margaret Cho routine where she is trying to tell her date how to find her g-spot and she’s mimicking the ‘come hither’ finger movement that instructs men that the magic button is on the inside wall of the vagina. But Margaret begins her instructions to find her g-spot with ‘There’s a Shell Station on the left.’
And so Ron is fingering my vacuum cleaner tube and he says There’s a Shell Station on the left. That’s when I start to giggle. I am so frustrated and so angry and so helpless and hopeless that I have to laugh.
I go back to the living room and sulk.
Oh honey, look. Did you read this? Did you read this right here?
Oh hell. What?
No, you need to read this yourself. Right here. There’s a bright yellow sticker on the side of the vacuum. What does it say?
I read the bright yellow sticker which informs me that when the vacuum motor gets overheated that it shuts off and has to cool down for at least 45 minutes.
So we can only vacuum ten minutes at a time?
I start giggling some more picturing Ron dressed as June Cleaver vacuuming with a ten minute timer and then waiting for 45 minutes.
I hope that wasn’t in the manual.
No it wasn’t in the manual. I would’ve seen it!
I bet it says that in the manual.
I go and check the manual. “MOTOR THERMOSTAT…” Oh. Damn. It.
You just don’t pay attention to details, honey. Do you? You really should read things through all the way.
This is known as the I Told You So Dumbass phase of a Wibbels fit for the witnessing loved one tries with all their might not to say I told ya so. My parents are better at this than Ron. Ron just let’s loose.
I am emotionally exhausted and laughing and angry and totally spent.
Coda/Caveat: The corollary of the Wibbels Fit is the List that the fit gets added to. The List is used in times of weakness by the loved one to inflict passive-aggressive I told you so‘s over the rest of the relationship’s lifetime. Also known as You’ll Pay Forever.