Ivan’s Midlife Crisis

Audrey Thompson

Gaston entering a box

This past Sunday, I asked Ivan about his midlife crisis. “Ivan,” I said, “are you having a midlife crisis?”

“No,” he said. “Why?”

“I just wondered,” I said, “since every day brings a new package from UPS, FedX, or the post office. Except Sundays, when there are no deliveries,” I noted, nodding at the large box with which he had staggered in the door. “On Sundays, you go out and get a box at a store.”

“That’s not midlife crisis,” said Ivan. “This is just stuff that I need.”

Now, someone else might be persuaded by this line of argument — if, for example, that person did not know the precise history of the past three weeks, during which time new motherboards have arrived at the front door practically every day. On days when there are no new motherboards, Ivan mutters grimly about the morals of our tenants. He suspects them of stealing his motherboards.

This past Thursday, he expected FedX to deliver yet another motherboard. At noon, he sent me email. “Did my motherboard arrive?” he asked. “No,” I said. “But a box of books did.” This did not placate him, as he gets boxes of books every day anyway. He checked on the FedX website, which said that the box had been delivered at 12:36. “Obviously,” he said, “the tenants stole it.”

Our tenants have never stolen anything, or at least not from us, but it’s true that they invariably forget to tell us if they have taken a delivery for us. If, after a week, we have not received any boxes, we go downstairs and ask for whatever stash they have collected. Or rather, that is what we used to do. That was in the past, before the daily deliveries. Now Ivan urges me to check with them about every five minutes.

By Friday morning, Ivan was determined that something untoward had happened to his motherboard. He wanted to wake up the tenants and demand the instant return of his motherboard. I held him back. “They don’t get up this early,” I told him. “I’ll ask them later.” To my surprise, they brought a box to the front door without my having to ask for it, so I emailed Ivan at work, saying that they had brought him his motherboard. He was very relieved, though still surly. Not nearly as surly as he became later, however, when he got home and discovered that the box did not contain his motherboard.

This is something else entirely,” he said. “Something else I ordered that I also need,” he added reflexively. I seem to remember that it was a new case for one of the motherboards. He went downstairs to ask for all the rest of the packages that he knew that the tenants must be hoarding. They weren’t home. Ivan stewed.

I said, “I doubt that they have your package anyway, if it was delivered at 12:36. I was here at 12:36. It probably went to the wrong address.”

“No,” said Ivan. “They must have taken it. I think we will need to get rid of these tenants. They are not good tenants.”

“They’re just fine,” I said. “In fact, they’re very good tenants.”

“Except that they steal my boxes,” he said. Just then, we heard the front door slam downstairs. Ivan rushed down to get his box. He got a box, but it was not for us. It was for some people who live three houses up the hill. Ivan said, “I will take it to them. I will give them this box and they will give me mine.”

“There is no real reason to think they have your box, just because you have theirs,” I cautioned him, but he charged up the hill in happy anticipation of getting his latest motherboard. He returned without it.

“She didn’t have it,” he said. “But she did say that if ever FedX brought her one of my boxes, she would bring it to me immediately. I liked her. She seemed like a very nice person.” Not the type, he meant, who would ever steal someone’s motherboard.

As it turned out, I was right about what had happened to Ivan’s box: the motherboard had been delivered to the wrong address, several houses down in a different direction. “Just as I suspected,” said Ivan, when he got off the phone with FedX. “They delivered it to the wrong address.”

“What do you mean, just as you suspected?” I said. “I’m the one who said that it must have been misdelivered.”

“Yes, but I am the one who worked out the details,” said Ivan.

When I told this story to a friend who had recently turned forty, she said, “I think I must be going through a midlife crisis myself. Last week I brought home new placemats. Another day it was cloth napkins.” New placemats and new napkins are not the same as new motherboards on a daily basis, however. Even Elizabeth, who, as it turns out, has not stopped with the acquisition of new placemats and napkins, could see the difference. “Don’t you have an awful lot of motherboards by now?” she asked.

“We do,” I said. “With more on the way, no doubt.”

“What do you do with them all?” she wanted to know.

“You take them in and out of their cases,” I said. “And you can take them to work, to show your friends. It is like baseball cards, only it is motherboards. Also, it is handy to have extras, in case your tenants steal any of them.”

Midlife crises, it appears, take up where quitting smoking leaves off. When Ivan stopped smoking his pipe, he began acquiring new goods every day. One Sunday he came home from the bookstore in a very good mood. “Did you have any interesting adventures?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, in pleased tones. “I found a 1963 Series IIa Land Rover! And it was for sale!”

“You have a brand-new Subaru,” I reminded him. “You do not need a 1963 Land Rover.” I looked at him suspiciously. “I hope you are not telling me that you bought a 1963 Land Rover.”

“No,” he said, “but I test drove it. It would not be a good car for me, because it is a stick shift. But I thought you might like it.”

“I have a perfectly good 1990 Nissan,” I said. “I do not want a Jeep.”

“A Land Rover, not a Jeep!” Ivan said in shocked tones. “Haven’t you ever seen a Land Rover? They drive them on safaris and in wars and things. They are not just ordinary cars. They are highly desirable cars. There is a heater between the two front seats, pointing at the driver. If you are a passenger, it does you no good, but if you are the driver, it gets your right leg extremely hot. Your left leg is freezing the whole time, though, because the door is thin and lets in all the cold air.”

“Just out of interest, I don’t suppose that it has a tape deck or airconditioning or electric seats or a CD player. Unlike your Subaru,” I said.

“No, that’s why I wouldn’t want it for myself,” Ivan agreed. “But I thought you might want it.”

“Thank you,” I said, “but I am not taking part in any wars, so I think the Nissan will probably be fine for my needs.”

When I told Elizabeth this story, she thought it was funny. By contrast, when I told Frank and Donna and Esther the story, their response was, “Can we go see the Land Rover? Do you think the woman has sold it yet?” Ivan assured them that the car had not been sold; he was keeping tabs. We all went to look at it. What it looks like is a very old Jeep. Frank and Donna tried to talk me into buying it. Not for myself — they realized that I didn’t want a Land Rover — but for Ivan, although I myself would have to drive it.

I thought that this was bad enough. All I need is Donna and Frank sharing Ivan’s midlife crisis.

Then I saw Cris in Delaware. She was moody.

“Why can’t Ivan have the Land Rover?” Cris asked. She pointed out the downside of partners’ intransigence in the matter of vehicles. “I once broke up with a woman who didn’t want me parking beat-up trucks in our dooryard,” she said.

I tried to explain. “Cris,” I said, “Ivan doesn’t want that Jeep for himself. He doesn’t even drive a stick shift. He wants me to have it. And I don’t want it.”

“This is what I mean. This is the problem,” said Cris. “It’s not a Jeep. It’s a Land Rover. A 1963 Series IIa Land Rover. Not that I myself would choose a 1963 Land Rover; I probably would go for a Series III. Never mind. I’ll have to talk to Ivan myself.”

When she emailed Ivan to offer him her sympathy, Ivan wrote back thanking her but saying, “It’s not that I want to own the Land Rover, really. It’s just that I want Audrey to want to own it.”

Cris reported this back to me the next day in high dudgeon. “How can you not want that Land Rover?” she demanded. But I held firm. If I give in on the Land Rover, next thing you know, I’ll have a dooryard full of beat-up old motherboards.

1963 Series IIa Land Rover

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