Years ago, in what I believe was a forwarded e-mail, I read this little snippet about a study in which men and women were given a sentence and asked to place punctuation in it where they saw fit. The sentence was this:

woman without her man is nothing

The study showed this as the typical response from men:
Woman, without her man, is nothing.

This little story stuck with me, mostly because I’m fascinated by the way in which grammar and punctuation can direct and define sentences.

Today Mike had to go in to work for a few hours. I made the mental list in my head of things that could be done while he was gone – errands, painting, work, laundry, and a walk with the dog. I could feel productivity in the air, and once Mike had been dropped off at the church, Linus and I headed to the beach to walk the loop.

We’d made it walking 5 minutes before Linus dramatically collapsed on his belly, legs sprawled, under the shade of a tree. Leash tugging was ineffective, and after I scooped him up back on his feet and continued walking, he waited until the shade of the next tree had hit him before dramatically collapsing again and looking at me like I was crazy to think of giving him exercise. This is nothing new to Mike and me; neither the drama nor the laziness. So, I hauled him back to the parking lot and sat on a bench under a tree to read so that Linus could at least have a change of scenery to open his eyes to after sleeping.

Clouds rolled in and rain began coming down, so Linus and I headed back to the car where I made a quick change in my game plan, as I’d intended to run a few quick errands and just leave Linus in the car with the windows open. Clearly, rain ruined any chances of that happening. I did make a quick stop in AC Moore for more paint, as I have no idea when inspiration will hit for the piece I plan to have ready for our expressions art exhibit at our church. When asked on the form how I would describe my art piece, I gave the best description I knew for it at the time: “We’ll see what happens.” Still waiting to see.

By the time we got home, I’d been in the car long enough to realize that the clutter has really built up in there, and in my productive mood I decided that thing #1 to do would be clean out the car. I saw this taking 5 minutes, but it’s amazing what can get smashed, molded, and oozed together (gross) when it’s in a tight space for long enough. Half an hour later I’d finally thrown away all the trash and moved the remaining clutter from our car to our apartment, and was ready to deem it finished. I did my final surveillance of the car, and glimpsed a piece of paper sticking out from among our pile of CDs – it was the registration to our car. I opened the glove compartment to put it back in its proper home…

Ack!! I’d forgotten that the glove compartment was sealed off as a danger zone. It was filled to the brim with I-don’t-know-what-because-it-was-all-crammed-in-there-before-I-was-ever-around. But, productivity never knows when to call it quits, so I decided to tackle that old, inappropriately-labeled compartment. There were no gloves in there at all. Instead, this is all it contained:

– 1 bottle of tanning oil
– 1 bottle (emptied into the compartment) of some kind of cologne or “musk”
– 4 ketchup packets
– 3 expired registration cards
– 2 expired insurance cards, and 1 current insurance card
– an old Wachovia statement (to give you an idea of its age, Mike has long since terminated that account)
– an unopened envelope that read on the outside, “check enclosed!” and when I opened it, there was a check for $10. The check was from May of 2005, and expired in August of 2005.
– another unopened envelope that read on the outside, “check enclosed!” Another expired check from 2005 consisting of $3.55.
– another envelope filled with change. The money kind.
– Old bills from car repairs.
– Mike’s W2 form from 2006.
– Mike’s W2 form from 2007.
– 2 screw drivers, covered in the musky goo.
– 1 pocket knife… is it still called that when it’s the kind with multiple knives, a cork screw, and tweezers included?
– An ice scraper
– what I believe to be an old handle from somewhere in the car. I’m not sure which part of the car is missing a handle, but I found it.

So, there you have it. I’d say my favorite finds were the two checks that would have made Mike thirteen dollars and fifty-five cents richer in 2005, and the W2 form from 2007, as this was what we needed last week as part of the documentation required from our financier. I don’t know how we, or I, have overlooked this compartment so long when cleaning out the car. I am even further baffled as to how Mike crammed so many important documents in there and just… left them. But it made me think of that sentence again, and the study that questioned how to punctuate it. I don’t mind saying that the men could get away with the punctuation they chose, as Mike is the love of my life and is so incredibly important to me. But the glove compartment adventure did put a little grin on my face as I thought of the other grammatical possibility; the typical response that the study received from women:

Woman! Without her, man is nothing.