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Non-verbal sounds can speak volumes

Okay, here's an easy one.

Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-CLUNK / SPLASH (incredibly explicit expletive relative to ancestry) followed by voice choked with anger calling "(your name here.)"

Every man who shares a house with one or more women, of course, will recognize those sounds as representative of the toilet-seat-left-up-at-3 a.m. scenario.

There is, of course, a lot of vocal verbiage to follow the requisite footsteps, thumps and thuds, but said verbiage, usually critical of one's memory, sensitivity and reason for existence, tends to be rather to-the-point and, frankly, downright explicit.

The art comes in being able to read the non-verbal sounds correctly. That ability not only gives you a slight edge in the upcoming face-to-face confrontation, but also can give you a chance to hide, especially when one of the sounds is that of somebody rummaging through the drawer where you keep the cutlery.

Then there is the 6 a.m. sound of every single bottle and can on the dressing table, especially the large (and really loud) hair spray can being lifted up and slammed down.

Translation: bad hair day/you hogged the covers/she dreamed you quit your job to take a new one as a costume consultant for Hooters.

I don't mean for all of this to be gender-specific, by the way. The dressing table thing could be me, if I ever got up at 6 a.m. and if I still had enough hair to justify the use of spray. It just happens that there is one person of each gender in our home.

And a lot of this works better in our house than it might in yours because we live in a frame house where every step is audible and the trained ear can tell who's walking in what part of the house and what kind of a mood he or she is in.

The best place in our house from which to read between the thuds is the bathtub in the master bathroom, where I spend large amounts of time recovering from my last workout, or trying to talk myself out of the next one.

I can hear everything that goes on from there.

Rapid footsteps coming from the guest room where we keep dirty clothes, for instance, could well mean the dreaded shirt-collar stain confrontation which, since we are both on diets, usually ends with, "Don't tell me that's lipstick, vermin, I know raspberry pie filling when I see it."

Slow, thoughtful footsteps coming from the area near the living room door that we use for access to the mailbox means I am about to be asked why somebody using my name charged a subscription to Hustler magazine to her credit card, and that if I expect to use the old defense of blaming it on computer hackers, I need to immediately start working on my puzzled, non-plussed yet sincerely concerned facial expression.

The sound of the back door (which we normally use for access to our house) opening, followed by a loud crash and the sound of breaking glass might be incomprehensible to the uneducated ear, but I can usually be pretty sure that it involves me having left my muddy running shoes in front of the door, her with her arms full of groceries and not able to see the floor directly in front of her and the extreme likelihood that I'd better be ready to microwave my own Lean Cuisine for the evening.

All of these, despite the unkind remarks Wife sometimes feels compelled to make about my intelligence, reliability or even my species, are usually the result of entirely unintentional coincidences that she swears occur with such regularity that they must be part of a plot.

I admit, however, to having a little fun on the ice tray front.

The emptying and filling of ice trays, I have learned, is a very individual preference thing, like whether toilet paper should hang down the front or back of the roll.

My theory is that if you empty a tray every time you need ice and put the extra cubes in the little reservoir under the ice maker, then you will accumulate enough extra cubes so that you don't have to empty any trays for a day or so.

Wife believes in the Texas Chainsaw Freezer Goddess approach under which all trays are opened at once, their contents ripped from them and their re-filled carcasses properly stacked to be refrozen.

My response to such efficient behavior, as always, is to attempt to subvert it.

Something about the combination of being short and of finding only one recently filled tray on top of the stack, I learned, can lead to her getting a face-full of ice water and a head full of steam. In later versions of the trick, I had to move the new tray to second in the stack so a fully frozen top tray would lull her into a sense of false security.

(Okay, I admit it, we can't afford a vacation this year and there's nothing but reruns on cable. You have to take your diversion where you can find it).

First the freezer door opens, then there is the sound of frozen (or nearly so) objects being pried apart, followed by the sound of a splash and a lot of really unpleasant anatomical references.

I can even tell from my bathtub perch by the sounds that follow whether she has taken the gag in her usual good humor _ or whether I am in real trouble. The sound of a hair dryer being plugged in and turned on really resonates in a small bathroom.