Robert Earl Keen
“For want of a nail”
Forgive me a bit of indulgence with two quotes at the beginning of this post. I just finished up a Monday at work, and lately Mondays at work have meant doing my job.
That might not sound like a big deal to some of you. But for the last several months, Mondays where we work have meant doing someone else’s job. Specifically, I’ve been doing my wife’s job, answering people’s questions about this and that as best as my years out-of-date knowledge will allow.
What has she been doing? She’s been doing someone else’s job too. It’s part of an all-hands-on-deck experiment that we’ve been doing to try to smooth out service levels on our busiest days. It was pretty rough, but we all pitched in and got the job done. And it’s over now. So on Mondays I get to do my job.
I’m sure after 2 non-sequitur quotes and more than 150 words about work, you’re wondering what all this has to do with gluten. The answer is nothing. And everything. Or at least a little, itty bit of a thing.
You see, to keep us going on these rough Mondays, Aud and I developed our own little ritual. Normally our lunches consist of yogurt and rabbit food, the kinds of lunches that you can scarf down in a few bites and that make you think you’re being punished for something, even though you’re doing it to yourself.
But on Mondays, we get a treat. We get a container of hummus and some veggies I chopped the night before, and we sit down for half an our and just luxuriate a bit in whirled chickpeas and carrots or celery. We’re always careful to pick a hummus that’s certified gluten-free, and I chop the veggies in our own kitchen.
Since we moved to our new house though, something has been slipping through the cracks. She’s been coming home on Mondays feeling that unpleasantness in her gut that’s a sure sign that she got glutened somewhere, and by Tuesday morning I’m having to convince her to stay home and recover. She hated having to call in, and I hated the feeling that somewhere in the process I was letting her down.
So I started taking a hard look at everything that’s changed since we moved here. You’ve already heard about the new house, and how the house-hunting process took its toll on our diet for a bit. Now that we’re settled in though, we’ve mostly gotten our schedules and mealtimes back in order. The new place is a bit further from work, so the commute takes a bit longer, which has pushed meals a bit later. But how would that allow gluten to sneak in? We’re buying the same groceries, we’re doing the same prep. Sure, the kitchen has changed, but I’m pretty sure we’ve cleaned all the leftover gluten out of it by now.
I was thinking of all of this one Sunday night a few weeks back as I got out of the shower. I’ve always showered at night so I can sleep in an extra 15 minutes in the morning, plus it keeps us from fighting over hot water. I was grumbling to myself about having to go chop veggies for the next morning, because washing the veggies so soon after my shower means that my hand lotion gets all tacky and oily and just plain icky-feeling. But one of the things that changed with our new location is that we don’t have a grocery store right up the hill from us anymore, which means longer shopping trips, which means later dinners, which means later showers, so I’ve been doing lunch prep at night after she goes to bed…
That train of thought managed to complete itself right before I hit the pump on the lotion bottle. I brought the bottle downstairs with me and did some Googling, which yielded the nugget of information that the lotion company refused to certify that their products were gluten-free. They didn’t actually use any gluten-containing ingredients in the lotion, but they also wouldn’t outright say that their facility was gluten-free.
I put the bottle down unopened, and went to the kitchen, where I washed my hands as carefully as any surgeon ever scrubbed before walking into the O.R. After that I prepped lunches for the week, including chopping our veggies for Monday hummus.
The next morning I didn’t say anything. We went about our day, doing other people’s jobs. We sat down for our lunchtime luxury as normal.
And that was it. That night when we got home, she felt fine. The next week after work on Monday, she felt fine too. It’s been five weeks now since she got a Monday glutening, the same five weeks since I’ve been making sure my hand lotion didn’t go anywhere near our food.
I finally had to admit to my little secret when she came home today from buying our weekly groceries. Apparently my lotion was on sale, so she picked me up a couple bottles. I had planned to just quietly switch brands to something that was certified, and I probably still will after dropping these off at Goodwill.
I’m also not going to tell you what brand it is, because a) I can’t be 100% sure that the lotion was to blame, and b) the company that makes it was completely honest about their product; I just never had a reason to look into it before. If we hadn’t moved where we did, I might still not know. It would’ve just been one of life’s little frustrating mysteries, the occasional Where’s Waldo of our life, except that Waldo is quietly poisoning my wife. Just one of those little things.
One of those itty, bitty things…