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#46 Don't Admit That It's Part of a Scheme

This morning Barbara was buttering her toast in a very civilized way, ie with a knife. I didn’t have a knife so I just jammed my (clean!) fork into the butter. Because she’s a nice person, she put her knife down, got up from the table, and returned seconds later with a knife for me. But I’d already taken her knife and was happily loading up a slice of black pepper and polenta sourdough with a knob of salted Irish butter. At the bemused look on her face I just said, “You didn’t say SAVED.”

In the Hindsley household, the rule of SAVED was simple and sacrosanct: if you had something but needed to briefly walk away from it, saying SAVED meant that no one else could have it or interfere with you having it back when you returned.

SAVED is one of 2 cardinal rules our rowdy brood followed religiously. The other was CALLING. The act of “calling” something meant that it was reserved for you, and you alone. Once you’ve CALLED something, no one else could have it. If you forgot to call it, well, you’re SOL.*

Let me give you an example:

You and your 5 siblings gather in the living room to watch TV after dinner. Before entering the room, a chorus of CALLS erupts: “I call the big chair!” “I call the couch!” “I call the cushion!” Anyone lagging behind in calling a seat is relegated to the floor. At this point, you might start calling throw pillows so you can watch Donny & Marie in some semblance of comfort.

Now, say you were quick enough on the calling to snag a seat, but then wanted to get up and grab a Pepsi and while you’re gone one of those crafty floor-dwellers hops up into your chair. Upon arriving back and seeing the interloper, you might start off with a simple “HEY! I WAS SITTING THERE.”

This would invariably provoke the response: “You didn’t say SAVED.”

Alas, you have no recourse. You are left to mutter your final, feeble response: “Jump in my grave, why don’t you?”

So, if no one has it, you can CALL it. If you already have it, you can SAVE it. It’s a very useful system, and fairly democratic.

The Big 5 on the day I was born. I'm pretty sure they were already deep into CALL/SAVE by then.

We mostly used it for food and seats, but I remember it extending to TV channels and radio stations as well. Our choices here were already limited but if we’re watching Battle of the Network Stars on channel 6, but you know that someone else really would rather be watching Hawaii 5-0 on channel 10, well, you’d better say SAVED. Otherwise, you won’t know if Melissa Gilbert can hold her own against Kristy McNichol in the obstacle course event!**

I wasn’t always very successful in employing the calling/saving strategy. Although, as my sister reminds me, as the baby I pretty much just took whatever I wanted (#sorrynotsorry). But my older siblings another way of leveraging their place in the social order. If we were all watching TV and one of them wanted a Pepsi, they’d ask me to go fetch it, wheedling and saying,

Come on.


Pretty please with sugar on top and a cherry?

I’ll time you!

There was something so seductive in the idea that my siblings, those gods, my heroes, would fix their attention on me — timing me! — even for the seconds it took to refill a soda. It worked every time. I’d come skidding back, out of breath, ice-cold Pepsi sloshing dangerously in a glass: “WHAT WAS MY TIME???”

The fact that they were never, ever actually timing me only slightly dampens my curiosity about my personal best time that persists to this day.


I have no photos of us all together when we were little, but I have an alarming number of shots like this where we are arranged, Brady Bunch style, in order of age starting from my teenage years.

*Shit Outta Luck

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