Me: Is there a need for this box the tape recorder came in to continue living in a plastic bag on the floor under the kitchen table?
Mama: What is it a box for?
Me: The tape recorder.
Mama: What tape recorder?
Me: The one we got at Radio Shack.
Mama: In case I want to take it back, I guess.
Me: You’ve had it two months, when do you think you will decide if you are taking it back?
Mama: Are the instructions in the bag?
Mama: That’s the only place I would know to tell someone to look for them.
Me (not mentioning that the six buttons are pretty darn self-explanatory): What about the file of instructions here in the desk drawer?
Mama: Could you find anything in there?
Me: Yes. (If she asked me to, which she wouldn’t. I need to clean out the file; when she isn’t looking.) May I throw the box out?
Mama: I used to keep the boxes things came in in the store room, in the center cabinet on the right as you go in the door, on the lower shelf, in case I needed to return something. When I did that I put the instructions in the file in the drawer. (It was a jab, I know, at me for recycling a dozen or so boxes—all for things she no longer has—two years ago.)
Me: Can I get rid of the box? (For good measure, I added my ace in the hole): I don’t know if you can take it back anyway; Radio Shack declared bankruptcy since we got it.
Mama: They did?
Me: Yes. (I have no idea if that means no returns, but it sounded plausible.)
Mama: I didn’t know it was from Radio Shack. I thought it was from Sight Connection.
Me: May I recycle the box?
Mama: I guess, if it can’t be returned anyway.
I emptied the bag, and noted on the receipt the return deadline was a month ago. That information, found earlier, would have made my argument more clear. But not, probably, the conversation shorter.