The 'Gripemobile' stops to hear you complain about your relationship

November 11, 1993|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Staff Writer

The two of you agree on the Big Issues -- money, sex, children, nuclear war. It's on the little things that you and your mate part ways.

The TV remote control: Surf or stay put? The elevator button: Push it once or repeatedly until it comes? And, of course, toilet seats: Up or down?

Since you probably can't change your partner's habits at this point, there's only one solution:

Complain about it. Loudly and publicly at Hopkins Plaza in downtown Baltimore from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. today.

Jack York and Brian Krueger will be there to listen. They'll nod understandingly. They'll probably even take your side. And they'll disprove the conventional wisdom that only women like to talk about relationships.

Mr. York, 33, and Mr. Krueger, 35, are touring the country in their "Gripemobile" to collect material for a sequel to their book, "Beyond Putting the Toilet Seat Down" (The Armchair Press, $6.95).

The subtitle says it all: "423 real comments from men and women about their relationships." The book, which they vanity-published last year, has sold 60,000 copies and generated all sorts of media attention and possible offshoots like television shows and videos. They've been on "Good Morning America," and "Eye to Eye with Connie Chung" is considering traveling a stretch in the Gripemobile.

"We try to inject some levity into relationships," says Mr. York, an MBA whose day job is appraising commercial real estate. "There's just so much psychobabble out there, so much political correctness. We try to inject some common sense into the subject."

Mr. York and Mr. Krueger -- who is a graphic artist and drew the illustrations for the book -- place themselves at the opposite end of the continuum from Ph.Ds and other relationship experts. Their wisdom comes from questionnaires and conversations with real people -- some 8,000 people participated in their first book -- rather than from ivory-tower theories.

The book does ring true to life. There's the man who says, "I will never understand why she insists we make our bed every day." And the woman who observes, "Men can't put an outfit of clothing together. They need Garanimals."

But it's not all kvetching. There are sweet anecdotes, like the one about the woman who -- as is her gender's wont -- went to pull a thread off her husband's jacket and found a diamond ring at the end of it.

"We are voyeuristic about relationships," says Mr. York, who is married to one of the women to whom the book is dedicated (the other one is Mr. Krueger's girlfriend). "We're very approachable. People like talking to us."

These days, couples seem to be obsessing on how men can pick up more of the domestic chores around the house since their wives also are working full-time jobs outside the home, Mr. York says. And men typically are coming up with their own way of doing these things, he adds.

"We had one guy tell us that, when his wife was out of town, he loaded up all the dirty dishes into the back of his pickup truck and drove over to the car wash," Mr. York says. "It did clean them, but it also broke them."

They started their 2 1/2 -month "Complainathon" road trip at the end of September, a coupla guys living and traveling in an "urban assault relationship vehicle" (basically, a refurbished van). Which, if you think about it, should make any guy think twice before complaining about living with a woman. If there are two men in a vehicle, which one drives? Or even more problematic, which one would break down and ask for directions when they get lost?

"This is what civilization would be like without women," Mr. York jokes about the experience. "I'm trying to figure out where I'm going to bury Brian's body parts."

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