The CES Secret to a Happy Marriage

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LAS VEGAS -- Vegas is a karaoke-loving place. Respectable steakhouses turn into grim amateur hours at a moment's notice. One minute you're chewing a decent sirloin, the next some guy is shoulder thrusting his way through Warren G's "Regulate." So I shouldn't have been surprised when my quiet dinner with This American Life's Starlee Kine turned into a besotted karaoke extravaganza. But I was.

It went on and on and on with mostly predictable results, but there was one moment that spread a thin layer of sweetness over the whole proceeding. A large guy in a Baltimore Ravens tracksuit got up and confessed to the audience, "I feel like an old man singing 'My Girl.' But I've been coming to CES for years and years and I already miss my wife." This turned out to be George.

After his sterling rendition of the Motown hit, Starlee and I accosted George to find out the secrets of long-term love. After all, CES seems like the kind of place where people go to destroy marriages not affirm them (in front of a crowd of strangers).

"I'm old fashioned," he said. "I don't want nobody else." Then he told us a very Vegas story that manages to warm the heart about getting dragged to a strip club by some old business associates when he really wanted to be talking to his wife.

I've been coming to CES for so long, and all the guys would always want to go to strip clubs. So, I was on my phone a strip club and there is this girl in front of me on a pole and she's dancing. She says, "You don't like what you see? Put the phone down." Then she says, "Who you talking to?" I say, "My wife." And she goes, "Get the hell out of here." I gave her the phone, and I said, "I'm here for [my coworkers] not for this."

Your mileage may vary when you hand the phone to a stripper while talking to your partner, but the moral of the story may be a good one for CES attendees to consider. As an old friend used to say, "It's never too late to make a good decision." So, you might have been dragged to a strip club in Vegas, but you can always pay more attention to your wife than the show. It worked for George, who decamped soon after finishing his story for the nightly chat with his wife. They've been married for more than 30 years.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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