Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Typical Exchange

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This is a classic example of a typical exchange between Cyndie and me. To set the stage, it was business as usual around the house last night when I walked into the bathroom to brush my teeth while Cyndie stepped into the garage, focused on a task of her own.

Through the white noise of my activity and whatever self-talk was flowing around in my head, I thought I heard a shrill little distant shout. I paused for a second and my creative mind raced through possible scenarios, including the concern Cyndie was shouting in distress about something. The most likely conclusion I came up with was that she had probably sneezed.

As I finished dabbing toothpaste on the bristles of the brush, I heard the door to the garage open.

I said, “Did you sneeze?”

Cyndie replied, “What?”

“Did you sneeze?” I repeated.

When I heard her say, “Yes” I turned on my electric toothbrush.

Over the hum of the motor and with the sound vibrations of the rotating agitator polishing my teeth and resonating through my skull to the bones in my ears, I detected additional distant mumbling that could only have been Cyndie still talking.

I kept brushing. But I thought about the fact that she most likely would assume I heard every word she had said. I wondered to myself whether it warranted stopping my toothbrush to ask for a do-over on that added detail I had missed. Honestly, it probably involved descriptions about her sneeze or what triggered it, both of which I suspected weren’t critical for me to know.

In contemplating all this, I realized this sort of thing happens all the time between us. I tend to hear the first part of an answer, but the colorful addendums tend to get drowned out by whatever else is going on at the time.

If I don’t point out the fact I haven’t clearly heard anything beyond the initial speaking, there arises a falsehood of a common shared reality. Cyndie will assume a point has been communicated and I won’t have any idea that I’ve missed something that might have been significant.

The thing is, nine times out of ten it turns out to be a spur-of-the-moment colloquial expression of silliness or pleasantries. Both welcome enhancements when palling around with a companion, but neither very costly if not fully deciphered. At that, I must admit to being guilty more often than not of letting my ignorance go unnoticed.

A nod and an auditory “Mmm-hmmm” augment the facade of my feigned grasp.

I’m afraid if I were given a test about each day’s conversations, I might score embarrassingly low.

When I told Cyndie this story about not hearing anything beyond the fact she had, indeed, sneezed, she said the added comment was, “…and it was a Lollapalooza!” or something to that effect.

Mmm-hmm. Yes, dear.



Written by johnwhays

May 21, 2021 at 6:00 am

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