ver since biblical times, people have been speaking at cross-purposes.
I can just imagine two carpenters working on the Tower of Babel on the day everyone got a different language:
“Hey, Pete, toss me that hammer, will ya?”
“Qu’est que c’est un hammer? Et mon nom est Pierre!”
Effective, truthful communication is hard. If you doubt it, consider the personal ads. Doesn’t it seem dubious that so many people are dead ringers for Jennifer Anniston or George Clooney? And, if they are, why can’t they get dates?
My brother Jay once looked at a house where a plethora of cats had ruined the carpets. The smell was intense. So what did the realtor’s ad read? “Choose your own floor coverings!” I’ve got to give her credit. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. However, Jay didn’t realize the extent of her chutzpah until he discovered that the new carpets weren’t actually included. You had to buy and install them yourself.
Sometimes, a realtor’s typos are closer to the truth than they know. One for a condo project with a miniscule driveway extolled the virtue of “Guess Parking!” I assume that’s like musical chairs for Volvos. Where you park nobody knows.
Another ad stated baldly: “This house would be absolutely perfect for anyone!” It followed with the adamant proviso that there were “no representations or warranties.”
My favourite ad hearkens back to the 1980s. A realtor listed a large lot that had recently been hooked up to city services. Her headline? “Half-acre sewer!” Not exactly my dream home.
Doctors are no better. Their words tend to obfuscate and confuse. For instance, consider the medical term for a heart attack. It sounds like a pleasant passing of gas:
“Are you having a myocardial infarction, my dear?”
“Yes, sweetie. Please pass the Tums.”
I recently visited my urologist, who asked if he could perform a quick cystoscopy. It sounded musical: “Now for your listening pleasure the calliope and cystoscopy playing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” I was looking for the cotton candy when he pushed a fire hose up my private parts. When the procedure was done, I opened my eyes. He was removing a six-foot long tube.
“Was that whole thing inside me?”
“Yes,” he replied matter-of-factly.
Looking at all two yards of it, I couldn’t help but think, “Who’s the man?”
I would have preferred a little more obfuscation when he told me bluntly that I had a tumor. Not exactly a day at the circus. In the end, perhaps we should cut each other some slack. Most conflicts result from our inability or unwillingness to hear what the other person is saying. A little forgiveness goes a long way too.
Ray Smit is a regular News columnist.