Can we talk?

Sometimes people have a hard time communicating. In talking to my staff, I would occasionally get blank looks and wonder if I’d unconsciously slipped into Guamanian. Since one of them was from Guam, I knew that wasn’t the problem or he’d have understood me. Most of them were men, and I think therein lies the problem. I’ve noticed the same blank looks on my husband’s face on more than one occasion.

My husband likes to finish my sentences for me. They say that happens when people have been together a long time, but he’s been doing it from day one. Only problem is, Ed usually finishes my sentences with something different than what I was trying to say. Normally, it’s not even in the ballpark.

Women guess better than men do. When we finish their sentences, we’re normally on target. I think that’s because we were listening to what they were saying in the first place. Ed is usually not listening to me, and then when he starts listening, he finishes the sentence with what amounts to a wild guess on his part. You’d think he’d learn.

I went into his office some few years ago, changed the television channel, and pointed out that Harriet on Family Matters was a different actress. Same name, different person. He replied, “Hmmm,” and said, “that’s strange.” I went back to my library. Ten minutes later, he came in there, pointed to the TV, and asked, “Did you notice that’s a different actress?” I asked him what I said when I came into his office ten minutes earlier. He couldn’t remember. He had a lot of time to think about it, however, since I didn’t talk to him for the rest of the night.

Work always seems to make for the strangest conversations. Perhaps it’s because we spend so much time there with people we don’t really know all that well. One year our female boss invited one of the men in the office to check her drawers. “Really,” she said, “they’re clean.” I knew what she was talking about, because our old boss left the desk in disarray. I looked at my co-worker and shook my head. He was trying not to laugh, and I knew what was going through his mind. But then, I’d known him for quite a while. She was new. She learned.

Sometimes the best intentions end up being the funniest of situations. When my first husband died from cancer, one of my closest friends at work was offering his sympathy. He put his arm around me and said, “If you need any manly duties done at the house, you just let me know.” I couldn’t help it. I cracked up. He looked at me like I had lost my mind, then it struck him how he’d put it. He got so embarrassed I felt bad for laughing, but I shouldn’t have. Ten years later, he was still telling me the same thing.

People where I worked were scientists. At least, they thought they were. I’ve found out interesting things at work, because people seemed to want to just talk, and usually about weird things. One day, I found out that trees are male and female. I’m a little unclear on how you tell which is which, but one of the guys at work swore they are. If I were to go to Wolfe Nursery and ask, would they kick me out if I told them I wanted only a male tree? I can just imagine what would be going through their minds. They’d probably refuse to sell me one because they’d be afraid I was going to use the tree for nefarious purposes. All I know is I’m not going to ask. I’ll take my chances and hope the other tree in the yard isn’t female. Wouldn’t want a lot of little trees running around the yard.

Children are the best communicators, but normally only with each other. I like to talk with them because they’ll believe pretty much anything I tell them. I’m waiting for just the right opportunity to pass on the tree story. When I do, however, it won’t be over the telephone. Have you ever talked to a small child on the phone? I normally can’t understand a word they’re saying. My grandchildren like to talk to me on the phone. I say, “That’s great,” “How exciting,” and “I hope you have fun.” I’m afraid that one day they’ll tell me they’re going to choke their sister and I’ll answer, “That’s a good idea.” Their mother would never speak to me again.

I like the idea of communicating non-verbally. I do that with my cats a lot. I can pick up a spray bottle full of water and they stop what they’re doing. When I show them the cat food can, they’re Johnny-on-the-spot. Not that there aren’t communication problems. I can drop them on the floor about fifty times when I’m reading the paper and they jump back up. Same thing when I’m writing something, and the pen is moving on the paper. They think that’s an open invitation to play. I guess that’s non-verbal communication, too, even if it’s wrong.

My husband is pretty good at the non-verbal signals. He knows the raised eyebrow means I’m not thrilled with what he’s doing. And he knows if I point at something for him to look at in a restaurant, I’m getting ready to steal a bite of his pie or slip some of my food onto his plate.

Do you suppose that’s why there are so many different interpretations of the Bible? Do they figure if you make enough translations, you’re bound to communicate effectively with everyone? If you go to a store that sells Christian-related things, you’ll find about 600 different Bibles there, and they’ll all have their own spin to the verses.

God is actually pretty easy to understand. If you’re not sure that’s a true statement, just look at the Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not kill. Can’t get much simpler than that, can it? You’ll notice it’s not open for interpretation. You don’t read that Commandment and wonder what it means—it’s all crystal clear. All His major instructions are unbelievably simple. Accept. Believe. Confess.

Communication is such an important thing, you’d think we’d be better at it, but we’re not. I guess this communication thing is one reason why I’m looking forward to Heaven. I don’t think we’ll have to worry about how we parse our words; everyone will know what’s in our hearts. If you’ve ever lived in Texas or Arizona in the summer, you’ll know the main reason why it’ll be nice to get there. If it’s this hot down here, I can only imagine how bad it is in Hell. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about that. Father made the path to salvation easy for anyone to understand.

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