“You want me to fill the tub up with water?” Is what I thought she said.
“No, I said I want a rum and tonic,” she corrects me.
That’s a typical conversation between an aging Venusian and an older Martian. Though both of us have had our hearing checked, our communication keeps going off the road on a regular basis.
Doesn’t help that our house eats sound, few rugs, concrete floor, high ceilings, she can call out my name from the other side of the house and all I hear is something that sounds like a thick magazine hitting the floor.
“Did you say something?’ I yell back.
Then I think I hear Virginia Living landing on the floor again. So I have to go search her out. She’s in the laundry room which is around three corners, she could just have well been talking to me from inside a submarine.
“Did you call me?” I ask.
“Yes, three times and you didn’t answer.”
“I can’t hear you from the other side of the house.”
“You really should get your hearing checked again.”
We must say to each other, “You must get your hearing checked,” three times a week, almost as much as, “Did you lose your iPhone again?” Neither of us goes, of course so we keep playing the game of dropping the ball.
“Looks like rain…”
“I said, ‘It looks like rain.’”
“Sorry, but I missed that.”
“IT LOOKS LIKE RAIN,” she screams at me and the dogs all go run and hide.
“Yeah, sure does,” I answer.
And god forbid she’s reading something, a book or checking her email. I’ve learned to fire a warning shot first, as in, “Can I have your attention for a second.” Otherwise it’s like talking to a wall.
So the question, “Did you say something?’ is asked on a regular basis around our house. And if you get, “No, why?” in response, you begin to worry.
“I just thought you said something.”
Then you get The Look. The look that says, “Are you losing your mind?” which doesn’t help because that has already occurred to you.
So when I think she’s talking to me but can’t make out what she’s saying, I often resort to cupping my hand behind my ear. That way, if she doesn’t respond, I can just pretend I was scratching the side of my head and I don’t get The Look. If she does answer, all’s right with the world.
Now trying to start a conversation from across the room is like trying to start a fire with wet wood. That’s when you have to resort to the “run up to the net” technique, like in tennis. So you take a few steps toward her and ask, “How about going to lunch at Bodo’s?”
No response. She’s not even looking up. Now you’re halfway across to where she’s sitting and you try again, “How about going to lunch at Bodo’s?”
Finally she looks up, “Did you say something?”
Now you’re right up at the net and you hit the ball back and just to make sure, you raise your voice a bit, “YOU WANT TO GO TO LUNCH AT BODO’S?”
And what you get back is, “Please, you’re standing two feet away. Do you think I’m deaf?”
Then, if she’s staying true to form, she’ll ask, “Now what did you want to ask me?”
So that’s the way it goes when two planets try to talk to each other. Once I got so frustrated, I came up with the semaphore trick. “So when I want to talk with you, how about if I wave my arms like this?”
“That’s pretty silly.”
“Let’s just try it.”
“Okay, if you insist.”
I let a half hour go by and walk back into the room, stand in front of her and begin waving my arms.
“What in the world are you doing that for?” she asks. “Standing in the middle of the room waving your arms like a crazy person.”
I don’t even try. Shrug, turn and walk out of the room, thinking, “Maybe I’ll write what I want to ask her on a Post-It note, paste it to my forehead, and put my head in front of her face.
Might be worth a try.