Someone says something, but you lack context and you’re not sure what you heard or how on earth it fits into the moment you’re already sharing; has that ever happened to you?
Your mind scrambles to make sense of the statement and you quickly, perhaps desperately, run through the different possibilities, only to discover none of the possibilities you considered were close to what the person meant!
To make the situation even more delicate, is it ever your spouse who unwittingly drops the confusion bomb on you?
We were driving the other day and, as usual when we bring Bear, our Australian Labradoodle in the car, Susan was being sat upon by the beast! As we rolled along, out of the blue, Susan asked, “Does the car tire bare out?”
Immediately, I implemented a protocol of extreme prudence. According to the protocol, the first step is not to respond right away. Instead, I carefully and, with all the intelligence I could muster, pondered the origin of the question. I drew a blank.
Think, fool. “Does the car tire bare out?”
Had she detected some subtle thumping sound in the spinning wheels? Was she contemplating a new set of tires? Was she concerned our current tires had been compromised by excessive road wear?
I opted for another quick review, “Does the car tire bear out?”
I got this. She’s clearly asking whether I’ve noticed a steering issue that involves one of the car tires bearing outward.
That wasn’t it Clearly, I don’t got this.
Craving more information and unable to obtain sufficient aid from my confounded brain, I expressed dismay at not understanding the question. Evidently, my questions were all pointed in the wrong direction because they seemed to be confusing Susan.
I’m confused. She’s confused. We’re turning into snapping turtles. She wonders how I could possibly misunderstand the semantics of the question, after all, she points out sweetly, it’s self-explanatory and constructed in basic English. I question her command of basic English and now we’re having fun.
Patiently, she reviews, “Does the car tire bear out?” I’m as lost and dumbfounded as I was and, believe me, the battery in my flashlight is dead as a doornail!
She spells it out, “Does – the – car – tire – bear – out?”
I still don’t know how it hit me; maybe Susan hit me. The admittedly rather dim light flickered on and I suddenly realized she was asking, “Does the car tire Bear out?” In other words, does Bear, our dog, get tired by car rides because he tends to get a little frantic when we bring him along on drives (see blog of May 21, 2015, titled "Spotless Insanity").
We’re laughing now, amazed at how quickly a communication breakdown can spiral downward!
What’s even more astounding is that when I set up the story and repeated the question to my son and his girlfriend, Tristan was certain his mother’s question pertained to car tires, while Lisa knew right away Susan was talking about Bear, the dog.