Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Listen More. Mumble Less.

I often mishear people. Mostly, this is not my fault. It is the fault of people who mumble. But through some annoying quirk of society, somehow the onus is on ME to understand these people who don’t know how to enunciate. When I don’t hear what someone says I will generally respond with “I beg your pardon?” When they repeat themselves and again, and again I haven’t been able to understand them I will ask “sorry, could you tell me once more?” and if, on the third attempt, I don’t hear them I give up and chuckle and nod. Sometimes I repeat key words I did understand and chuckle and nod. For twenty four years of my life this was a pretty harmless solution to this fairly common problem. Until a little while ago when this solution stopped working and just made me look like a bitch.

I was delivering coffee to a lady up the road from where I worked. I arrived, coffee in hand, and made some small talk – you know, the weekend bla bla bla, the weather bla bla bla, business bla bla bla bla. And then it all went to shit.

“My back hurts mumble mumble” she told me.

“That’s no good!” I replied. “What did you do to it?”

“I was mumble mumble lifting mumble mumble weighs one hundred kilos” she said.

“I beg your pardon?” came my response.

“I mumble mumble doing so much work mumble mumble lifting mumble one hundred mumble kilos!” she lamented (I assumed).

Forever the people pleaser that I am, I tried to sympathise with her. Despite the fact I wasn’t entirely sure what I was sympathising with – but I figured she’d hurt her back lifting something heavy.

“One hundred kilos?!” I exclaimed “That is heavy. No wonder your poor back is sore. Wow! Isn’t one hundred kilos, like, a ton?”

She gave me an odd look and I smiled broadly and sincerely, wished her a nice afternoon and left.

You know how you only think of fantastic comebacks after you’ve finished an argument with someone? Or when someone asks you the name of that character from Family Ties and you can’t think of it until a few hours later when you’re not with them anymore? And sometimes after you leave a conversation you realise retrospectively what someone was saying to you, when earlier you had misheard them. Well, this was one of those times. So of course, it was only after I had walked back to work that I realised what this lady had told me.  In my mind the “mumbles” left her sentences and it became very apparent that she’d just told me that it was difficult to lift things because she had put on weight and weighed one hundred kilos. She had hurt her back because it is harder lifting things when you WEIGH one hundred kilos.

So in real life our conversation had gone something like:

Her: “I weigh one hundred kilos”

Me: “Wow! That’s so heavy! Isn’t that like a ton? Geez your back must be sore!”

Moral of the story? Start. Using. Correct. Pronunciation. And. Diction. In. Your. Sentences. Or I will be accidentally cruel to you.

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