Talking to people who don't hear you (was DWJ quizzes)

Margaret Ball margaret at
Sun Dec 12 10:37:35 EST 2004

>I grew up in a 
>very awkward home life and discovered that if you said quite clearly, 
>for instance, that you'd missed school because you'd been up all night 
>having your father committed, nobody really paid any attention.

Ouch! Probably because they didn't want to hear it and didn't want to 
deal with it? Or was it simply that such a situation wasn't part of 
their mental world and they couldn't hear it?

I run into the second class of situation all the time, but (knocking on 
wood) so far only with cultural trivia, so far. As in:

Them: Did you see that really great episode of <pick show>?"
Me: "No, I'm not in the habit of watching TV."
Them: "Yeah, yeah, I know a lot of it's trash, but this is such a great 
show, everybody watches it."
Me: "It probably is."
Them: "So anyway, didn't you love the part where....."

Or at the fabric store.

Clerk: "What are you going to do with those, they don't go together?" 
<staring at array of red, magenta and fuchsia rayon threads>
Me: "I'm going to machine-embroider ALL OF THEM on a quilt made up of 
lots of shades of red silk."
Clerk: "Oh, so that's what the red is for. What about the others?"

Exchanges like this make me wonder if I'm really a ghost living in 
somebody else's nearly-parallel universe....except <obdwj> I don't seem 
to have been issued any of Christopher Chant's magical powers along with 
the world-traveling.

So I guess I will retreat to my study and read the 160-page PDF manual 
for putting a Paypal shopping cart on your site, which (the manual that 
is) definitely came out of somebody else's world, probably a world of 
sadistic practical jokers. Don't you think there ought to be some kind 
of Retribution for people who tell you their software is trivially easy 
to use and then make you download a 160 page manual, with links to five 
or six other manuals where they actually explain the details? Something 
slow, with boiling oil in it?

Margaret Ball

Mathematicians are like Frenchmen; whatever you say to them they translate into their own language and forthwith it is something entirely different.


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