Funny how one little thing can change you.
Covid has driven me to find new sources of entertainment. I have been relying rather heavily on podcasts. That led me to the comedy series, “Cabin Pressure.”
I am usually not one for British humor, but this clicked with me. Yesterday, I was listening to episode 04×04, “Wokingham”. In it, the copilot and his boss get caught up in a game. For two days, they talk to each other using solely words with one syllable. (You can find the show here. All the episodes are free. And there are no commercials. Thanks, BBC.)
You can ask to use, “the box with keys, a mouse, and screen up top”, but you cannot use, “computer”. You may have a drink of pop, but not soda, Pepsi, or Sierra Mist. You can discuss the merits of cats and dogs, but hedgehogs and parakeets are out of the question.
I thought to myself, “I could play that game…”
This morning I went to work determined to succeed. I had no one to play against. However, I have a gal pal (who is already delightful) that was up to the task. I would try the game at my jobsite and she would do her best at hers.
It was not easy. I prefer to say, “morning”, or “howdy”; perhaps the odd, “hello”. Nope. All of those were banned. I had to force myself to say, “hi”. For some reason, I kept getting stuck on the word, “today”. I knew intellectually that I could substitute, “this day”. My brain apparently has a greater fondness for the word, “today” than my ego does for victory. Much like how the co-pilot on the show has to fight to not ask for “coffee”, I had to be mindful of “the day that we are in right now”.
As my friend put it, “this is hard.” “I feel im not talk smart. cant use ‘ing’ or ‘ed’. It was text message, which means loosened grammar rules. However, I remain confident that she was making a point. We get used to communicating a certain way when the world changes the rules. We know how we want to talk, but we get stuck.
I started to get a new perspective. I could see people at work getting a little antsy as they waited for me to find the right words. I was not able to speak sentences at my normal pace. I stalled the conversation as I searched for monosyllabic responses.
Is this what it is like for others whose brains are wired differently than mine? In a college drama class, my T.A. was upset that I was talking too fast. “You think faster than your character does. You have to slow down.” It took me a while to comprehend what she was offering. Today it was clearer. What is it like in others’ brains where the synapses fire differently?
If I had a stutter, I would avoid words that would give me problems. I have known people with speech impediments and I have seen their mouths struggle to form the shapes needed to get their thoughts out. There was one gal I particular; I distinctly remember her mouth opening wide and her lower jaw shifting off to the side as she almost choked out the word she wanted to say. Do people who have to fight to talk feel like others are tired of waiting for them? Do they sit on their opinions rather than ask their audiences to be more understanding?
Saturday night I decided to have three pieces of pizza for dinner. On Sunday morning my jogging was impaired. I could feel the extra food slowing me down. Whenever I have too much food in my system, I get a tiny glimpse of what it might be like for an overweight or pregnant person to work out. I can ditch a pound or two and go back to being normal. They have to exert a greater effort and keep at it as their body resists.
As much as I love running, I love words even more. Yesterday I decided that a bad hair cut or even a bad hair day should be referred to as a “follicle debacle”. I was amused by how merrily the sounds rose and fell. The joy of the rhyme paired with the bounciness of the words. There is nothing stopping me from building my vocabulary, getting more creative, and using language to say what I want in a way that is uniquely me.
The one-syllable game planted a seed in my brain. That which one can do effortlessly can be a mighty struggle for another. Words have long been important to me. But the ability to convey ones’ thoughts as they desire; that is something I may not have taken seriously enough before.