Saturday, March 27, 2010

What did you say?

This week at work I was struck by how much time is taken up just communicating information to other people - and then re-communicating about that same information to whomever didn't comprehend it the first time, or to whomever received the mistranslated version from the non-comprehender. Even though the people with whom I work most closely all speak English as their native language, it's amazing how hard it is for everyone to understand everyone else and for each person to take away the same impression from the same conversation. I had a meeting on Thursday where I thought someone had said, "let's do x, y, and z,"...which seemed a little excessive to me (and this is coming from me, little Miss Triple-check) and so I thought I must have misunderstood. So I said, "did you just say "let's do x, y, and z? Because I think just doing x and z would be enough." And the other person said, in a way that was hard to follow, "no, I am saying we should just do x and z." So I said, "okay, that's good. Let's do that." Then, the next day, I get an email from that person laying out the workplan that says "We are going to do x, y, and z." What?!

I am going to let it go, even if it'll take days more to complete the project which has already dragged on beyond belief.

So, I was finally on my way home on Friday evening, tiredly waiting for the train at the Downtown Crossing subway station. And there, singing on the platform, was a musician who always caused me to deflate whenever I realize she's there and I'll have to listen to her until the train comes. She's kind of trapped in 1972 and is always singing depressing social justice songs from that era - in a painful monotone voice and with an expressionless face. The word "joyless" comes to mind. Last night she was singing the Oasis song "Wonderwall", but still managed to make it sound like a song you would hear in a church basement during a Catholic folk Mass. Both the voice and the volume, bouncing around all the hard surfaces of the subway station, were painful. So I sat on the bench with my hands over my ears. I could see two people were walking down the platform, so I looked up at them as they were passing. When I looked up, I saw the man was looking at me, so I looked back at him. He smiled at me. I smiled back. I knew why he was smiling at me, and he knew I knew why he was smiling at me. Easy. Total comprehension, no words. Why can't it always be like that?

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