Lick Mack, And Have A Beer After



So I’m playing rock band the other night, a song said “supervision recommended” I got so excited thinking that Xbox had brought out some form of 3D technology called “Super-Vision” so I googled it. To my disappointment it doesn’t exist… Its taken me three days to finally figure out that the song was one of explicit content and children should be supervised.

Well, faithful readers,  If you don’t know me already, and are just now getting to know me through my writing, you are likely saying to yourself “Whaat? That Yvonne has one eclectic collection of hobbies! Playing rock band…Really?”

Obviously those  words about “Super- Vision” are not my own, but those of my nephew Greg, from his Facebook page. He further amplified the story of his confusion over the Xbox blurb over dinner a few nights ago. It was a wonderful time and Greg, who is naturally gifted in the kitchen, treated us to mini cheesecakes with a Rhubarb Reduction for dessert.

When the large extended family I belong to get together we usually have just the opposite of a “Rhubarb Reduction”, we have instead, a “Rhubarb Amplification.” Of course, unless you have ever heard the word rhubarb used to describe a kind of verbal white noise, then I’ve just totally confused you. This is a very fortuitous alignment of your mental state with my topic—verbal confusion. Often when putting on dramatic productions  all the extras in the background are told to quietly repeat “rhubarb” to give the impression that they are in the middle of conversations. So they will be directed to repeat “Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb” with the different expressions and gestures of people actually having conversations. My family members. on the other hand, are actually trying to have real conversations but they just seem like “Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb” to others. (and even ourselves at times.)

Breaking your own bad habits, like staying up too late, or oversleeping is difficult. Breaking two or three people’s communal bad habits, like daily break times at Tim Horton’s, or sharing smoke breaks together just outside the nonsmoking zone is even harder. But what is hardest of all is to break the shared bad habit of a large group. In a group it becomes almost a culturally accepted thing (in the culture of that group anyway) no matter how offensive outsiders may find it. Office workers bringing diet-busting birthday cakes to work for every birthday can really tick off a diet conscious new employee, (especially if they are all working for Weight Watchers.) Years ago, whenever we took a turn cleaning our church, we always found three or four empty donut boxes in the kitchen. It turned out that  after every TOPS’ (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) weekly meeting, held there the group shared donuts together. Maybe Elvis was their patron Saint ( maybe not ) but that’s group dynamics at work. Even all those construction working guys leering at every female passerby from their work site  at Saint Andre’ Bessette  just can’t give up the habit, no matter how much the nuns dislike it. That too is group dynamics at work.

So this is the state of affairs within my own extended family.For generations we have been “over-talkers” and consequently our mis-communication is frequent— that and plenty of laughter at what asses (Should I perhaps say donkeys here, for the faint of heart?)…at what donkeys we have sometimes made of ourselves.

Picture this typical 8 way conversation as way of an illustration: “Herb passed last week.”   “What’d he pass? I didn’t even know he was back at school.”   “Not that Herb, the other Herb.”    “Basil’s cousin?”    “He passed away.”    ” Who passed away?”    ” Basil?”    “No! Herb. ”    “Oh that’s too bad, but I didn’t know Basil had a cousin Herb.”    “Which Herb do you know?”     “The one Rosemary goes with.”    “Parsley and Sage, right?”   “That’s just in the song Scarborough Fair dummy!”—then spontaneous singing by the two oldest sisters: “Are you going to Scarborough Fair … Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…  Remember me to one who lives there…  She once was a true love of mine.”   “What about flowers?”   “What for?”    “For the funeral.”   “Whose funeral?”   “I’m going for coffee. Anybody else want one?”

Sometimes the problem hearing what is said is not due to audio white noise at all, but rather an inner mental white noise. Our thoughts are so focused on one thought that it prevents us from hearing the actual spoken words in favour of our own version. An old friend of ours,Walter, told my husband Rolly and I about being out in the bush cutting down trees with a helper one hot August day. He said that he just felt like sharing his new found faith with this fellow and wanted to get a conversation started on less mundane things than the weather. So he said “Hey Joe, What’o’ya think about the hereafter?” His companion immediately answered “Sure Walter,  That sounds great! I’d love a beer after!” And that’s how spoken communication frequently goes awry.

Comprehending written messages is also a challenge at times, as it was for my nephew Greg in the funny story I started my post with. Every single time I see a certain type of bread on the store shelf I have the same negative response. I read “Mealtyme Bread” on the bag and I think “Ugh! Mealy time! Full of mealy worms!” I just can’t seem to avoid that mental pot hole. I fall into it with the same surprised repulsion every time, as much as the first time I ever read it—kind of like a 15 second clip of the movie Ground Hog Day.It’s really weird how my mind works. If other people have that response too, then it’s also time for that company to change its name!

A  funny family story my Dad always laughed about was the day that he was out driving with Mom and several of the younger kids. My sister Kathy turned to him and said suddenly “Dad why does that sign say ‘Lick Mack on duty?”Apparently they had just passed an auto repair shop that said “Lic Mac on Duty ” ( licensed mechanic) Yep, Communicating effectively can be a problem, and that’s a fact! I’m sure everyone, even all the Macks out there, will agree!

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