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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

No Way Jose!

This phrase is beginning to annoy me. It’s o.k., on it’s own, it’s familiar, I don’t need it translated but I’ve been forced to hear it more often than the average person does in their whole life time. I don’t know when exactly this phrase was popular or hip, but the fact that I know it all, means that it probably hailed from the 70’s.

That of course is probably an exaggeration, as I have no idea how often the average person hears that phrase, indeed I don’t even know who the average person is anymore? I digress, as usual.

I still have the feeling that I am being victimized, singled out for this particular form of aural torture. It’s not the first time it’s happened, although different phrases have been used over the years, as they have gradually emerged from the non-verbal world.

I used to exist in the non-verbal world where they wouldn’t talk, but of course now that they are talking, I wish they’d all just shut up again. [translation = refrain from using repetative speech patterns] It wouldn’t be so bad if there was a little variety, but if the response to every question you ask is ‘no way Jose!’ regardless of the subject matter of the question, it does begin to wear away on the nerves after a while. [translation = grate]

I should be grateful really. At least when they yell it out across the playground it has at least the semblance of ‘normal.’ [translation = blending in] Not so with the phrase of the month before, which was ‘to infinity and beyond!’ Come to think of it, that was probably o.k. on the playground. [translation = school yard]

Not so good in the supermarket;
“Did y’have a great day in school huh?”
“To infinity and beyond!”

Or in the restaurant:
“D’you want fries with that?”
“To infinity and beyond!”

Or in Karate class:
“Stand up straight, d’you hear me?”
“To infinity and beyond.”

So do I correct them? I should probably correct them shouldn’t I? Put them right, model a better example? You’re right of course, but at this stage, I’m just celebrating that they’re talking at all. For right now, it’s more important that they voluntarily choose to communicate. I don’t want to be too hasty in the correction department, because then they might give up; ‘too difficult, I won’t bother then, I’ll just not speak at all. If what I say isn’t good enough for you mum, then rats to you, I’m back to silence.’ [translation = mime, gestures and mimicking.]

That wouldn’t be considered progress. So for the time being I just encourage them to use their words. They may be the wrong words, socially inappropriate and irrelevant words, but words are so much better than silence, so much better than a meltdown or a physical explosion of rage and frustration. It’s all relative.

Of course I’m aware that whilst I choose to categorize these phrases as attempts at communication, someone more knowledgable, would point out that more often than not, they aren’t actually talking to a person, just the ether. They’re using words but unless they’re directed towards someone, anyone, can we really call it communication? I feel you’re being a bit picky, but of course you’re absolutely right again.

Sometimes it’s merely fortuitous timing, someone asks them a question and they happen to blurt out their phrase of the week in the next few seconds, so it appears to be a response. Other times, although I am a little biased, their words do seem directed towards the questioner. They’re still the wrong words, there’s still no eye contact, but if you look carefully their bodies are orientated towards the person, because looking at someone’s eyes can been painful, especially if you’re speaking at the same time.

Not experienced that feeling? No, neither have I, but I know that it’s more common that we think. You must have met someone like that, someone who wouldn’t meet you in the eye? They seemed a bit shifty but you couldn’t really put your finger on why that was, unless they were a Brit of course.

Now the knowledgeable person would say, ‘they’re not communicating, they’re perseverating.” They’re what? Perwhaticating? Perseverating. What might that be when it’s at home? Well, in this instance, it’s when they get stuck on a little phrase, doesn’t really matter what it is, and then they repeat it, again and again.

Why would anyone do that? It’s comforting, soothing, like stroking a cat. Once you start it’s difficult to stop. Sounds a little obsessive compulsive? You’re right, it can be, but they can also be mutually exclusive.

Now hang on a second, I hear you cry; I know a child who does that, I used to do that myself when I was little, usually something off the TV that was cool and hip and demonstrated to your peers that you were with the programme. [translation = program] Nothing odd about that, all perfectly normal! Yes, you’re right again, and you probably did drive your mum batty saying it so often, but you didn’t say it to everyone, you didn’t use it all the time, you didn’t say it again and again for an hour and a half in the exact same tone, and then repeat the whole exercise with a different phrase a couple of weeks later and so on, year after year.

Now I know that you’re beginning to get a little uncomfortable with this, sounds a little too much like insanity and we don’t want to be messing about with mental diseases. But that aside, it’s not as weird as it first sounds. We all have little coping mechanisms to deal with stress, anxiety and boredom. Little things like picking your nails, twiddling your hair or removing microscopic pieces of fluff from your clothing. There’s no harm in those? Of course not, but there are other’s too, biting your nails, chewing the inside of your cheek, twiddling your fingers, tapping out rhythms on the edge of the table, little tiny things that are all much of a muchness. [translation = of no great consequence]

There are other addictions that we all know about, condemn and criticize, but it’s the smaller ones, that no-one pays much heed to, that intrigue me more. The people who can’t go anywhere without particular possessions, things that they claim they need, little props of support for the chaotic world that we exist in, like an i-pod or a cell phone, little talismen of security.

Do you feel frustrated if you can’t fit in your morning jog, ticked off if someone switches your special chair at the office, can’t start the day unless you have that particular cup of coffee made just the right way?

Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me.

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