“What did you say?” Conversation breakdown…

Have you ever spoke to someone on the phone and thought to yourself, “I have no idea what they just said. What should I say?” My friend, you’re faced with two options: play dumb and pretend you heard them, hoping the rest of the conversation is not about what you didn’t hear; or be honest and ask the person to repeat themselves. Seems like pretty reasonable options right? What do you do however when you ask the person to repeat themselves and you still don’t hear them? Now that’s a different ball game.

Meet my daily norm.

As a dispatcher for the police for five years, I have gained some significant experience talking to people. I am constantly on the phone speaking to police officers and those from the public requesting assistance. Through the phone I hear accents that National Geographic and The Discovery channel slap subtitles on in order for folks to half understand whats being said. In my line of work I don’t have that luxury. Instead I have to fine tune my ears for the slightest of cues in order to piece together what is happening. Throw into the pot intoxication and hyped up, panicked voices and you have a mash of chaos and unintelligible conversations that you have to make sense of. In order to send emergency services to those in need I must have some picture of what is going on. I tip my hat to dispatchers everywhere.

My dilemma is this: Why is it that I can barely understand my own three year old?

Today as I left work for lunch, I dialled my wife’s cellphone and a raspy, tiny sounding voice answered the phone.

“Hallo? Dis yous dad? Where are you? Are you home now?”

“Railene? Where is your mother? Yeah it’s me I am…”

“Are youuu home daddy?”

“No honey, I am at work. Are you home?”

“No I’m upstairs. Mom downstairs and Benaiah is down with her too. Nai and Poppy Karrrrll.”

The confusion kicks in.

“I thought you just said your not home. Are you out with mom in the van or are you home? Where is your mother?”

“She’s here dad. I told youuuu. We are downstairs…”

***long pause***

“Okay so you are with mom in the house? Is Nai(Melissa’s mom) and Poppy Karl(Melissa’s Dad) there?”

“Nope.”

Sigh. At this point I would rather talk to a drunk person trying to give me directions to a house that doesn’t have a number on the front.

“Railene. Let me talk to your mother please.”

“You coming home? Bye dadddd.”

Finally my wife answers.

“Hi babe. What’s up?”

“Honey I just want to say I have NO idea what Railene just told me.”

“Oh really? She was with me the whole time on the couch downstairs.”

***facepalm***

So my friend, next time you are faced with the options: play dumb and pretend you heard them, hoping the conversation is not about what you didn’t hear; or be honest and ask the person to repeat themselves.

Just play dumb and pretend you heard them.

Christian

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