Monday, October 24, 2011

From the Archives: How to be a good listener

Strangers often mistake me for a good listener. I'm not a good listener; I'm just an exceptionally poor escape artist.

Sensible people excuse themselves from one-sided conversations, but I just don't have it in me. I prefer to go limp and say things like, "Mmm" until it's all over.

Once, a teacher struck up a conversation with me in a classroom between lessons. (He was an older chap, and I'd previously overheard him complaining to another teacher about the school's lack of hide-e-holes -- he had no place to take a nap. "My old school had a cupboard under the stairs," he said. The other teacher nodded earnestly.) 

Anyway, this chap was now banging-on to me about his upcoming weekend, about how he had to drive to Wales to visit his poor old mother who was suffering from the onset of dementia; he had to dig a tree stump from the garden, do that to the door, etc, etc. I was nodding, but I was mostly just limp.

"It's hard," he said.

I nodded.

"Last weekend I was down there, after a full day of gardening and what not; I'd just hopped into bed, drifting off, and Mum comes knocking at my door, calling me by my father's name ..."

"Ahh," I said with recognition.

"He's been dead for years …"

"Eee," I grimaced, qualifying that recognition.

"I'd had enough--it had been this and that all day--I just shouted: 'Mum, F**K OFF!"

The words seemed to bounce like marbles down the hallway.

I looked to the side, but the bony finger of Reply was upon me.

"Mmm," I said -- ambiguously this time.

He continued:

"It's tough seein' your parents like that, you know?"

I nodded tentatively.

"Walkin' round like a zombie ..."

I nodded more readily, sensing the pity in his voice.

"Eatin' up your inheritance."

Mmm. Now where's a hide-e-hole when you need one?


Anonymous said...

Jules, that is so so awful in the best way. If you weren't so spineless about dumping people like that, we wouldn't have had the fun. Long may live your ineptitude.

Anonymous said...

long live your ineptitude

Sweet Olive Press | Helen said...

This story has been making me burst into laughter at random and inappropriate points of the day.

Long live, indeed.