In the pharmacy drive-thru line…
“Um, I was just wondering. What do I press if I don’t approve of the amount?”
“Do you mean that you don’t want to pay all of it with your debit card?”
“No, I’m going to pay all of it. But your little machine isn’t asking me that. It’s asking me to ‘approve the amount.’ I don’t approve of the amount that is being charged. I think $60 is far too much for 28 pills – 4 of which are actually made from sugar.”
“Ma’am, are you going to buy the pills or not?”
“Well, I kind of have to. I just feel it’s a little presumptuous to ask me to assume that if I agree to pay the amount that I am also giving it some sort of high review. There needs to be a button that says, ‘I am paying this under protest.’ Or, if they really want specific feedback, then give me some kind of rating system or something.”
“Ma’am, you just need to authorize your debit card company to take this money out of your account. Please. There are people behind you.”
“Fine. But I just want it on the record that I do not in any way endorse this ridiculous charge… Ok, now, it’s asking me if I want money back. Well, of course I want money back. I want the whole $60 back! Now we’re talking! Why didn’t you tell me I could just get it back?”
“Ma’am – ”
“Don’t worry. I’m almost done here. No, I do not want to donate a dollar to charity. Yes, this is my final offer. No, I do not want to complete a survey. Yes, I am ready to pay now. No, I – oh, crap.”
“You pressed, ” ‘No, I want to start all over,’ didn’t you?”
“I tell you what. Why don’t you just keep the $60, and give me the pills, and we’ll call it even?”
“I tell you what. Why don’t you just go find an ATM machine, and come back here when you have the cash?”
“Oh, I have the cash. But this is the wrong line. It said, “Debit and credit cards ONLY.”
“Just give me the cash.”
“Okay. Are you going to give me the pills?”
“YES, JUST PUT THE CASH IN THE DRAWER!”
“Fine. You don’t have to get all snotty about it. I was just trying to follow the rules. If you’re going to take cash, you should put that on the sign. Yeesh.”
These things wouldn’t happen if everyone just said what they meant, for crying out loud.
So you know how you get up early to go to work on a Monday morning, and you’re kind of cranky, and you put the key in the door to your office/classroom as you think about how much you would rather be in bed and you get the door open and LIGHTS START FLASHING AND SOMEONE STARTS YELLING AT YOU, “ROBO! ROBO! ROBO!”
And you have no idea why you are being yelled at because you took 4 years of French in high school, not Spanish, because you lived in Louisiana at the time and there was never any indication you were ever going to move to Texas but you did have some vague impression that you might somehow end up in Paris at some point so your ignorance of both Spanish and French (because, let’s face it, it’s been 25 years since you had to conjugate a verb) leads you to believe that someone is shouting Tony Romo’s last name at you as you drop all of your bags to the floor and wonder if you should wait to be tackled by a Dallas Cowboy or get the heck out of the room before the police come and arrest you for breaking into your own office/classroom.
And it’s 7:15 a.m.
And you have had no caffeine yet.
And then the disembodied voice switches to English and starts yelling that you have violated an area protected by a security system and you better leave immediately or he will start yelling at you in Spanish again.
And you say, “Muy bien! Yo no quiero estar aquí de todos modos!” after looking it up on Google Translate on your smart phone.
And you go home and back to bed.
After you change your underwear.
You mean your day didn’t start like that?
I don’t speak Kindergarten.
I have been testing and teaching Gifted and Talented students in elementary school for 13 years. Every January, when Kinder testing rolls around, I try a new communication strategy. And every year, I fail miserably.
My first couple of years, after I had been teaching 5th grade for 8 years, I cut myself some slack. Even after one little girl burst into tears after I asked them to write their names on their papers. Even after one little boy silently peed in his pants during the test because he somehow missed my request for anyone who needed a bathroom break.
I figured it would take me a little time to learn the Kindergarten dialect.
Last year, one of the parents told me that her child thought the entire time I was testing her that I was testing her for Speech. Another parent mentioned that her child thought I was the Principal.
So, this year, I thought I would try to do a better job of explaining what I do and why I’ve taken them from their class for a little while.
I told them that I teach the Gifted and Talented class. I asked them if they knew what that meant. They didn’t even move their heads, just stared at me bug-eyed, waiting for me to pull out some comical sock puppets like the counselor or to break out into a song from Dora the Explorer like – well, I don’t really know who would do that, but they seemed to expect some kind of entertainment.
I told them that I teach kids who like to do extra thinking. I said that we sometimes do thinking games in my class and we learn different ways to use our brains.
“Gifted and Talented means that you like to try to solve problems and that when something is hard you try to figure it out. Gifted and Talented is a class for students who like to think of new ideas. I like teaching Gifted and Talented because we get to do different types of puzzles and games. Sometimes, we invent things, too. I’ve been teaching Gifted and Talented for 13 years, and I love it.”
Silence. Well, not exactly. One child was busy trying to roll his pencil off of the desk and catch it. Another was obsessed with the fact that his shoelace wasn’t tied, and mumbling progressively louder to try to get my attention. One of the girls was digging inside her empty, borrowed desk looking for her pencil, which was on the floor beneath her chair.
“So, who remembers what I teach?”
Five hands went up. I nodded at one of the boys who seemed to be paying close attention during my speech.
“Kids. You teach kids.”
Yeah. I try.
With all of the text talk inundating us, and Stephen Colbert’s successful quests to get new words like “truthiness” added to the dictionary, one might think that our vocabulary is increasing exponentially. I beg to differ. I think it is shriveling faster than George’s you-know-what on the “Shrinkage” episode of Seinfeld.
Words like “hot” have so many meanings, I’m afraid to use them anymore for fear of being misunderstood. If I tell a kid that something is “hot”, what if they speak Paris Hilton, and decide to grab the steaming coffee cup with both hands thinking I just gave it my full recommendation?
And then there are the substitutes for words, such as the “bleep”. I seriously think “bleep” should have a dictionary all to itself. There’s the actual bleep sound, and then there is the word “bleep” that is used as a noun, verb, and even an adjective if you add “ing” to it.
Or we can just “blank” as they now like to do when they choose to censor music. The other day, we were listening to a song on the radio that had so many “blanks” I couldn’t even figure out what the song was about. Suddenly, Dimples erupted from the back seat (which I was fully expecting by that point) with, “What’s a wild whore?”
I frantically replayed the blanking song in my head because I couldn’t recall any such line.
“Uh, what did you ask?” I stalled.
“What’s a World Tour?” she asked, speaking a little louder. So, she had no problem translating the blanks in their multiple contexts. It was the phrase “World Tour” that caused her consternation.
I can’t tell you the number of kids I’ve heard say, “What the -?” and just stop right there.
They never say the word at the end, but we all know what it’s supposed to be – or, do we?
And it’s not just oral language that’s wasting away. It’s the written word, too. Last year, one of my first graders wrote a very cute, illustrated story about a lost dog who finally finds his way home at the end.
“$&#!” the owner of the dog exclaimed at the end of her story.
“What the $&!#?” I said to myself as I was going over the story after the students left. Where did she get that kind of language from?
Let’s just say she is not someone you would expect to be throwing expletives into her first grade creative writing assignment. Although she is gifted.
So, the next time she came to class, I privately asked her to translate the last sentence.
“Hooray!” she said, very matter-of-factly. “He’s really happy his dog came home.”
O-o-o-kay. I am still not quite sure where her super creative spelling of “Hooray” came from, but at least I could breathe a sigh of relief that she wasn’t a candidate for alternative school.
So, to sum it up, I’m thinking that, in another 20 years, we’re going to be blanking, clicking, and beeping like William Shatner in that Priceline Negotiator commercial. I don’t know what language that’s supposed to be, but I’m pretty sure he isn’t saying, “Hooray, my dog came home!”