“We have the stupidest conversations.”
I’ve said this to my husband at least once a week for the last ten years, but knowing we have this communication problem changes nothing. In other words, knowledge is not power. We still participate in ridiculous dialogues.
Sometimes I try to describe it by saying we have parallel conversations, where we’re both saying the same thing, but we each insist that the other person come over to our side of the discussion and phrase things our way. You know what I mean? The crazy thing is we actually agree with each other, but that’s not the point. The point is we each have our own dictionary and we want everyone to buy a copy and use that one exclusively. Refusing to admit we understood each other all along is the way we roll. Winning is the goal.
That’s not really the way communication works. I sometimes think I have no idea how communication . . . works.
Case in point.
There’s a lot of down time when you travel by car across country. I know most people prefer to fly because it’s quicker, but we like to take the long way and drive so we can see the country and perfect the art of confusing one another while we do it. We’re just sick that way.
Last month we put another six thousand miles on the new engine in our old Tahoe and spent some time with friends in Idaho followed by three days imagining what Glacier National Park would have looked like if we’d visited there while it wasn’t pouring rain. All in all, that provided approximately seventy-hours belted into a moving vehicle while we practiced both the art of communication and finding fast food that wouldn’t kill us. Each is an exercise in futility.
Out of the blue somewhere along a back-country road north of the Idaho line, Rob suddenly glanced into the rearview mirror, rubbed his belly, and said,
“I still got a little bit o’ gas.”
Well, I didn’t know he felt bad after dinner the night before, so I asked,
“When did you get gas?”
“Don’t you remember?” he said, throwing me an agitated glance that looked for all the world like he was certain I had contracted a severe case of Altzheimer’s overnight. “Last night. At the Circle K.”
I started blinking. I sighed in confusion, squinted at him while I rubbed the back of my neck, and desperately zipped through the mental videos of every place we’d eaten anything the day before. What could he possibly have consumed at Circle K that would upset his stomach?
I didn’t answer fast enough, so he repeated the question. “Don’t you remember? You asked me last night when we were by the Circle K.”
“I did? You didn’t tell me you had gas.”
Now he was convinced I had Altzheimer’s. I was beginning to wonder, too.
“Yes, remember? At the Circle K,” he emphasized, “when we saw all those Chinese people go by.”
“What Chinese people?”
“It was like a tour bus let out or something, and then I got gas," he snapped.
“You got gas from seeing a bunch of Chinese people???”
“No!! At the gas station . . .” Long pause. “I filled up the truck last night at the Circle K gas station.”
I blinked. “Well, why didn’t you say that. We have the stupidest conversations. I thought you said you had a little gas left after eating last night . . .”
“Yeah, I did,” he said, and that was the end. He couldn’t get anything else out once he started laughing. He just scrunched up his eyes and held his gassy belly while his face turned red and he struggled to breathe. Anybody else watching him would have thought we should call 911.
“I couldn’t figure out why seeing a bunch of Chinese people would give you gas,” I gasped, barely able to talk either. Now my stomach hurt as I doubled over against my seatbelt and howled.
“Why would seeing Chinese people give me gas?” he sputtered, beginning to lose control.
“How should I know?!”
This is a game my son loves to play every year when we make the four-thousand-mile journey to the wildlands of distant Kentucky where he lives. The first one to make Rob lose his breath while he laughs at himself wins. And if he passes out while he does it, you get bonus points. I never win that game usually. But today, in one stupid conversation, all that changed.
Soon Rob was driving and laughing and crying and driving and laughing but not breathing . . . Finally, he pulled over on the side of the road before we got into an accident, took off his glasses, and dried his eyes. It was ten minutes before he could get back into traffic, and a half hour before we could think about the whole thing without pulling off the road again.
Well, it’s not my fault.
He should have been using my dictionary if he wanted to talk about things that give you gas.