M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Tuesday, September 17, 2002  

My wife is a master conversationalist. She can talk to anybody, about anything, for any length of time. It’s amazing. And she doesn’t just do it to fill space; she actually has interesting things to say and is interested in what is being said to her. Sometimes I just sit and stare at her in awe, thinking about the many awkward gaps in conversations I’ve had in my life, when I’ve been all but reduced to Ralph Wiggum asking, “So…do you like…stuff?”

Trash’s gift of gab comes in quite handy at her job. She works for a company that helps laid-off employees find new jobs. She enjoys it not just because she’s helping people, but because there’s like a rotating family atmosphere. The clients come in during the day and do various job-hunting tasks using the vast range of resources and training that Trash’s company provides. Then, when they find a job, everyone in the office, employees and clients alike join together for a Champagne Toast in celebration. It’s an uplifting ritual for everyone involved. The toast-ee is happy to have gotten a job, the employees are happy to have helped it to happen, and the other clients look forward to their own toast coming up one day in the near future. No matter how many they have, each one is a big deal. Which is how it should be.

So when it’s time for a Champagne Toast, someone has to do a quick sweep of the office and make sure everyone knows about it and makes an appearance. One day a few weeks ago, Trash volunteered for this quick task.

Some of the clients get to do their job-hunting from within offices. Actual offices, with doors and windows and everything. Which means that for some of us, unemployment would actually be a step up. In any case, one of these offices was being occupied by a brand-new client. Trash poked her head in the door to introduce herself, give a brief explanation of the Champagne Toast, and invite the new client to the Toast that was then imminent.

What came out was this: “Aaaaaaaaaaaaehhhh.”

I can’t really accurately spell the noise she made, because it was basically a short “A” sound. Like if you were to say “cat” but leave out the “c” and the “t” and stretch the vocalization out for about three seconds.

For some mysterious reason, my wife, who can effortlessly string together long and complex sentences as if her mind were a harpoon fired unerringly though the English language, had completely and catastrophically lost the power of speech.

The client looked up from his desk in horror. Trash tried again.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaehhhh,” she reiterated.

Trash leaned nonchalantly against the doorframe, trying to look cool and no doubt failing. She took a breath. The client probably wondered if the fourth-floor window behind him could be opened. Trash took a second until her ability to form words returned.

“Champagne!?” she cried/demanded/accused.

She should have waited until she could form entire sentences.

But she was committed now. “Champagne!?!” she said again, with even greater urgency.

The terrified client just stared at her. Trash became uncomfortably aware of the first impression she must be making, and suddenly she could form a sentence:

“I haven’t had any,” she blurted.

Great. Just in time to clear things up.

The client nodded as if he were being taken hostage. Trash fled in embarrassment.

The funny thing is that everybody knows Trash is the best talker in the house. Every time I meet one of her coworkers or clients, they gush about her intelligence and her infectious energy and enthusiasm. Of course, I haven’t yet met the one client whose first impression of her was “Aaaaaaaaaaaaehhhh.”

Later, she reported to the training room to teach one of the classes she runs. In the class was none other than that same client. She got through the class, but she couldn’t help thinking that for this client, her credibility was a potential issue.

There’s nothing particularly remarkable about this client, but Trash, still laboring under the inexplicable humiliation of her first meeting with him, still goes into a state of discursive vapor-lock whenever he’s around. She’ll talk to all the other clients about their families, their job searches, and their lives, making them feel important and interesting. Then she sees this guy, remembers her moment of “aaaaaaaaaaaaehhhh,” and all she can think of to ask is “Looking for a job, huh?” and “Is that your lunch?” and “Do you like…stuff?”

It’s a spectacular ability she has. That’s probably why it failed her in such a spectacular way. I suppose I should come up with some kind of punchline that demonstrates how this is a cautionary tale, but I don’t think it is. It’s just funny.

Wait, I know exactly how to wrap this up. You’re going to love it.


Damn, that’s not what I meant to say at all.

posted by M. Giant 3:42 PM 0 comments


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