Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do I Have To Spell It For You?

In the last few months, I've caught myself doing a lot of the things that used to drive me bonkers about my parents. Before I embarked on the wedding cake I cleaned the kitchen. Not just a cursory wipe down all of the visible surfaces clean, but the kind where you take every appliance off of the counters and wash the appliance, then was the counter, the wall, the backsplash, the stove, the cupboard doors... If you've ever cleaned like that you'll understand that while you're cleaning the backsplash you notice that there's gunk on the bar, and since you can't reach the bar to really clean it unless you're on the other side, so you go to the other side and the next thing you know you're vaccuming the baseboards and your significant other is standing over you, confused how your project in the kitchen made it all the way to the upstairs bathroom. My mother did this every Saturday morning and, as a kid, I neither understood it nor tolerated it. She would get up Saturday morning and tell us we were going to go get donuts just as soon as she finished cleaning the fridge....three hours later she would be washing the living room windows. It was annoying.

My father didn't share that particular neurosis, but he has this habit. He's had it for years - as long as I can remember, even - and it drives everyone who knows him up the wall. Whenever he says something that you don't understand and you counter with "What?" he repeats exactly what he said, only louder. This is fine when you simply didn't hear him, but if the problem is more that you heard him, it just didn't make sense, it's one of the more annoying things that happens on any given day.

Dad: "Can you hand me the idler bar?"
Me: "What?"
Dad: "The idler bar."
Me: "Huh??"
Dad: "The idler bar."
Me: "This thing?"

I spent the first fifteen years of my life trying to figure out how to better handle this exchange before it escalated into him getting up, puppetting his words with hand mouths to get whatever tool or part he was looking for - all of which looked like hunks of rusty metal to me. I did the obvious and just tried asking "What's an idler bar?" immediately, but that seemed to just inflame him further.

Years later, I work in customer service and I find myself having to explain a lot of things to people over and over again only to be met with obstinate confusion on the other end of the phone line. Today, while attempting to explain to a customer that he would need to contact the delivery courier to find out when he would receive his shipment, I noticed more than a little bit of my Dad sneaking into the conversation.

Me: "Yeah, you would need to contact FedEx to find out when this will be delivered."
Customer: "So it went UPS..."
Me: "No, FedEx."
Customer: "What?"
Me: "The order shipped via FedEx."
Customer: "Right, but I can just call my local UPS office."
Me: "No. It went FEDEX."

You can put that one in the "Things I Inherited From My Father" column apparently - right below my status as Hall Monitor for the Close-The-Damn-Door-The-Air-Conditioning-Is-On Club.

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