Thursday, April 10, 2003

Hey Abbott!!!

My conversations with my friend Gene often tend toward an Abbott & Costello routine... only not as funny to anyone but ourselves.

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, makes the following observation in his current newsletter that proves he must be eavesdropping on our conversations...

Have you noticed that the longer you know people, the deafer you both get? My theory is that it's hard to listen to people you know, because they've already used up all of their interesting stories, and now they're just talking because they like it when noise comes out of their body.

The conversational problem is compounded if the party in question tends to take things literally. When you're dealing with a literal person, there's no such thing as a simple conversation. For example, you might often have this sort of exchange:

You: "The moon looks beautiful tonight."

Literal Person: "Which moon?"

You: "How many moons are there? It's night. We're outdoors. I'm looking up."

Literal Person: "You could have meant Reverend Moon of the Unification Church."

You: "You thought maybe he was here?"

Literal Person: "You didn't say, 'the one in the sky.' You just blurted it out. How was I supposed to read your mind? Now I hate you."

Your only defense against the scourge of conversational familiarity is to pretend to listen, and occasionally contribute phrases such as, "I totally agree" and "You couldn't be more right."

Sometimes you'll be caught off guard with a multiple-choice question. If that happens, my experience is that the second choice is always the best.

The first choice is usually a fake-out, and the third one is a last minute add-on just to make the question more difficult.

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