Adventures in Modern Miscommunications
It’s a beautiful day in New York’s scenic 22nd district, with clear skies, a gentle breeze and mild temperatures. In fact, were it not for my having helped to elect a socialist to our Congressional seat, I might have said it was darned near perfect. But… I digress. (Fear not. I’m in therapy twice a week now and my doctor says the prognosis is hopeful.)
Returning to my narrative, I decided to take advantage of the clement weather and mow my lawn this morning while the temperatures were still low. As I pushed the mower along near my driveway I saw the woman who lives across the street and a few houses down coming up the sidewalk. She had a sad look on her face, and as she approached she waved to me and began calling out something.
I could not make out what she was saying with the mower running, so I gave her the universal sign for, “wait a moment” and cut the power to the machine. She had already begun talking again before it completely wound down.
“My cat passed away last night,” she called over. “Her name was (garbled)”
My wife and I are both big pet lovers, so I could definitely relate. “Oh, I’m so sorry.” I called back.
“Thank you,” she said, looking down at the sidewalk.
“How old was she?” I inquired.
“86. She hadn’t been well for a while.”
It was an odd response, but not the first time I’d heard people do it. I quickly began doing the “cat years” math in my head and determined that she must have been around ten. Not really all that old for a cat, but no spring chicken either, particularly if she had been ill.
Not coming up with anything else intelligent to say, I called out, “So, did she get hit by a car or something?”
The woman looked at me as if I’d just handed her a three day old chunk of road kill, replete with maggots. “No!” she replied. “She had cancer. She’d been fighting it for years.”
My neighbor went on to say a few more things but I didn’t hear them. A wave of horror and embarassment was threatening to crush me. I realized that I had been gazing at her with the standard “my face appears sad because I’m sorry that your cat just died” look. This, as anyone not raised by wolves knows full well, is not even in the same ballpark as the requisite amount of sadness for the “I’m sorry your AUNT just died” look.
I finally stammered out a few more appropriate lines, asking when and where the services would be held and assuring her that my wife and I would say a prayer for her family. She turned and continued on her way home, doubtless thinking that I was a rather odd duck. I quickly pushed the mower toward the back yard and fled inside.
People keep telling me that, “with age comes wisdom.” Exactly how ancient am I supposed to get before that starts kicking in?