all of the selves we Have ever been
Hold the Phones - The Homophones
The English language can be slippery,
and a lot of words sound alike. I sometimes find myself living in a parallel universe with others who share my space.
Younger people think that older people can’t hear. That’s not my problem. I don’t need volume; I need context. And maybe a little less background noise.
I experienced a classic case of such confusion a couple of years ago after I was recruited for a two-year contract job in Missouri. I pared down my possessions to just what would fit in my car and started driving. I knew no one in Missouri.
I sublet an apartment and settled in. I loved the small rural community with its two main streets and slower pace of life. Everything I needed was clustered within three miles of my home. The welcoming culture of the town and its conveniences were a nice relief from the aggressive traffic and harried pace of the big city I left behind. This could be home.
One sunny Saturday morning I set out on routine errands. I did not get far before I saw flashing lights and slowing traffic. As I inched toward the scene, I could see that a car had driven through a storefront. Crumbling bricks and shattered glass filled the parking lot where a vape shop once stood.
The sight of a car’s rear end sticking out of a collapsing building was peculiar enough, but what was even stranger? It was the second such accident I had seen in less than a week. What have I gotten myself into?
I called a co-worker who was a new friend to tell her what I had witnessed. My friend was not aware of the fresh accident, but she seemed to know quite a bit about the earlier one. “Oh, yes! I heard Alexis drove through the window of the candle shop.”
My friend said this as though Alexis was someone I should know. I checked off the names on my short mental list of people I had met in Missouri, but there was no one named Alexis.
“Who’s Alexis?” I asked.
“Not Alexis. A LEXUS,” my friend shouted into the phone’s receiver.
Once we cleared that up, my friend proceeded to share another interesting bit of local gossip--some wrong perpetrated on Dee Dee.
“Who’s Dee Dee?” I asked.
“Not Dee Dee. THE DD. The DD Highway!”
I thought this kind of conversation only happened on greeting cards, but my friend and I had a good laugh over it, and not just once. Our friendship was cemented by a case of mistaken homophones. If laughter is good medicine, it is also strong glue. It is inside jokes such as these that help to form the enduring bond of friendship. During the pandemic, my friend adopted a puppy and named it Alexis. Just to be clear, this Alexis was nowhere near the candle shop in 2019.
It is now perfectly evident that Alexis is a pet and an out-of-control Lexus can do a lot of damage to a storefront. Thankfully, a couple of poor gals named Alexis and Dee Dee did not end up serving time for crimes they did not commit. I think we can agree that I should never enter a court of law to provide testimony based on hearsay.
I returned to Ohio just ahead of the pandemic. Cars protruding from collapsing buildings now seem like a minor social problem compared to disease and conspiracy theories. Confusion is everywhere, and troubling news easy to come by. Some of the news is so strange, in fact, that I find myself full of doubt and afraid to speak. Not everyone is a good friend who will find humor in auditory mix-ups. Today, it might even get me killed. And so, I find myself questioning everything: Is there a heroin problem in my community or a heroine problem? Given the current state of politics and reports of corruption at the Columbus Zoo, is it guerilla warfare I should fear or gorilla warfare? If someone tells me that a hummer interrupted the school’s choir performance, should I call a tow truck or the principal? It’s all too much—a classic case of homophonophobia.
And to whom should I turn for treatment?
A Colonel of truth perhaps.
6/10/2021 10:36:04 am
Your writing amazes me—so well done.
6/11/2021 07:27:11 am
Thanks, Justin! And thanks for your faithful readership and ongoing support. I love the community that has developed around me and this blog, especially during the lonely pandemic.
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