A few years back when I had my evening drive-time radio talk show, an elocution expert called me on air one evening. She insisted that I needed ‘coaching.’ Desperately. Apparently I mumbled and chopped words so badly she thought I might have been from South Philadelphia. So she volunteered to provide me diction instruction — for free!
Kind of reminded me of my days of working and living in Russia. While I thought my nascent Russian was getting better I couldn’t stop my youthful translator from what he said was: Clarifying. That is, translating ‘my’ Russian into understandable Russian.
But of course!
As a writer, my mumbling and muttering didn’t seem like it ought to matter that much. Even if my Big Mama would growl at me daily in her perfect diction: Speak clearly, son, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.
Eventually I just stopped speaking…I know, that’s hard to believe since I have been accused of sleeping with my mouth open so I can always get in the first word in the morning.
Also, having spent a goodly portion of my pre-pubescence years as a go-fer in my grandmother’s ‘brothel,’ I thought I’d seen and heard just about everything a mouth could do – especially when it came to the ‘last’ word. But I have to admit, those folks weren’t exactly speaking coherently, either.
Which brings me to my new cell phone…
I bought it the other day from a phone store along Philadelphia’s Italian Market on Ninth Street. The proprietor is a native of Spain, before becoming a wandering Jew and living in Morocco, Israel and America. Which is why he speaks 4 or 5 languages fluently. But not always coherently, either.
Mike also had a heart transplant two years back. And after negotiating with him, once again, I had to wonder if he wasn’t a recipient of my ex-wife’s artificial heart. For, like her, you’d think he was in business to take all my money.
Then again, maybe it was just two landsmen trying to out-kvetch one another. You know: Oy-vey-iz-mir! Like the old homily about the two Yids shipwrecked on a deserted island. They had to build four synagogues: One for each of them. And another to flee to when either one could no longer stand his congregation.
Anyway, I am a techno idiot. All I know about my computer is the on and off button. As for my phone, the reason I had to buy another one is my last do-everything-except-what-I-damn-well-want-it-to-do mobile is now part of the wallpaper.
Did I ever mention that whenever I get frustrated – which often begins long before breakfast – I have to break sum-ting. And keep smashing the sumbitch until it is decimated down to its original elements. Like nothing bigger than the number keys.
Expensive…but very, very satisfying. Try it. You feel possessed with the overwhelming power of a tsunami coursing thru your addled brain – at least for 15 minutes.
So, I bought Mike’s very own Note II which he convinced me is an absolute must for a writer. Furthermore, it is the twice the size of my brain-on-bourbon.
And, so far, all I’ve learned in the 24-hours of ownership is that I no longer have to manually text responses to people’s bloody, stupid, vacuous inquiries. I mean I am pathetically slow and inept at most everything that runs on electricity, battery, gas or even wind.
I am still texting merely the first word when most people have already delivered me what amounts to the entire unabridged version of everything they thought about while squatting on the john. Sometimes two or three of such texts while my barely opposable thumbs are still working on the first one. Hell, still punching out the first word.
But now…Now I can just push a microphone symbol…and… voila! The spew begins! I am empowered! I can simply say any darn thing that is raging through my unfiltered, unedited, primitive cerebella oblongata.
I can soar, roar and rut like a wild boar. It is positively divine.
However — and isn’t there always a however — I must learn to speak distinctly. Very distinctly. My mumbling has already created some ticklish moments – even for moi.
I mean I verbally texted a Russian friend in Moscow and asked how his son and his mother were doing. And with my muttering Russian it seems like my friendly computer-generated salutations ended up calling him a ‘son-of –a-bitch’. And his mother something far lower in the animal hierarchy.
Hmm…Obviously there are Russians – besides Putin – who don’t seem to have much of a sense of humor about these things.
The unedited computer translation was, apparently, as much of a faux pas as in yet another Obamacare fiasco over the computer generated Spanish edition. Among other things it apparently translated “premium” into “prima,” a Spanish word more commonly used to mean a female cousin.
And the Spanish web site, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, launched more than two months late, for the 32 million Spanish speaking U.S. residents, was not only clunky and full of grammatical mistakes, but the name of the site itself can literally be read “for the caution of health.”
Another faux pas I committed was when I verbally texted my latest weekend warrior and wondered if she wanted to eat out tonight. She seemed confused when she replied: Would that be before or after dinner?
Seems like my slip of an oral text wondered if she wanted me to eat ‘her’ out tonight.
Hmm….So what’s the problem?
This is why I love my new phone. I am not intimidated by technology; I am just no damn good at it. And I love it. Because now I can simply blame it on the computer, the phone. Anything but me. And get away with it – at least for a splendid few moments more.
Like my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ Pappy told me once or twice between those omnipotent puffs on his omniscient corn cob pipe: When in doubt, mumble; when in trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder.
The good news is after all these years of mumbling I am already beginning to speak more clearly even when I am not ‘texting’ orally on the phone. Ain’t that great? Perhaps, and because of such technology, maybe we’ll all, eventually, start clarifying ourselves, so there won’t be so many misunderstandings. After all,