I have certain phone conversations, I’m not saying with whom, that will go on for an ungodly long time about something that really takes about five minutes to say. I recognize that, sometimes, people just need to talk, but honestly, after about forty-five minutes, my ear goes numb. I learned pretty early on that I’m not always needed for these conversations, either. A few interjections of “I hear you” and “you’re kidding” and the occasional “Oh, how awful” and they’re good to keep talking for a while. I listen for key phrases, but otherwise, it’s grocery list time.
I’ve taken this opportunity to improve myself in a number of ways. For instance, I’ll pick a scandal and follow it obsessively on the internet while telephonically smiling and nodding. Britney Spears, Tiger Woods, Congressman Weiner; I’m an expert in all these topics. I could give lectures, and man, could I make killer powerpoint presentations to go with them. Or, I’ve learned how to make paper boats. It isn’t origami, you can do it with regular paper, so I can just take my legal pad, start folding, and end up with a fleet by the end of the conversation. I like to name the boats after people I don’t like and then shred them. There’s the crossword, of course, and sudoku, both of which will pass the time for a while, but it’s all so pedestrian, and at the end of it all you have is a piece of paper with some scribblings and no new information.
That’s why I’ve taken up Russian. It’s perfect: I can practice while on the phone by using flashcards to review vocabulary, by making flashcards to review during future phone calls, and by taking notes on my phone conversation in Russian (this has the side effect of teaching a lot of slang, swear words, and insults). If you try this, it will give you the added benefit of letting you know who’s been reading your notes. All you have to do is look for the person who keeps shooting covert looks your way like they think you’re a spy. Thinking in one language and listening in another is also a great brain exercise, even if it does make you go a little cross-eyed. Just make sure you remember to speak in English whenever you’re called upon to make a response. You never know when Big Brother is listening in, da? Unless you’re talking to a telemarketer, in which case, go for it.
If the men in black show up and this is my last post, someone look up the Russian for “It’s been real”, will you?