#304 – Wrong Number

I like the old party game, “Telephone.” I think it teaches a lot about human communication, listening skills and psychology. Almost always, the message originally whispered into the first player’s ear becomes mangled beyond recognition by the time it reaches the final participant. And even though the communique in fact may’ve been materially distorted early in the chain, it’s usually the last in line who’s blamed for screwing up the transmission. Having played a round yesterday, I can attest to each of those factors.

The wife and I have a couple of houseguests this week. With schools closed for spring vacation, Sophia’s sister shipped her ten-year-old twins to Georgia for a visit with their grandparents, aunts and uncles. We’re all trying to keep the kids entertained during their stay.

As for “telephone,” Sophia conveyed certain information to me yesterday morning, advising: “My parents’ neighbors are throwing a birthday party for their daughter, and they were nice enough to invite Renata and Carlo. But I already made plans to take Renata to the outlet stores today, so Carlo’s the only one going. You’ll have to take him, Richard.”

Having no pressing engagements elsewhere, I couldn’t offer a valid refusal. Carlo and I consequently spent much of the afternoon at the shindig, despite an all-too-obvious disconnect between the original party invitation and the version ultimately reaching my ears.

Getting blamed for the mixup by Sophia’s sister last night stoked my burning desire to piece together all the broken links in the communication chain. Working from last to first, I discovered that the words spoken to my wife by her sister-in-law differed in one slight respect from those the Mrs. had passed on to me. Specifically, Gina only told Sophia that the neighbors had invited Renata to the birthday party.

My father-in-law, in turn, insists he never informed Gina that the neighbors’ gathering would be a children’s birthday party. Vito claims he simply passed on the news that 9 to 15 year old girls had been invited over to talk and play games.

From the mother who hosted yesterday’s soiree, I learned that my father-in-law had omitted significant details from his rendition of the message she’d conveyed to him, whilst chatting at their mailboxes the other day. The woman’s actual communique invited his visiting granddaughter to a “menarche party” celebrating her daughter’s first menstruation. As she’d specifically advised Vito, the party would feature themed decorations and interactive games teaching girls about the physical changes of puberty, the process of menstruation, and female hygiene.

To be honest, neither Carlo nor I much enjoyed the menarche party’s discussions on the female reproductive system and the ins and outs of menstruation. And even the admittedly entertaining “pin the ovaries” and “puberty marshmallow” games seemed small consolation for the psychological scarring we both endured.

Parties that are fun and informative!

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