Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Breaking Mother's Code

"The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate."
-Joseph Priestley

I worked at casual jobs while still in school. Mostly they would involve weekends but, depending on the particular institution I was employed in, I sometimes worked late on the evening of a weekday.
Wherever I worked, whatever I did, my mother would drive from our home in the countryside into the city to collect me. I was obliged, on occasion, to work past my official finishing hour and do some overtime. When this happened she would wait in the car under a street lamp or any light and turn the next few pages of her book.
I worked as a cashier at a supermarket at one such point in my life. Unlike my other places of employment this was not in a cosy corner or on the side of a street but at the far end of a monstrous parking lot that housed a giant shopping mall and a tremendous cinema.
When I had been working there not more than a few days, my mother and I were still not quite certain how to find one another in the vast darkness.
On my third evening, when previously we had found each other by sheer good luck, benevolent fate or by my mother being owner of the solitary vehicle in the parking lot, I stepped out into the pitch black night /early morning and could not find my Mater.
The car park was full to capacity and I stood desolate, cold and tired, eager to be home and soothing my feet.
From my pocket came the sweet tinkle of my cell phone registering an instant text message.
It said, and I can remember the code after all this time: opos cin wn ur fnsd
Of course it was Mater, letting me know that I could find her opposite the cinema whenever I was finished work.
Communication is such a curious thing. She had written in a language that neither of us had studied or learned and one that ultimately meant nothing without context. Yet, I made my way over to the cinema and I found her without any fuss at all.
I suppose it might depend a lot on whether one wants to understand, or listen, or hear what is being said. Not that one needs to be in a desperate situation to negotiate language but really wanting to do so goes more than a little way toward understanding.

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