St-e-e-e-e-e-e-rike Three!

PW-2012-05-30-efimov

        It’s been said that bad things always happen in threes and I can finally prove it. Using the highly scientific method of hyperbole, I can carefully lay out the reasons why three and anything associated with three is usually bad. This is stuff you won’t find in the New England Journal of Medicine or even discussed on the highly factual TV show, Dr. Phil.

        Let’s start with triplets. The odds of having triplets are around one in eight thousand. This seems about right, so I wonder—what are the odds of having a set live right next door?

        When the next-door neighbors in our old neighborhood moved out, a new family moved right in. I can’t even remember their names because they usually kept to themselves while enthusiastically making babies with the bedroom windows wide open. They ultimately had a clowder of triplet boys who, while not identical, were close enough in appearance to almost look identical. If they brave-the-tripletswere stacked next to each other, I could tell them apart but taken singly, I had no idea which one was which. They all had very similar names too, like Devon, Evan and Kevin. To compound this confusion, their mother often dressed them alike. I don’t know why parents of multiples do this. They’re children, for heaven’s sake, not teacup poodles.

        As the years went by, this is when things went a little Hitchcock.

        There is a phenomenon called twin speak in which twins talk to each other in a secret language that nobody else can understand. Triplet speak takes twin speak and translates it into Swedish, adds a bit of Klingon and frosts the whole thing with whatever language it is that uses ticks and whistles. These three boys would gibber away to each other and then silently turn in unison and stare at whoever was nearby. It was so weird, I wanted to go inside and hide the knives.

        One Saturday morning, my daughter was asleep in her room, and was awakened by something in the tree outside her window. When she opened the blinds, these nearly identical children of the corn were staring at her while wailing plaintively to each other. “Br-u-u-u-u-u-u-ther … BR-U-U-U-U-U-ther,” they moaned. I don’t think she could have been more terrified had there been badgers dangling from the branches.

        The family eventually moved to what I can only assume was a peeling old farmhouse in the country; something up on a hill, with a dank root cellar and one of those fences with half the pickets missing. Sometimes I wonder what became of those three boys, but I’m sure they are perfectly normal young adults by now, probably off in college studying taxidermy or motel management.

        Another bad thing about three is thrice. “One” has “once” and “twice” is a perfectly common variation of “two” but nobody says “thrice” unless they have the words “Bonnie Prince” preceding their first name. As a bold experiment, try peppering your threeconversation with a few thrices and see how that flies. Before you know it, you’ll be heading off to work wearing a velvet cape and a crown.

        Moving on, if somebody around you has difficulty hearing something you said, you should be sympathetic towards them and politely repeat yourself. It could have been a little too loud in the room or maybe they just weren’t paying attention. Perhaps you were engaged in a game of firecracker bowling. Who knows? Most of us will politely repeat what we said, albeit a touch louder and with a little more enunciation.

        We would now say it a second time the way we would talk to a foreigner because as we all know, if somebody doesn’t understand English, saying it louder and more clearly will automatically translate it into whatever language they do speak. Side note: shouting loudly in any language will automatically be understood by Germans, since the German language is really nothing more than feverish yelling with the occasional umlaut.

        Getting back to repeating oneself: This is OK, but if the person who didn’t hear you the first time also doesn’t hear you the second time, this is when you have been given permission to use the same volume of voice one would use when hollering for pigs at the state fair. “I said, there is a gaggle of triplets hiding in the tree outside the window but because I’m shouting in clipped, perfectly enunciated tones that are loud enough to shake a jetliner out of the sky, they have scurried away. Hide the cutlery!”

        I am extremely sympathetic to this because I am not a loud talker. I don’t mumble, but I don’t speak very loudly either. This is hard for my wife because our house has hardwood floors that echo every single note, which makes it hard to hear anything the first time. three-fingersOver the years, Mrs. G. and I have gotten into the habit of automatically saying everything twice, like a round rendition of Row, Row, Row Your Boat. If it has to be said a third time, we’ve both lost interest or we pretend that we heard what the other said. I’m a little worried that in another ten years, I’ll have the walls and floors carpeted like a sound studio.

        Now—have you ever dropped something? Say, your car keys? Occasionally I’ll misjudge how far down the floor is, bend to pick up the keys, and miss them entirely. Instead of immediately going back to try again, I’ll stand up and stare at my empty hand, expecting to see them there and somewhat surprised that they are not.

        “Hmmmm … somebody must’ve moved the floor,” I’ll say to myself in loud, enunciated, clipped tones so that I can hear me. “Perhaps it was evil triplets.”

        I will then steel myself for a second try and miss again. “What the heck? What manner of sorcery doth bequeath thine keys?” I’ll wonder. Sometimes I’ll think in Middle Earth syntax just to mix things up.

        I’ll then go at it a third time, using the same exaggerated flourish one would use to grab the winning Lotto ticket that is blowing out the car window, and not only grab my keys, but about six inches of carpet, tile or whatever happens to be under them. You aren’t getting away from me this time, you evil key things.

        I could go on, but I’ve clearly milked this thrice as long as I should have. One last thing though—wrong numbers. We all dislike wrong numbers but due to advancements in phone technology, the caller’s number pops up on a display so we sort of know who it is. Let’s say it’s 555-1234.

        “Hi, is Jim there?” 555-1234 will say. “No, sorry…wrong number,” I’ll say back. It’s all very polite and cordial.

        “Oh, OK, sorry to bother you,” he’ll say. “No problem,” I’ll say in return. It’s a real conversation at this point with all the protocols of manners and embarrassment firmly in place. We’ll both hang up, just shy of saying, “No, YOU hang up first!”

        The phone immediately rings again. It’s my buddy, 555-1234.

       “Jell-O,” I’ll say cheerily.

        Pause …

        “Um … is this Jim?”

        “Nope. Still not Jim,” I’ll say. “How you doing? Been a while.”

        CLICK. There’s no apology, no friendly banter. For some reason, 555-1234 doubted me the first time and had to call back to make sure I wasn’t his lying friend, Jim.

        RING … RING … RING!

        It’s 555-1234. Again. I’ll let it ring a few more times, just to give him a little false hope.

        RING … RING … RING!

        “Hel …”

        CLICK.

         555-1234 now recognizes my voice as not that of his lying friend, Jim, but that of the guy who is about to crawl through the phone and toss his brand new Samsung Whatever into the toilet.

        I guess it takes doing something three times to realize that three is usually one time too many.

 

 

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