Communication? That’s a laugh!

May 2010

By Dodge Morgan

“Do you have a pup with you?” This is just one sentence I translate from of an endless series of them spoken loudly – bellowed actually – to compete with the squeak-like quacks of a very nearby dog, and coming from a woman tethering a cat on a leash, the cat seriously larger than the yapping dog but certainly quieter and more fashionable wearing a personal flower-print flotation device.

I respond: “No pup here, but would you like me to see if I might find a one-legged cricket on board for you?”

She does not smile, and so I panic. No humor or bad hearing or anti-social behavior. But she shows no indication of leaving and every indication of keeping up her aimless blather. It is an avalanche of small talk – her daughter’s goulash recipe, a description of the summer wardrobe she did not place aboard, the long walk from her slip to the restaurant, the lack of Wi-Fi coverage for her husband, group aerobics in the pool.

So I say, “Have you noticed that the island becomes smaller at high tide?”

She does not react. I realize I can say anything with full immunity.

I tilt my head and drop the F-word, and then splatter it with the rest of Carlin’s 10 banned words that I can remember. I get away with it. I describe in detail a scene of copulating bullfrogs, something I admit to her I have never witnessed myself. No reaction. Her blather continues relentlessly. The cat appears to be paying attention, mostly to her but subtly I think to me when I repeat the F-word with some appropriate gesturing.

I realize the cat is as much a participant in the “conversation” as are this lady and me. It occurs to me that what is going on here is not that much unlike many of my social intercourses these days. Is it my age, my loss of hearing, the traits of boat people, the place, or a psychographic trend to ignore the presence of others, maybe fueled by the overwhelming priority of the one-way outgoing email type of communicating? Are people becoming addicted to typing over reading, talking over listening?

But there are exceptions. I really want to hear from an 80-year-old woman from Duxbury I met who has sailed her small catamaran to the Bahamas for each of the last dozen years. She is into listening as well as speaking, quick to laughter. We have met before, in Maine and in Duxbury Bay, and we have mutual friends. Our thoughts coincide as we share thoughts and recent experiences. She knows the ICW and the Abaco Bahamas much better than do the cruising guides, and she makes her winter home in Hopetown, on Elbow Cay, Abacos.

We share a gaze at the sky in silence. The sun drops like a rock, from light to dark and red horizon to starlight in just a moment of time. This is how it happens on the water.

Dodge has been spending the winter cruising tropical waters aboard Osprey, his Nova Scotia-built Monk 36 trawler. In mid-March, he wrote: “Am now at West End awaiting a weather window for the stream crossing and enduring torrential rain, big wind and lively thunder storms.”