While our compatibility and companionship have proven to be admirable (if not nauseatingly so in public), some of Carol and my verbal exchanges have been the stuff of either high or low comedy, depending on the latitude of your brow. It would appear that Carolyn’s legendary literalness has rubbed off on me. The range can ascend (or descend) from Stiller and Meara acerbic to Laurel and Hardy vaudeville. And back again.
Once during a whale watching outing, we were discussing the prospects of sea sickness. I told Carol the last time I’d been seasick was on a cruise ship. “It was surf and turf night, too,” I whined.
Carol nodded sympathetically. “Oh, that’s a shame. Where did you go?”
Carol stared back blankly. “No, I meant where was the cruise ship going.”
Recently, I was over at her grandson’s house, where there’d been a plan for he and I to practice our chipping in the backyard. Later, I brought Carol up to date in a PM, informing her I was out to lunch with other family members.
“Did you chip?” she asked.
“No, Aunt Mary treated.”
“No, I meant did you chip in the backyard with Parker?”
In neither of these cases was I the least confused over whether Carol was actually asking where I’d gone specifically to deal with my seasickness, or whether she was prying into my personal approach to splitting a tab.
Sometimes the literal polarities can flip and Oliver becomes Stan. At a Paul Simon concert, Carol and I were singing along with Paul to Still Crazy After all These Years. At the end of the song, a seatmate turned to Carol and asked, “So how many years have you two been together?”
“None,” she answered without embellishment. (At that same concert, Carol had turned to me and remarked, “This is the greatest night ever!” I, busting with pride, replied, “It’s only the beginning too, my love.”
There was that blank stare again. “I was talking about the concert.”
Then, in a complete reversal of roles, there was this exchange that ensued when I was discussing the difficulties I had weighing shipping containers of my personal belongings that were headed for my new home in California.
“I only had this bathroom scale,” I explained, “and it was difficult to weigh the box and not cover up the readout on the scale.”
Carol offered: “Why didn’t you weigh yourself first, then get on the scale holding the box. The difference would be the weight of the box.”
I slapped my head for not thinking of such a simple solution myself. As if trying to deflect me from thinking I was stupid (generally a very acute deflection), she quickly added, “Well, maybe the scale didn’t go up that high.”
Now it was time for my blank stare. “Carol, just how much do you think I weigh?”
It may be simply that English turns out not to be our primary language, at least for comprehension. But the chance for high or low comedy remains high.
At least until Wimpy becomes my new nickname among the grandkids.