Thursday, September 29, 2011

Giddy Giggling Geese

Sometimes I get annoyed with the way our sons communicate.

In person, they're not bad. Typical kid issues arise from time to time, such as having to remind them to say hello to everyone in the room, or properly thank a person who gave them gifts. Maybe the German needs a little more prodding than his brother, but he eventually breaks free of his space cadet stupor and behaves appropriately.

It's the technology of the day that seems to rob these otherwise polite children of any sense of propriety and occasion. Granted, the boys are only 10, and 10-year-old boys are not world-reknowned for their conversational competence, but at some point you should be able to expect years worth of reminders to take root in their brains.

The Italian, who is never at a loss for words, finds it necessary for his lips to be touching the receiver during every phone call. The end result is a garbled cacophony of gutteral clatter. I now begin every telephone conversation with him by instructing him: "Take the phone out of your mouth."

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the German. Getting more than three consecutive words out of him at sufficient volume to be registered by human ears is a unique occurrence. During a recent business trip, he and I shared the shortest conversation I've ever had with another human being. My Lovely Wife handed him the phone and all the German said was:

"Hi, Daddy. You want to talk to Mommy?"

Their computer-enhanced communication skills are even more catastrophic. You would think the fact of being seen by the person on the other end of an iChat would keep the boys more focused on the conversation. After all, there that person is, on the computer, talking to us live via free video feed, one Apple computer to another. No such luck. As My Lovely Wife and I alternately shush and bark at them to be quiet, they bound around the room behind us like loose cannon members of some improvisational acrobatic troupe participating in an original performance of a production titled "Watch Me!"

When I'm traveling, I tend to find their lack of involvement in the conversation drives up my blood pressure. I often get little enjoyment from the exercise other than the obvious pleasure of hearing their voices.

That's why I was surprised at my reaction the other night when I called home from Orlando. First up was the Italian, who started in with his garbled mouth breathing before quickly gaving way to a fit of laughter. Turns out the German was giving him a foot massage -- why, I don't know -- and it tickled so much he simply could not control himself. It was clear, yet again, there would be no meaningful sharing of information, but I didn't mind.

There's something infectious about genuine, uncontrolled laughter that allows it to get into your brain and flip all kinds of switches. The first switch the Italian's laughter flipped was the "Get Over Yourself" switch, followed immediately by a quick trip to the "Lighten Up, Francis" and "Remember What It Was Like To Be a Kid" switches.

When the German took over the phone, the Italian took over the foot massaging, so then it was the German's turn to giggle like a maniac. I found myself chuckling along as if I were there with them in the thick of the tickle fight.

Tired from lack of sleep and mentally drained from delayed travel, corporate speeches, guest speakers and back-to-back breakout sessions, their laughter was more welcome than any number of words.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler