The best writing lets the reader know the point of the piece as early as possible. It frustrates me when I’m reading something without the vaguest idea why the author even bothered to put it down on paper.
I remember once being in Toledo trying to find a particular bookstore in order to buy an obscure anthology. No, I’m sorry, it wasn’t Toledo — I was in Fort Lauderdale. But I just wrote “Toledo” because the anthology was about bullfighting in Toledo, Spain.
Actually, my cousin lived in Toledo, Ohio, and I wish I had the graphic vocabulary to describe his eccentric PEZ candy dispenser collection which took over his whole tiny apartment. I was amazed at the low price for apartment rentals in Toledo in the 1970’s. And my cousin’s wife wore the strangest lipstick colors, probably because as a child she was…
Yes, my Clever Readers, you’ve already figured out by my devilishly disjointed discourse above that the topic of this morning’s essay is WHY CAN’T SOME PEOPLE JUST GET RIGHT TO THE POINT? And I’m not really talking about their writing — since we do tend to revise our prose to rid it of extraneous bits —but about their unchecked conversations. I’m talking about their talking.
A dear friend of mine has in-laws who are a delightful married couple. The wife is charming, and part of her charm at social gatherings is her wildly wandering way of telling a story. There is no conversational blind alley too narrow for her wayward tongue to pursue to its dead end. After listening to her verbal zigzagging with silent resignation for as long as he can, her husband will call out to her in mock exasperation: “Land the plane, Shelly!”
Isn’t that hilarious? Who of us has not been guilty of speaking in circles, going nowhere, much like a United Airlines jet caught in a holding pattern over LaGuardia? And when we’re the hijacked victim of someone else’s ever-circling monologue, the one thing we pray for is exactly what plane passengers fear the most while circling — that our “pilot” will finally run out of gas.
My mother was the most incredible talker. Not only was her speech wildly energetic and her pace lickety-split (yes, my own Adam’s apple didn’t fall far from her tree), but her brain speed was also like forked lightning — fast and electric. And I can tell you with authority that in her ninety-three years, not once did she ever stoop to use a transitional word or phrase to link one of her astounding thoughts to the following one. Listening to Mom was like trying to connect all the dots even though she was sending out only zippy Morse-code dashes.
I’d ask Mom how Aunt Mollie was, and I’d hear that her son was broke again because he couldn’t keep away from Las Vegas where the temperature reached 102 yesterday and dad had better check the Freon in the air conditioning in her Lincoln and if only our sixteenth president had been Jewish there’d be no restricted country clubs and if only she had had more clubs in her last bridge hand on Tuesday she and Aunt Mollie would have won that second rubber. No commas, no periods. One breath.
When I became a teenager, my parents, of course, became Embarrassment Central. I remember inviting a new friend over and wondering if he’d be drowned in voluminous verbosity when he politely asked, “And how are you, Mrs. Engel?” I admit to fantasizing earlier that Mom just might come down with a no-nonsense case of laryngitis that afternoon. It wasn’t until I went off to college that I began to appreciate the contagious joy within my mother’s exuberant whirlwind of words.
And today? I’d relinquish speaking for however long a genie required in order to be whisked into her presence just once more, to bathe in her love of talking and of living—and of me.
Elliot says: "If you have been intimately acquainted with a conversation-challenged speed-talker, do let me know. I'm eager to hear from you and promise to respond speedily and with transitions galore."
Email Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.