It’s a common enough comedy trope that something “can’t be unseen”. It’s usually trotted out when one person narrating an experience wherein he or she saw something particularly embarrassing describes their anguish in not being able to erase a memory. Sadly, this is not just a comedy trope, it is the reality of too many people who have encountered situations in life which trouble them for years afterward.
Though I’ve not seen anything that I wish to unsee, I did recently overhear something that I would rather unhear. I’d gone to my nearby public library to use a computer there that has software which I’m too cheap to buy for use at home. The library’s accessibility enables me to continue in my thrifty (cheapskate) ways. I was in the building for a couple hours.
I had selected a carrel where I wouldn’t be regarded as crowding anyone’s space. I’ve no objection to someone sitting down next to me, but don’t know if anyone already there might object to me. Across the aisle from me there was a man who was multitasking. While doing whatever he was busy at on the computer, he was holding a conversation on his phone with another person. The discussion seemed to be about disputes in the context of his romantic life. That he was willing to take his problems to a third party to discuss them may be commendable, but the rest of us in that part of the library didn’t need to hear them. Even when I put on the computer’s “over-the-ear” headphones, I could still hear him.
What impressed me negatively was a single-syllable verb he used to stand for “be in a romantic relationship with”. Whether he was referring to the relationship the two of them shared, or about the possibility of his leaving this relationship and taking up with another partner, or of his girlfriend’s dumping him and taking up a romantic relationship with another man, it was always the same single-syllable verb.
I’ve no doubt that, between them, there are several problems. I think that one part of the whole is vocabulary. In my own mind, and experience, there’s more to a romantic relationship with someone than can be implied by the word he chose.
David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan