So, there I was, having a crazy conversation with my cat about how he needed to go away because I was not giving him any cold cut ham — not because I’m a blue meanie, but because he doesn’t eat ham. (If I’d been making a turkey or a tuna sandwich, I would’ve shared.) Go ahead and roll your eyes. Go ahead and pretend you don’t have foolish conversations with animals. If you have a pet that ranks anywhere above a fish on the food chain, I guarantee you that you talk to the creature. Some of you may even talk to your fish, what do I know? (I’m not even going to discuss those of you who talk to houseplants.)
Somewhere in the middle of my conversation with The Great Fanganini I realized, as I often do, that I was chit-chatting with a cat, which, when you really stop to think about it, is kind of ludicrous. It was then that it hit me that this was only the second most ludicrous conversation I had engaged in within the last twenty-four hours. The first was with my husband. Let me explain.
Outside of the rare news story that catches my attention on my home page or when I am inundated with alerts about what is happening in the world through the status updates of friends on Facebook, I get most of my news in an unusual way — I get it from Fang. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Fang is some kind of news junkie — he’s not. He’s just far more interested in the goings on of others than I am.
Additionally, the news makes me anxious. Always has. I make every effort not to watch the news because I discovered quite some time ago that doing so, particularly at bedtime, is not conducive to an easy or a restful sleep. I subscribe to the theory that “Ignorance is bliss”. Once in a while, though, Fang will find it necessary to keep me in the loop by discussing news stories that he deems important. He doesn’t choose to keep me abreast of the latest information regarding the debt ceiling or even the details of the latest high-profile murder case, though. No. The stories he chooses to share with me are those that fall into what I would call the “human interest” or, more to the point, the “THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU’RE NOT CAREFUL” category.
Receiving one’s news via one’s husband who is not a trained investigative journalist or even a simple news reader can, at times, be problematic. Obviously, there’s the whole issue of which stories he decides to share with me. Another down side to “The News According to Fang” lies in how he presents a story to me — not only do I get my news subjectively, but I also have to rely upon Fang’s often tenuous grasp of the English language while I’m being force-fed information that I didn’t want in the first place. Regarding the latter, let me just say that Fang is not married to the idea of precision. Regarding the former, I must always be on the lookout for Fang’s zeitgeist — no one likes to share a cautionary tale more than Fang. No one.
For example, he just recently shared the story about the poor woman who died on the roller coaster at Six Flags over Texas — even going so far as to check his tablet for updates on this story while musing aloud, “I wonder if there’s any new information on that woman who was killed on the roller coaster?” It certainly was news to me that she was “killed”. Up until then all I knew was that she was dead — because that’s how he originally presented it to me. He simply mentioned it, in passing, whilst I was busy gathering laundry or doing dishes or in the midst of some other household task. I seem to recall that he said something like, “Did you hear about the woman who died on the roller coaster at Six Flags?” I admitted that I hadn’t. I may have mumbled something along the lines of “Oh, that’s too bad. Was it our Six Flags?”, as I continued to hunt for my daughter’s work shirt or engaged in scrubbing strawberry stains from my white plastic bowl, but that’s pretty much how we left it. (For anyone interested, it wasn’t “our” Six Flags!)
The whole “killed” versus “died” thing piqued my curiosity. I knew that I’d regret it, but I just had to ask.
ME: She was killed?
FANG: Yes, she was killed. How else do you die on a roller coaster?
ME: Well, she could have had a heart attack or something.
FANG: She could have, but I don’t think she did.
ME: You don’t think she did? Or she didn’t? What exactly happened? I thought you just read it?
FANG: She was killed. On the roller coaster. I always tell you those things aren’t safe.
ME: How was she killed? Because you initially reported that she died.
FANG: Yeah. She died. She was killed on the roller coaster.
ME: Did someone shoot her?
FANG: Don’t be ridiculous. No one shot her. She was killed on the roller coaster.
ME: By what?
FANG: I don’t know “by what”? It probably wasn’t a flying toaster. But, why does it have to be “by” anything. Why can’t she just be dead.
ME: Well, she is “just” dead. We, and I’m assuming some medical personnel in Texas, have established that. But, what I’m saying is that you originally told me that she died on a roller coaster and now you’re telling me that she was “killed” on a roller coaster. Which is it?
FANG: It’s the same thing.
ME: No. It’s not. And I think you’re pretty safe in assuming that she wasn’t killed by a flying toaster. Because that’s something I think even I would have heard about.
FANG: Only if I told you about it.
ME: True. But I think that’s an important detail that even you wouldn’t have been able to omit from the story.
FANG: You really should try to keep up more.
ME: I keep up. If I hear someone mention something more than three times I check it out, ya know, so that I don’t seem ill-informed.
FANG: Oh, okay. The “three-mention” rule. That’s a new one.
ME: No. It’s not a new one. It’s the same one I’ve always had. You just weren’t aware of it.
FANG: Thanks for sharing. FYI, it seems like she might have been thrown off the roller coaster.
ME: From, you mean. She was thrown from the roller coaster.
FANG: No. Off of. Or out of. She was thrown off of or out of the roller coaster.
ME (exasperated): Okay, whatever.
FANG: While it was moving.
ME: I assumed that. It would be difficult to be thrown from something that was standing still. Although, one could be thrown off of something that is standing still. Or, for that matter, thrown out of something stationary, like a place. A physical location. You know, like someone can be thrown off of a bus — for misbehaving and whatnot. Someone can be thrown out of any number of places for various and sundry infractions. Being thrown from something, though, that usually suggests that the thing was moving. Or that it was equipped with an “eject” button.
FANG (rolling his eyes): You’re so literal.
ME: Was she wearing her seatbelt?
FANG: They’re investigating that.
ME: Good. That’s probably important to know.
FANG: Those things just aren’t safe.
ME: Well, they’re probably safer if you’re properly restrained.
FANG: Let’s get back to “off of” or “out of”. You knew what I meant.
ME: Yes, I did. But, it’s imprecise. It’s like saying she “died” versus saying she was “killed”. There’s a difference.
FANG: I guess so, but the end result is still the same. And my point is that those things aren’t safe.
ME: Neither are most modes of transportation.
FANG: Now a roller coaster is a “mode of transportation”?
FANG: Okay. So, let me get this straight. I can’t say a person was “thrown out of or off of a roller coaster” — that’s wrong or, as you pointed out, “imprecise” — but you can call a roller coaster a “mode of transportation”?
ME: Sure. If you define a “mode of transportation” as “a vehicle by which one is carried from one place to another”, it is.
FANG: So, you’re saying that a roller coaster is the same thing as a car, a bus, or a subway.
ME: To be clear it’s really the roller coaster car that is the “mode” or the “means” of transportation. The tracks are just the conduit.
FANG: The conduit to what?
ME: The other end of the tracks.
FANG: That’s just ridiculous.
ME: Why did you tell me this story in the first place?
FANG: Because I wanted you to know that these things are not safe.
FANG: So, you get it, right? Roller coasters are not safe.
ME: You behave as if I fill my days hopping from one roller coaster to another. I can’t remember the last time I was on a roller coaster. I can remember the last time I was on a Ferris wheel, though.
FANG (laughing): Oh, my God. I wish I had been there to see that.
ME: I’m glad you weren’t. It was pretty pathetic. A grown woman pleading with a fifteen-year-old mall ride operator to let her off “this death trap”.
FANG: You were inside, right?
ME: Yeah. At the mall. Fangette was three or four, I think.
FANG (still laughing): Remind me again why you didn’t say, “Jane, stop this crazy thing?”
ME: Now who’s being ridiculous? The minimum wage ride guy who was, by the way, only a few DNA strands away from being a carny, never would have gotten “The Jetsons” reference.
FANG: Why did you go on it in the first place?
ME: Because Fangette begged me. This was back when she was really cute and cuddly and she thought I was nice and brave. I rationalized that I’d be able to do it, you know, because it was an indoor Ferris wheel.
FANG: What did that have to do with it?
ME: I don’t know.
FANG: You scarred her for life.
ME: No, I didn’t. She still goes on Ferris wheels. I can’t watch her, though.
FANG: You can’t watch her ride a carousel.
FANG: Luckily she’s not a big fan of roller coasters.
ME: She went on Kingda Ka at Great Adventure a few weeks ago.
FANG: Seriously? You LET her go on THAT?
ME: I wasn’t with her. She went on a class trip.
FANG: She went on a class trip to Great Adventure? What class was that for?
FANG: What does Physics have to do with roller coasters?
ME (incredulously): Um. Everything?
FANG (steering the subject in another direction): What happened to going to museums?
ME: She went to The Tenement Museum with her history class.
FANG: Well, that’s good.
ME: Yeah. Not as much fun as Great Adventure, I would guess.
FANG: Why didn’t her Physics class go to a museum?
ME: I would imagine that the teacher thought there would be fewer opportunities to discuss Physics in action at a museum than there would be at Great Adventure.
FANG: They could have discussed gravity.
ME: Yes. They could have. They could have discussed that in the classroom, though, don’t you think? The teacher could have pointed out that gravity was responsible not only for them being rooted to the floor but also for the fact that the pencils were not flying willy-nilly through the air.
ME: So, you think we should have paid for a bus to take them to a museum so that they could be shown objects remaining where they were placed?
FANG: Well, it would have been a day out of school.
ME: I don’t really think that was the point.
FANG: I’m sure it had something to do with it. They probably could have gone to a car wash if they wanted to see “Physics in Action”. They could’ve walked there.
ME: It probably wouldn’t have been as compelling as being hurtled through the air at 150 miles an hour in a tube.
FANG: I wish I’d known she’d gone there on a class trip. I have half a mind to call the school about THAT!
ME: Will you be suggesting a trip to the car wash for next year’s Physics students? I’m sure the Board of Ed will take that very seriously. And, by the way, you wrote the check.
FANG: What check?
ME: The check for the trip to Great Adventure.
FANG: I did? Why didn’t you tell me what it was for.
ME: I don’t remember making any conscious decision to NOT tell you.
FANG: Still, it’s something I’d like to have known about.
ME: Really? Why? So you could have worried?
FANG: Now that you put it that way, I guess it was good that I didn’t know. I would have worried the whole time she was there.
ME (pointedly): Yup. I know EXACTLY what you mean. It’s kind of like me and the news. Ignorance is bliss.
There you have it — the conversation with a human that made speaking to my cat about cold cuts seem like a worthwhile endeavor.
photo credit: morguefile.com