I suppose I should have been a little more wary when listening to the question. Or at least a little more alert to the nuances of the voice. ” What do you think of sex?” was probably quite a serious and professional question at the time, posed as it was by the female journalist at the Gender Olympics Conference earlier in the week. I have a feeling that my answer of ” What? Now? ” has done me no good in the organisation.
Likewise I have a feeling that as I age, my hearing loss means I miss many of the social clues included in normal conversation. ” This is our first new-born. ” is a sentence you really only hear once from a couple and it behooves me to respond with something better than ” Newborn what? “. The atmosphere is never the same after.
I do a little better with religious greetings. Provided they are not delivered with pitchforks and torches, most salutations are pretty easy to respond well to. I learned that from the Japanese – the gentle bow serves to indicate respect while simultaneously preventing the other person from seeing you wince or smirk.
It is a little harder to cope with religious hand gestures if you don’t know whether to make the sign of the cross, crescent, star, or squiggly thing like on the back window of a car from Canning Vale. If there is holy water, sand, ochre, or cat piss involved it becomes even more fraught – you really have no idea whether you are supposed to dip, scatter, smear, or taste. In the end I find a simple “Bless You” and a stun grenade gives you time to get away.
In a way, I like scientists, including the psuedo-scientists that flock the internet these days. They say what they think or don’t think and in general never expect a reply. Or at least not a spoken on – they still want you to give them money but they are not fussy if you do it silently. Here again the gentle bow or nod, accompanied by a small smile, is all they need plus $ 135,000. Scientists rarely, and pseudo-scientists never, issue receipts. It is considered naff to insist on one.