Verbiage vs.The Bottom Line

Today I was reminded of how men allegedly hate excess verbiage, and how I way too often slip into too many words to “clearly” make a point, or tell a story, or whatever. I think I’m doing this in the interest of clarity, but men supposedly want clarity in two words or less…and then something happened that showed me it’s not always men wanting a reprieve from too many details.

My verbiage (meaning the use of too many words) ran over at the grocery store when I was explaining to the check-out guy why I needed to see a manager. Actually, I had talked to one of those on the phone last night about my “issue,” and as he’d told me he’d be working the next day (that was then today), I asked for him by name. Well, turns out he wasn’t in…”yet”…maybe he’d “be in later,” was the word.

So, at the invitation of the check-out guy, I began to explain to him what I had already talked to the manager about, and why I had come back into the store today to see him. It was about blueberries…and the fact that when I got home from shopping yesterday, I was missing one of the four pints I had paid for. There. That was all I needed to say, but instead I felt an obligation–I guess to convince the check-out guy that I was not trying to rob Safeway of a pint of blueberries (did he even remotely care?)–to tell him exactly how it was that this one pint had gone missing. And, amazingly, I did know how it had happened. Not an exciting story, but a true one.

So, I told my story. (I will spare us here.) And once I finished, the check-out guy said, “that’s easy–just go get another pint”…and…”you didn’t need to go into the whole thing of how it happened, just the bottom line would have been fine.” He did say it with a smile, but I realized then that I do this a lot. I need to learn to just deliver the bottom line–especially with men, who are rarely interested in any details–again, allegedly.

No sooner had this occurred than the Law of Perversity chimed in. In the very next hour, I was on the receiving end of way too many words used to describe endless details repeated over and over until I thought I would just have to hang up the phone in mid-“conversation”–more like mid-monologue…and the one delivering the verbiage this time was none other than–a man. And he was far better better (or is it worse?) at using too many words than I had been in the grocery store. Weird but also true.

It all had to do with the mysteries of my phone, fax, internet, and cable hookups and their relationships to each other–so, the subject was ‘wires,’ and for me that’s always bad news. I am not literate in that language. The man on the phone thought I was–or should be–interested in all the fine points, the ins and outs, the various configurations, and the FUN of dismantling the current intricate set-up and putting it back together in varying ways just to see what the effects would be. Talk about men being from Mars.

To do even half of what he was suggesting was going to require not only dismantling all the current wiring configurations, but moving furniture and disassembling bookshelves. There had to be an easier way. But my man at the other end of the phone persisted in going over and over how easy this was going to be, and then endlessly repeating the “simple” routine.

“Put the middle wire from the phone device into the opening on the back left corner of the modem’s underside, and then put the other wire into the yellow opening, and then the red one into the white and the black one into the gray and, THEN, ‘just’ take the fax machine apart to see if there is any identifiable life form living within, and be sure to notice, while you’re there, if there are only two gold tips on the end of the phone wire instead of four…and if there are four, you have to get new wires that have only two, and then plug the router directly into the computer instead of going through the phone device; then, close your eyes, click your heels together three times, and repeat, ‘I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to go home…’, then open your eyes and see if you’re in Oz. If not, repeat the whole procedure again.”

You can see why on the fifth run-through of this I was tempted to just hang up on the man. Instead, I tried to sound as if I were getting it. In the end, I told him, “you know, I really want to keep this as simple as possible.”

“Oh,” he said–disappointment dripping from the word.

“Then try this. Check to see that the modem and the phone system device are not touching each other.” Lo and behold, they were. I moved them apart. The problem I had called about was instantly solved without dismantling one wire hookup or disassembling a single bookshelf.

Now that was a bottom line I would like to have gotten to long before I did, and before having been repeatedly launched into a barrage of verbiage of the totally incomprehensible, useless, and endless sort. And I thought that women were the ones guilty of perpetuating this pointless practice.

I know when I’ve been beat, and the Wire Guy at the other end of my phone this morning did a most resounding job of it. I, a woman, concede the award for over-the-top verbiage…to a man. And now I have to call the Safeway check-out guy to let him know.

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