Sunday, 16 December 2012

Communication Breakdown - by Mike Sands

Language has been around for almost as long as man has existed.  There are close to 7,000 languages worldwide.  With the large number of languages in existence coupled with the different dialects, it stands to reason that problems will arise communicating between people.  An example of this occurred in the Sudan a few years ago.  An advertiser posted on a billboard 3 pictures side by side. The first picture showed a bunch of dirty clothes. The middle picture had a box of ‘Tide’ detergent and the last picture showed the same clothes but now they were clean after using the Tide.  The problem was that in Sudan, the Sudanese people read from right to left, not left to right as we do in Canada.  This ‘miscommunication` was an obvious embarrassment to the advertisers.  Another example of where language was ‘miscommunicated` occurred in Russia during the 1800`s where Czarina Maria Fyodorovna once saved the life of a man by transposing a single comma in a warrant signed by her husband, Alexander III, which exiled a criminal to imprisonment and death in Siberia. On the bottom of the warrant the czar had written: “Pardon impossible, to be sent to Siberia.” Maria Fyodorovna changed the punctuation so that her husband’s instructions read: “Pardon, impossible to be sent to Siberia.”  By altering the document, the Czarina caused a `miscommunication` between the czar and the jailer.  The criminal was set free. Closer to home in North America, there was a comedy duo of George Burns and Gracie Allen that ran their act from the early days of vaudeville in the 1920’s until Gracie`s death in 1964.  Burns and Allen, as they were known, built their act on ‘miscommunication’ --largely on the part of the ditzy Gracie, who always misinterpreted anything straight man George said.  An example of miscommunication between the two occurred one time when George came home and noticed Gracie putting a bunch of flowers in a vase.  George asked Gracie where she got the flowers. Gracie replied, ``I went to visit Edna Rigby in the hospital, and you told me if I was to visit her in the hospital, then I should take her flowers. So I took them``.

I just arrived back from the European country of Bulgaria where I received stem cells treatment for my ALS. The treatment is not offered in Canada, as it is deemed controversial.  The procedure involved getting healthy stem cells from one section of your body (the bone at the top of my right butt cheek) and transferring the cells to an unhealthy section (my neck).  I was transferred from a gurney to an operating table.  I was placed on my side so they could drill my butt cheek.  ALS has caused severe muscle loss in my arms, and therefore laying on my side causes me great pain unless I place a pillow between my arms and my side. Being in the foreign country of Bulgaria made any conversation ripe for misinterpretation. Some of the medical staff attending me barely spoke a word of English, so I was hard pressed to figure out how I was going to communicate to them that I needed a pillow under my arm.  I said out loud to anyone who would listen, ``I need a pillow`` while pointing to under my arm. The doctor replied ``no pills while surgery``.  I thought to myself, ``what?`` I asked for a pillow and he thinks I want a pill. I then saw a stack of hospital pajamas about 5 meters away on a shelf.  I said out loud,`` I need  those pajamas``, while pointing to my underarm.  He replied, `Momma not allowed in surgery ``.  I said I   wanted pajamas and he thought I said I want my momma.  All of a sudden I could relate to women in labour who are ready to punch the medical staff in the face while in the delivery room.  But that was not how I was going to deal with this situation.  I thought, ``what would Jesus do``? Yes, now I remember; Matthew 5;29 , and Jesus sayeth; ``Turn  the  other cheek``.  So I used all my strength and turned my hips in a counter clockwise swirl (the swirl is optional, for you Seinfeld fans) lifting my left butt cheek so that it was flapping in the breeze for all to see.  Yes, Jesus would be proud; I had turned the other (butt) cheek.
Pictures from my hospital stay in Bulgaria:
This is what they serve for lunch at the hospital: a slab of feta cheese and a humungous tomato that must have been grown in and around the chernobyl nuclear plant.
One of the down sides of being in a hospital is that you have to share a room. My room mate slurped her food when she ate and talked incenssently. However, I was willing to over look all that because she was not too hard on the eyes.
After dealing with Dr. Petrov, Dr. Botov and Dr. Karlomov I was ready to deal with Dr. Smirnov.


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