Thursday, March 21, 2013

Male Communication 101b

“Two burritos, three tacos?”

"Sorry, no.  One large burrito, four tacos with everything.

"Okay, one burrito, no cilantro, and three tacos.

I hung my head and sighed.

"Speak up, your voice is too low,” my wife would say if she were

present at the moment.  I looked over my shoulder.  Nope.  
Just a Cambria friend who was buying my lunch because I tried
to help him install some new windows.   Not that I was good at
that kind of thing.  Maybe it was just my loquacious personality?

But he was useless as an interpreter.  I did my best to convince
 him that we were about to eat the best Mexican food in the
 universe.  Now, it seemed, I couldn't even communicate our
order.  If the male owner of this restaurant was on the other side
of that window, I told myself, there would be no failure to
communicate.  His English isn't any better than my Spanish,
but we've always reached a satisfactory level of understanding
without a struggle.

Eventually my friend Bob and I enjoyed a great lunch, very close to what we originally ordered.  We expressed our enthusiasm for Buenocaro's fine cuisine through a careful progression of incomprehensible grunts, resounding burps and, in time, deadly farts.

A week later I sat on an ATV flying down a dirt road with the same friend.  Bob and I were exploring a huge recreational area known as Hungry Valley OHV (Off Highway Vehicle).  Perhaps it was just the name but I was feeling kind of hungry.  Availability of food was not an issue (we'd brought an obscene amount) but expressing my need for it to someone wearing a helmet in a howling wind with the roar of ATV engines was proving to be a challenge.  So I pointed to my stomach.  Bob immediately understood.  Not for a second did he think appendicitis or I was having a baby.  He turned immediately toward camp and before long we were chowing down on chicharones and guacamole.

The monumental significance of this narrative so far has but one purpose: to explain how a chance pointing gesture inadvertently gave birth to a brilliantly nonverbal and endlessly flexible method of communication.  Bob and I nourished a newly discovered language as we rodeo ATVs over the next few days, and it grew like a precocious child.

It's time to share what we have so far.  The world (at least the male half of it) needs to be briefed on the rudimentary but highly effective components of this ever evolving (but not so talky) language.  First entry in our male quad rider lexicon is...

Hold your hand up, use an index finger to mimic a rolling wheel. This means,
           All right, you take the lead.  It's my turn to eat dust.  Fair enough.

Or raise an arm above your head and make circling motions as if holding a lariat.  Simultaneously, use the thumb of your other hand to make jerky movements toward an open mouth.  Meaning, of course, let's wind things up here and head back to camp for a cold one.

Then there's holding all fingers together but extending your palm like a traffic cop.  Several possibilities here,
1. Call of nature
2. I have no idea where the hell we are, did you happen to  
     bring a map?
 3. Or, and this is my favorite, let's sit here a while and talk 
     (with real words) about how much fun we're having.

Extending Mr. Tallman while holding back all other fingers is a well known gesture, but the language of John and Bob (Qaudish) allows the little birdie to fly under only specific nuances of context and mood:
1. I told you this was the wrong way to get back to camp!
2. I know you told me this was the wrong way and you were  
     right, but I'm going to flip you off before you flip
     me off (so there!)
Is this not a healthy way for males to convey disappointment and safe amounts of emotion?  Right?  Seriously, am I right???!!!

I'll admit that things can get a little graphic in our new language.  Consider two tired riders pulling into camp.  One of them immediately walks over to his friend’s ATV and begins to urinate on a tire.  Which means,
          I'm still pissed-off by your dumb-assed choice of turns, 
          causing us to be an hour late for the first beer of the day.

Not surprisingly similar methods of communication have been adopted by other male riders.  There must be some kind of universal understanding among men.  It's comparable, I think to the Indians (oops, I meant Native American) whose braves shared a common hand language with other tribes, enabling them to trade beads, hides and I suppose, women. 

Anyway, let me provide a concrete example: 
Screaming down a narrow slot canyon on a big-assed quad
(48" wide is not unusual), you come upon a two wheeled motorcycle twerp.
Let's also say that this dirt bag (I meant dirtbike!) rider has heard the roar
of mighty engines and wisely decides to shield himself behind a rock.  
He might in this case, throw up two fingers.  At first you think it's a "V"
for victory.  Damn right, my machine is bigger than his!  But then when you encounter another rider fifty yards down the trail holding up a single index finger, you force your vibration addled brain to think (for the first time that day).

And then there's a moment of male-to-male insight: the last guy was 
telling you to please be careful because there's another member of
my party ahead.  So when you see the third rider cowering behind
some bushes, another cerebral moment manifests itself and you
show him a single index finger.  
Which means, 
          Another big-assed quad is barreling down on you so watch
          out motorcycle boy!

After similar but less pleasant encounters of this type, you might also 
adopt this gesture: thrusting a finger into your open mouth, the old
"gag me" pantomime.
In the Quadish language, this can only mean one thing:
                 I'm still about to throw up thinking about how messy 
                 things might have gotten when we rounded the blind turn
                 nearly colliding with dick-headed dirt bikers who
                 mistakenly thought they, not we, owned the road.
Now let's move on to more important aspects of this new language, 
the drawing of a finger horizontally across your throat.  
A definite red flag.  Meanings are as follows:
          1. State park ranger right behind you.  Better ease down to 
              the 15 mph campground limit.
          2.  Worse yet, continue in that particular direction and
               there's a strong possibility flying off  a cliff, being airborne
               only a few seconds before certain death.
          3. In the same vein, this hand across the throat gesture could
              warn about other conditions, like when the rider ahead of
              you barely negotiated a sharp turn on a high pass and wants
              you to know that taking that hairpin any faster than he did
              will only end happily if there's a parachute involved .    

But in the Quadish language, the critical (and most dangerous) gesture
has important stages.  To describe it in Cold War lingo, we're talking 
"defcon," levels one and two: 
           1. Hold one hand like a pistol and place it against your head 
               while your other hand extends one finger.  That's pretty
               bad right there.
           2. Next level and worse: hold against head like a pistol 
               (as before) but extend two fingers on the other hand.
Number two is way more dire and scary, meaning: 
              It's so late that unless we pack our shit up and 
              head for home right now, both of our wives will kill us.

And the last aspect of this new language is not a hand signal and derives meaning only by the mere absence of gesture.

Having made it safely back home you silently unload camping gear, observed by a wife who thinks you must be mad at each other.  She doesn't understand that shaking hands is an unlikely conclusion to male recreational events and hugging is so obviously out of the question.  There might be an indirect goodbye at some point (minus the giddy emotional overtones of women who part after a successful shopping expedition).  And I suppose someone might mutter "good trip" under his breath before driving off.  But that's it.  In the quiet jargon of guy talk, 'nuff said.