Saturday, August 1, 2009

Don’t Raise Your Voice To Me

By Stephen Lautens

June 25, 2009

There is a lot of yelling in our house.

Don’t get me wrong – we’re not like the new neighbours across the street. They seem to like living in their front room with the windows wide open and describe each other’s shortcomings at the top of their lungs. My seven year old has even learned a few new, colourful words as a result. Our neighbours seem to alternate between yelling and singing the folk songs of their youth from some far off land, most fuelled by beer.

By contrast, we are a very happy household, although you wouldn’t know it if you listened at the keyhole. If you did, you’d also hear a whole lot of yelling.

Unlike our neighbours, none of the yelling questions anyone’s parentage or the personal habits of their mothers. The yelling in our house is entirely conversational.

For example, my wife can sense the very instant when I am in the bathroom with the door shut, the overhead exhaust fan on, water running in the sink and my razor up against my face. Without fail, that is when she chooses to ask me a question from two floors away.

My ears are still good enough that I know someone is speaking somewhere in the house. And because it isn’t a simple “No!”, I can safely assume it isn’t directed towards my son, who is currently intent on cloning himself using a combination of toothpaste, drool and salt mixed in an old medicine bottle. Appropriately, he refers to it as “Project Satan”.

My son has no problem being heard. He is one of the loudest kids I know. We could hire him out as a public address system or an emergency broadcast horn in case of civil unrest. He has a great future as a hog caller or auctioneer. Maybe a career in politics - although it is not as prestigious or respectable as a hog caller.

Him I have no trouble hearing from anywhere in the house. The problem is that in his case, he can’t hear my answer to any of his many questions – mostly involving a surplus of ice cream sandwiches taunting him from the freezer. I can offer an opinion on the merits of an all ice cream diet from a floor away, but somehow he never hears me. And by the time I make it down to the kitchen, the sandwich is already gone and the point is moot.

It’s not just that people will talk to me from other rooms of the house when my head is in the sink. My wife will start talking to me when she is in the basement with the dryer going full tilt – usually with four dollars in nickels going through the spin cycle. I’ll be standing in front of the dishwasher on “pots and pans” with the TV on.

For some reason, that is the perfect time to start discussing variable rate mortgages and where the new dent in the car came from.

For my part, I refuse to yell in the house. The result is that my other housemates tend to yell louder, or just keep on going until I relent. I will get up from my desk or chair and walk downstairs so no one has to raise their voice to be heard. When I ask what they wanted, the answer I get more often than not is: “Nothing important.”

That’s when it’s my turn to start yelling.

© Stephen Lautens, 2009