Random Noun Syndrome, or, if a white-bearded queer can’t laugh at himself, who can?
For a lot of weird reasons related to various social commitment we had (all of which were fulfilled through online meetings, so we are still isolating and practicing social distancing), he wound up accompanying me on this last weekend’s main grocery run. And a couple of funny thing happened.
At one point we turned the cart up an aisle, and I pointed down at the second from the bottom shelf and said, “We are either completely out of or nearly out of those, so pick a couple out.”
His reply was a confused. “Are you sure? I mean, if you mean the variety packs, maybe…”
I explained why I was certain we were nearly out, having had to throw at least one of the cardboard wrappers in the recycle earlier in the week. And he asked, “Cardboard???”
I turned around to look at him, and instead of looking at the nearly-at-the-bottom shelf I had pointed at more than once, now, he was looking at the very tippy-top shelf…
I had pointed at collections of snack-packs that we both liked. I like them because they were a balance of protein, fat, and minimal carbohydrates and were perfect for those times between my meals when my blood sugar dips lower than it ought. And he likes them because they were mostly shelf-stable and would tide him over between meals at work when needed. He was looking at the packs of cheese sticks. And he was right, we were nowhere near being out of the cheese sticks.
But they were not the thing I pointed at, and he admitted that he couldn’t remember if he had actually looked at my hand to see what I was pointing at. We decided the confusion was that since he is so much taller than me, he is always looking at things at his own eye-level first, and he just thought when I said “those” I was referring to what he was already looking at.
At another point in the trip we turned up the spice aisle. I pointed down at a low shelf where, among other things, various containers of pepper were arrayed. There were tins of ground black pepper, jars of whole peppercorns in black, green, or multi-colored, similar pepper variety jars with grinders build into the lids, and so forth.
Michael asked why I was stopping. I said, “The big pepper grinder keeps falling off the back of the spice shelf, and it’s hard for me to retrieve it, so I thought we should get a small one to keep next to the stove.”
And he looked at me with a very perplexed expression and said extremely slowly, “Okay…”
I continued, “Just pick out one of the small pepper grinders and we’ll be fine.”
I sighed and rolled my eyes. “If you don’t want to limit it to one, pick out one of the other pepper grinders, too, they’re all on sale. Maybe a black and a green? Or a black and a variety?”
He was now looking at me with an extremely concerned expression, as if he thought I was having a stroke. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, honey.” And his tone of voice implied he thought something worse than a stroke was happening.
I was really irritated by this point, and opened my mouth to explain again from the beginning. Except at that moment some far off slice of my brain interrupted, and did the equivalent of playing back to me the recording of the conversation. The beginning of which was actually, “The big coffee grinder keeps falling off the back of the spice shelf…”
Every single time that I had meant to say “pepper grinder” what had actually come out of my mouth was “coffee grinder.” And, of course, since we were standing in front of the spices, there was no coffee anywhere in sight, never mind that while American grocery stores may sell both ground and whole bean coffee, they don’t usually sell the grinders.
I laughed and said, “Pepper grinder. I meant to say that it’s the pepper grinder I keep losing behind the shelf, and I don’t usually feel like moving the chest freezer so I can get back there.”
“Oh! That makes sense!”
After we got home, while I was putting other groceries away, my husband pulled out the chest freezer and the shelf unit and retrieved the big pepper grinder… and then he went through the rest of the shelf unit and he found not one, not two, but three medium-sized bottles of whole peppercorns meant to refill the grinder. And each of them had been opened at some point and had some of their peppercorns removed. He was able to finish emptying all three and completely fill the big grinder, getting rid of three some bottles and making the shelf somewhat less crowded. So I might possibly be slightly less likely to knock something off the back of the shelf moving forward.
Keep your fingers crossed!