Lum: What did Davy say?
Back in the ’70s, I spent a Saturday afternoon baby-sitting for my friend Nancy’s nephew, a 21/2-year-old boy named Davy. Davy lived out of state, and I had only seen him once or twice when he was an infant — now he was halfway to 3 going on 10.
To say that Davy was precocious would be the understatement of the century. The kid collected himself when he was dropped off at my house and studiously looked around my living room for something suitable to entertain himself. I had put out some of my daughter Hillery’s old Fisher-Price toys, but he was having none of that childish crap.
He finally settled upon a quart jar full of change, dumped the contents onto the coffee table and began sorting and discussing them.
“That’s a Jefferson nickel,” putting it in the nickel pile. “Wheat-back penny” — into the penny pile.
There’s nothing a baby sitter likes as much as a child who can amuse himself, and I assumed that Davy was doing just that as he chattered along with me, putting in an “Uh-huh” now and then to emphasize the illusion that we were holding an actual conversation.
I was lost in my own thoughts in another universe when Davy put his hand on my knee, tugged on my jeans until he got my full attention, looked me straight in the eye and said, “What did Davy say?”
Well, of course I had no idea what Davy had been talking about — I had lost the train of thought back at the wheat-back pennies. He might have been commenting on the Watergate hearings for all I knew, and I wasn’t going to be able to fake my way out of this.
My mind racing, I took a deep breath. He had nailed me. When in doubt, if lies will not suffice, the only option is to tell the truth.
“I’m really sorry, Davy,” I apologized. “I wasn’t paying attention. Please tell me again what you were saying.”
Davy gravely repeated his soliloquy, which I have now forgotten, but at the time I made damn sure I followed enough to avoid a repeat of the dreaded question, “What did Davy say?”
All of our minds wander now and then, some more than others. My years at The Aspen Times were good training for blocking out the conversations and chaos around me if I hoped to get any work done, and increasing dotage has improved my talent for checking out mentally.
Most adults wouldn’t feel comfortable asking another person, “What did I just say?” so we have devised language devices that more or less serve the same purpose.
The expression “You know?” is an annoying but effective method of checking in to make sure that the person you’re talking to is on your page.
“I was running down the alley — you know? (are you listening?) — and a chunk of ice the size of a refrigerator fell — you know? (are you still listening?) — right in front of me.”
The most recent phenomenon — the habit of making statements in the form of a question — had puzzled me for quite a while, but it is just another version of “What did Davy say?”
At first I thought it was an indication of tentativeness, but my granddaughter Riley used to do it, and there’s nothing tentative about her.
The question statement goes something like this: “Hello — my name is Su Lum? I write a column every week for The Aspen Times? It can get a little bit tedious to be pissing in the wind?”
Are you listening? What did Su say?
Su Lum is a longtime local who tries to keep up. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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