Recalling replies

Recalling replies


‘Replies’ can prove to be marvellous at times, admirable as well as astonishing. For, who doesn’t love a written reply to a letter? Sadly though, in these days of easy phone calls, instant e-mails and SMSes, ‘replies’ are well on their way to becoming the rarest of rare things. In fact, if you happen to be the fortunate recipient of this piece of expansive friendliness, you will do well to preserve it carefully. It can be passed on as a precious heirloom to happy grandchildren.

What about the reciprocal smile? An uncommon thing today, when life has become scramble and scratch, with every faculty of the body engaged in a rat race. Few have the time or the inclination to recall that it requires three times the number of muscles to frown as to smile. In a very real sense, there seems to be a mile between ‘smiles’, and so, we have to marvel at and cherish the ones we’re met with.

What about spoken responses? Nature has gifted us with two ears, but almost always, they are both well occupied, with the result that there is no one to lend you one. It is plug-in music or plug-out conversation. With an aural appendage of one kind or another hanging out of each ear, no one can hear what you have to say. Little wonder then that when somebody returns your cheery “good morning,” you feel that your day is more than made.

Let us see now how ‘replies’ can prove to be astonishing. The first one on the list could well be answers to questions that begin with “would you mind.”The agreeable response would be ‘no’, but few, it would seem, realise this. In a restaurant the other day, we needed another chair. Spotting one that was unoccupied at another table, I went over and asked the gentleman, “Would you mind if I took this?” With a beaming smile, he said, “yes,” and followed it by shaking his head from side to side. Understandably, I was thrown into a quandary. Fortunately, the waiter came to my rescue by producing what I wanted.

Frustration can sometimes provoke replies that you may not want to recall for the rest of your life. One of my teacher-colleagues made a faux pas that has been quoted with great merriment ever since it passed her lips. A troublesome pupil came yet again to school with her homework undone. As she was being roundly berated, the student tried to trot out a well-worn excuse. Exasperated, the teacher burst out with, “When you are talking to me, don’t open your mouth!” Under kinder circumstances, a teacher escorting a group of pupils down a busy street told them encouragingly, “Just follow me, I am right behind you!”

Some replies can so take your breath away that you remain stuck for any retort. My husband often spoke of a client with whom he had fixed a meeting. He did not turn up at the appointed hour. After waiting for a considerable period of time, my husband rang up to find out what the matter was. Pat came the reply, “Sir, I did not think you would be there waiting!”

Puns, they say, are the lowest form of humour, but when they play a significant part in replies, they can prove to be hilarious as they are revealing. Gladys, an elderly lady, faithfully attended church every Sunday. One morning, the service seemed to go on forever and many in the congregation fell asleep. The service ended at last and on her way out, Gladys saw a very sleepy and tired old man still sitting. Wishing to revive him somewhat, she walked up to him and said cheerily, “Hello, I’m Gladys Dunn.” The old man opened his eyes wider and said, “Yes, and you are not the only one.”