Monday, March 7, 2011

That "Goodbye" Tone

You know that certain tone that grown folks like to use as they start to inch their way towards saying "goodbye?" It's a sort of trailing, end-punctuation-less sentence structure that usually start with the word "Well," with a comma. And never really end.

Punctuation EVERYWHERE
It used to drive me mad. The ellipses lay heavy upon hollow phrases like "It's been so fun, seeing you again," and "We really should do this again sometime," to my utter childhood disbelief -- as if you wouldn't see a friend again??? My mother loved sitting or standing COMPLETELY STILL and running her mouth with other grown ups too much for it to even be considered an option*. And OF COURSE they're going to come over again - aren't they your friends? That's what you DO with friends.

I hated the trailing goodbye tone. They were no longer really saying anything. It was speech without content. What is the point of that??

On the one hand, it meant freedom was imminent - I would be freed from my posture of feigned interest on the loveseat next to the guest couch, where Mom insisted I "make our guests feel welcome." (This consisted mainly of pretending to be listening, while I had imagined adventures of the finest caliber.)

Feign attention
Involuntarily, thoughts turn to bunnies
Bunnies that are DRAGONS
Giant bunny-dragons and tiny cat-dragons then take over my mind
On the other hand, some adults need more of the "goodbye" tone to get aloft than others, so it had an infinitely extensible time-period, and those ellipses would lay thick upon the ground, drowning my impatient child brain in unnecessary extra periods and pointlessness.
Blah blah blah, cat-dragons etc...
Trail-off tone; Oh God!
Definitely trailing off there; oh please oh please...
Child impatience reaches fever pitch; brain overload
Expire quietly while they continue to dance around
the idea of doing anything at all, ever again.

Why couldn't these people communicate more honestly, and for the love of all that is good, more quickly? If not known for its diplomacy, childrens' conversations are at least time-effective; "I'm bored. I'm going home now. BYYYYYYE"
2:15 pm
4:30 pm
4:31 pm

The culmination of human
communications technology
There might be a "see you tomorrow" in there over a certain age, when there are hints of awareness about the future, but that's the advanced manual. Why do adults have to dance around the idea with oblique statements about how they appreciate us having them over?

Grisly yet appropriate photo c/o
Well, now I know. After a certain age, you are mired in an incredibly viscous and ever-hardening amber of your own politeness, unable to do more than struggle feebly against the idea of saying anything too suddenly that it might hurt someone in some unforeseeable way. You do your intricate bumble-bee dance of hints in this amber, so that by the time one of you actually admit you're leaving, its clear to any and all parties that this choice was consensual, by tallying at least three clearly received hints from both camps.

And I do it. Lordy, do I. My voice strains as I shovel in those ellipses, trying to use them to end the conversation like someone using a full-size shovel to kill a wasp. As I attempt to wield my fundamentally unwieldy weapon, I reflect on the tiny Kana I once was, straining impatiently within me on a loveseat of the mind, ready to go play. And I apologize to her. Because in all of her loveseat imaginings she never dreamed she would grow up to be a bumblebee trapped in amber.**

See a great Hyperbole And A Half entry on the topic here
* I once had to stand zoned out with my mother in the driveway talking to a neighbor lady for so long that a slug oozed all the way up the arch to the ball of my foot without me knowing it. When we finally went to go back indoors, it felt like everywhere I stepped had a slug there. Then I looked at my sole AND IT WAS ON ME. This is true.
** I was never that Kafkian.


  1. Door Bore – “Boring twats who say ‘bye’ then hang around the doorway for 3 weeks boring you to death, just go home.” Urban Dictionary.

    I had a friend who never knew when to shut up. One night at an office Christmas party his wife said, “Doug, why don’t you shut up?” Doug’s answer, “Why should I, nobody’s listening.”

  2. Awwwww. Doug knows the art of the happy-sad...your mouth smiles, but the corners of your mouth pinch down in helpless commiseration. Like watching your ADORABLE new puppy piss on your carpet. "*Aw*...shoot."

  3. Now you've got me thinking back to last night and wondering how badly I danced in the amber... or something... ;D
    I've been known to linger in door ways, it's true... I'm super awkward with goodbyes. It's why I hate phones. I find goodbyes on the phone the most awkward.
    But now I am inspired to be more succinct in my departures!

  4. I didn't realize that I was supposed to gorw out of the "I'm bored, I'm going home" stage.

    I'm probably not gonna work on that.

    And yeah I signed up on google just so I could comment here.

  5. linlah, you're a sweetie. And bluntness doesn't have to be worked on if you have good things to say: "I LIKE YOU BUT I'M GOING NOW" is a great one to bellow as you vault the guest couch and make for the door.

    Maggie, I would try Radical Honesty. I somehow managed to find two different friends who are radically honest - more on that later - and it's always so nice to know that they mean what they say! Something that admits your concern about giving offense, but your genuine need to get on with what you were planning to do.

    EVERYBODY: My blog hero Allie apparently has an entry on this subject that I just found. Enjoy!