Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Is It Me, Or Are You Gabbling?

I walk in the door, change into my slippers and check the voicemail. Two messages. I play them both and they sound like gobbledygook. I play them again. I still can hardly catch a word of either of them. Perhaps it is because I am tired. I check my email, then make myself a cup of tea and relax in the chair for a while. Some time later, I play the messages again. I can sort of half make out the names and a word here or there if I concentrate really hard. But whoever these people are, they sound like a couple of hyperactive marmosets on speed.

My partner comes home. He listens to the messages. One of them appears to be for him. He can’t understand most of it either.

It is not just voicemail. I called our bank with a query and after a few moments I had to stop the young man who answered me and ask him please to slow down and stop talking at fast forward. Then a pleasant-sounding young woman called us to ask if we would like to buy some advertising space in her magazine. At least, I eventually found out that’s what she wanted. It took me three or four ‘I beg your pardon?’s and, when that didn’t work, a polite request to slow down from the speed of light to something approaching the normal speed of sound.

I was asked to do a radio interview a couple of months ago and it was a real struggle. I felt as though I, too, had to talk faster and faster till I was breathless in order to keep up with the manic pace of the interviewer. I came away from the interview feeling totally exhausted and vowing never to do another. It is just not comfortable any more.

Even some of the people I know are starting to talk faster than they used to.

Or is it just that I am old? Or the fact that I live a quiet life down a quiet country lane, don’t own a TV set, rarely watch movies and usually travel at the speed of my legs or of the local bus (which is almost as slow).

No, I suspect that the frenetic pace at which so many people seem to live their lives nowadays is causing them to speak at twice normal speed. And I suspect that video games, TV and fashions in film editing all have something to do with it as well. Everything has revved up without anybody really noticing that what they are now doing is gabbling, rather than talking.

Anyway, if you are going to leave a message on my answering machine, please speak slowly enough for me to understand what you want. Otherwise I’ll simply click the ‘erase’ button.

Better still, send me an email. Then I can answer you in my own time – and at my own speed. Which I don’t think is slower than it ever was, despite my age. (Oh and by the way, I’ve noticed that the birds around here don’t seem to be singing any faster than they ever did. Thank goodness).