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DAVIS: What they don’t know won’t hurt them

May 13, 2011

Ignorance is bliss. Plain and simple. Being blissfully ignorant in certain situations is what separates a truly innocent misunderstanding from one of “too much information.” Technology often plays a pivotal role in such scenarios. Allow me to illustrate.
The mobile phone service we all take for granted these days was not always a means of communication. Telephones with land lines installed into our homes and businesses were the only way to reach people. Mobile phones changed all that. Communication was not limited to a specific destination. It was based upon the location of the user. Phone service now goes along for the ride. Up to that point, there were some very interesting placements of wall telephones, the most intriguing being in the bathroom.
The other day, the need came upon me to visit the community men’s room in the building where I work in Little Rock. Don’t worry. This is where the details end. However, what happened next was mind-boggling.
I had just reached the sink area when one of my senses detected a scent in the air of which I am sure Glade does not manufacture. If they have ever considered this aroma, I am sure a focus group would put an end to it without hesitation in the 10 seconds they were meeting. But this was not the kicker. Next, I heard a voice from behind the far stall. I strained my ear to confirm what I thought I had heard. Indeed. A conversation was being held, but I was only privy to one side of the discussion.
It went something like this: “Hey, John. It’s Bill. I need to let you know that it looks like I’m going to be here for a while. (pause) No, it’s not working out as smooth as I thought it would. I’ll have to work harder. I may be here all day long. I might not even get finished until sometime tomorrow.”
I spun on my heels and headed back out the door, hoping to make a clean exit before the laughter I was holding in erupted. Two thoughts ran through my mind. First, I wondered if the man in the stall had any idea what meaning his words conveyed given the circumstances of his perch. It was one of those “America’s Funniest Home Videos” classic moments. I rather doubt the caller had any understanding of the world beyond the blue stall walls at that moment. Second, I imagined the person on the other line listening to the words and never even thinking that Bill just happened to be “biologically indisposed” at the moment. I’m guessing he visualized Bill standing next to the work project, hard hat in place and orange safety vest firmly attached. But, I could be wrong. The echo of Bill’s voice off the white ceramic tile walls may have tipped him off.
But what can most assuredly be concluded from this unfortunate set of circumstances among John, Bill and me is that two of them had no remotely reasonable idea their conversation would end up in a newspaper. By the way, John and Bill are fictional names but the rest of the conversation is fact.
Sadly, this scene has been played out numerous times in the past but for some reason this one stands out above them all. There have been pagers that go off. Incoming calls that, believe it or not, were accepted. Surely there is an etiquette out there somewhere for our new age of electronic communication. If it isn’t stopped dead in its tracks now, it will spread coast to coast and there will be no turning back.
As this little drama clearly indicates, words and their context cannot be divided. How something is said or phrased may sound one its own merit but changes completely when placed into a specific surrounding.
Case in point. Following the reports on television of the uprising in Libya, one of the national media reporters was commenting on the speculation that the dictator would step down.
The report went a little like this: “Let’s go to our reporter in Libya. Tell us about the rebels. What are their thoughts about the dictator stepping down? Do they think it will happen?”
A female reporter, live on the scene, pushed her windblown hair from her face and said, “As you can see, the rebels are a rag-tag group of villagers with little more than pitchforks against the war machine of the dictator. However, they are a determined bunch of freedom fighters. They are fighting with the conviction they feel for a better future for the country but are gravely aware of the task before them. They say the dictator has been in power for decades and it will be difficult removing him because he enjoys sitting on the throne so much.”
That’s right. Cross my heart. You heard it.
So, I guess the caveat here would be that no matter where you go, be careful what you say, how you say it and where you say it. Someone might just see a chance for a grand prize video!

The Saline Courier Editor-in-chief Brent Davis is a lifelong resident of Benton and Saline County. The Courier has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. He is a graduate of Benton High School. His column appears twice a week: on Fridays on Page 3 of The Saline Courier and on www.bentoncourier.com, and on the Opinion Page in Sunday’s edition of The Saline Courier. 
davisb@flash.net

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