Point of No Return: Being the odd man out of a conversation is no fun

Have you ever been in close proximity to two people having a conversation in a language with which you are unfamiliar, and felt like there’s a good possibility that not only are you the subject of what they are discussing, but you’re also not being talked about in a glowing manner?

To be fair, my personality alone often leads to less-than-flattering conversations about me by others, so that’s an easy assumption to hold, in my case. But there are times when all the cumulative hours I have spent on various poker tables over the course of my lifetime allow me to pick up on little “tells” from people, even if they aren’t speaking the same language as me. You know, things like an increased pulse rate you can detect by observing one’s neck, or an unwillingness to look directly at me or two people standing up, pointing their fingers inches away from my face and breaking into insane laughter as one mimicks the shape of my head while the other holds his or her nose and points to my armpits while...

But I digress.

I found myself in one of these situations earlier this week. There I was, wiping away a sad little tear as I stared at yet another depressing salad in front of me, and I could hear a conversation clearly taking place right next to me. While I was not familiar enough with the language the two were speaking to say for sure what they were saying, I was able to pick up on a few words that sounded pretty close to English. I eventually looked up from a sad piece of lettuce covered in an equally-sad layer of fat-free dressing, and both individuals quickly started laughing — as if they were caught red-handed doing something they were not supposed to be doing.

Oh, they were both toddlers. I should have probably led with that.

Yes, my 3-year-old daughter, Riley, was in full-conspiracy mode with her lifelong buddy, Jack Lyons, and it seemed for all intents and purposes that the two were sharing a laugh at my expense. Paranoid? Perhaps. But I follow the evidence wherever it takes me.

And the evidence was pointing at two little knuckleheads picking on a pathetic old man who was already being taunted by a bowl of grass and beans sitting in front of him.

For the record, I can carry on a conversation with each of these little bullies with no problems — as long as I’m dealing with them individually. Jack loves to talk to me about trucks and dump trucks and pickup trucks and... Did I mention that Jack likes trucks? Riley, on the other hand, is more about alligators and dinosaurs and snakes and all other things slimy and disgusting. Both of them like to laugh, and it is a blast to watch the two of them go from one toy to another, happily playing in peace.

But they seem to have their own language when they are talking with one another. Sure, as I mentioned earlier, there appears to be some English mixed in to their conversations, but it seems to me as an outsider that they’ve developed a system to communicate that focuses largely on made-up words, frenzied speech patterns and, perhaps, a shared enjoyment of driving me crazy.

“Are you two talking about me?” I asked, with only a hint of fear in my otherwise-undeniable masculine tone.

Giggles. A few shared stares at each other. More giggles.

“Riley, talk to me. Are you and Jack picking on me?”

“Xcjynoidkl brzechieftyn bald sjgsul fat.”

“Did you just call me bald and fat?”

“No, Daddy. I love you.”

“Oh, well, thank you. I love you, too, Princess.”

“Dshyicvty lrzny pxtfvjkr dummy.”

“Jack, did you call me a dummy?”

“No, Uncle Darin.”

“Sorry. I guess I’m just being paranoid.”

“Dvbnysizdt brekgka loser.”

“Did you call me a loser?

That was greeted by laughter from both of them and they went back to casually picking from their plates while talking more in “Toddler-ese.”

Steam rose from my head (though not, I should point out, from my very cold and excruciatingly-boring salad), but I decided to just act like a grown person and ignore my knee-high tormenters. I asked my wife how her day was going, hoping to distract myself from the harsh reality that I was being taunted by two people who can’t vote, drive a motor vehicle or use real scissors.

“Good,” she answered. “The two of them have been playing well together all day.”

“Kdrtythsksu nhsd beautiful,” said Riley.

“Rthdyusinolp foklksp and smart,” added Jack.

“Well, that was nice of both of you,” I offered. “Yes, she is beautiful and smart.”

“Trghysicdkl Klkjdncydtres old man river.”

“What did you say, Riley?”

“I love you, Daddy.”

“Oh, I love you, too.”

“Fghsbkdlky dkrjdy what a doofus.”

“Did you just call me a doofus, Jack?”

“No. I said you are handsome.”

“Oh. You too, buddy.”

I was beginning to think that this was maybe all made up in my head. How could these two little angels resort to name calling and bullying? That’s crazy. I’m seeing things that don’t exist. It’s paranoia, bourne from some sense of...

“Skdjghyisla ding dong.”


By Darin J. McCann
Executive Editor