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Dreaded Phrases

My friend’s Facebook post prompted many comments and stories. Mary Jo wrote, ‘Some dreaded phrases,’ and she listed a few. ‘Easy to assemble. Dry clean only. This won’t hurt a bit. Hold for the next available line.’

I immediately thought of Christmas gifts labeled easy to assemble and parents who never held a screwdriver until all the little ones were tucked in bed on Christmas Eve. I’ve heard stories of bicycles and dollhouses completed minutes before children jumped out of bed Christmas morning. Or not completed and Santa leaving a note saying, “Your dad and mom will finish this. I had to travel around the world tonight. Love, Santa.”

‘This won’t hurt a bit’ goes hand-in-hand with a phrase I don’t like: it’s minor surgery. Maybe it’s simple and insignificant to the surgeon, but when I’m the patient lying on a back leather table and the doctor holds a knife, it’s not minor. It’s major to me, physically and emotionally.

‘Hold for the next available agent’ inspired similar phrases: please hold while I transfer your call and please hold because your call is important to us and the many instructions beginning with the word Press.  Does anyone else become frustrated hearing computer-generated instructions? Press 1 for store hours. Press 2 for the store address. Press 3 to inquire about your order. Press 4 to speak with someone in billing. Press 5 to speak with someone in repair. Only a few times, have I been patient enough to hear, “Press 0 to speak to a store representative.”

Oh, for the days when a person answered business calls and then answered questions. I don’t like being placed on hold, but I do appreciate the opportunity to leave my phone number with the promise of a return call because most calls have been returned in a short time.

Other dreaded phrases relate to driving: one lane for the next 49 miles and road construction ahead. But I have to throw in some road signs I don’t like to see, but make me chuckle. Slow People Working. Danger Men Working.

And there are preambles we don’t want to hear. I hope I don’t make you mad, but ____. You don’t want to hear this, but ____. Those make me think of a day when Son, then age 16, came home one summer afternoon and said, “Mom, I gotta’ tell you something you won’t like.” Parents of teenagers know my sick feeling when my heart hit my stomach. He talked about the recent non-stop rain and flooding and heavy winds and I envisioned a wrecked car. When he finally said that the huge oak tree outside my school classroom window had uprooted and lay on the ground, I was sad, greatly relieved, and mostly touched that he knew how I loved watching that tree through the seasons.

Mary Jo, thanks for letting me use your post as a column springboard. It took me on a mind journey.

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