Day 27: YES/NO

“Today you are not allowed to use the words »yes« or »no«. See just how long you last.”

The easy way out of this would have been to use synonyms, like “yeah” and “nope” or “yarp” and “narp” – but that seemed, well, too easy. It seemed like the point was not just not using certain words, but not thinking in terms of affirmation or denial at all, and embracing instead uncertainty, hesitation, deferral, indeterminacy – putting all the day’s “yes or no” questions into a Schrödinger’s box, as it were, and seeing what the answers were on the morrow.

Amazingly, I managed to make it nearly eight hours without saying “yes,” “no,” or any synonym thereof – that’s 480 minutes, nearly 30,000 seconds. As I said – AMAZING. Of course, I was asleep for most of that time, and I said “no” for the first time within ten minutes of getting out of bed – before I’d even had a cup of coffee. Not so amazing.

The rest of the day hasn’t been much better – I’ve said “no” at least a dozen times, and the day’s not over yet. This is, I think, largely because I’ve been home all day, and most of my verbal communication has been with the kids or the dogs – because they outnumber my wife 4 to 1, and nobody else was around today – and, well, I say “NI” “no” to the lot of them with some frequency (“yes” gets said much less often).

I kept getting caught off guard: questions asked when I was reading, dogs jumping in my lap and licking my face, stubborn children who won’t take “NO” for an answer no matter how many times you say it (but you keep saying it, like somehow it’ll work the next time). If I was thinking about it, I could (mostly) avoid saying the words-that-must-not-be-spoken – but I was generally thinking about something else (the taxes, what I’m doing in class tomorrow, Luther, how I’d rather be taking a nap, &c).

It was hopeless from the start – which, probably, was the point. Like the Game, there’s no winning; you just have to postpone losing as long as possible.

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