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Lunchtime language: Same words, different menus

Learn, young grasshoppers, from the wisdom of an old widower: The reason communication can be so difficult in marriage is that while we use the same words, we speak different languages.

I learned this many decades ago when I had the morning off, didn’t feel like cooking and had no money. I called my wife at her work and invited myself to lunch.

“You pick the place,” I cooed.

“Walmart,” she said. “They’ve just stocked a new shipment of this season’s line of clothing.”

Humor is essential in marriage. Usually, I was the one popping off with the stupid jokes, but this proved that she also was great for a quip or two.

“Sure,” I chuckled. “Let’s go ‘shopping.'”

I gulped when she pulled into the Walmart parking lot. Then I remembered the little restaurant inside the store. She had me going there for a couple of seconds. I could play along.

“This is exciting,” I said. “I could use a new shirt.”

I inhaled the mouth-watering aroma of the chicken breast sandwich — or was it the chili dog calling me? — as we walked by the snack bar. And kept on walking.

“Look,” my wife chirped. “These blouses are marked down to $10. Which one do you like better? Maybe we should get both.”

What a joker.

She tossed the garments in a cart and wheeled away to the next sales rack.

“Oooh, wouldn’t this look good?” she teased. “And look at those darling purses over there…”

OK, I could play these games too, even on an empty stomach. A shirt on the men’s sales rack caught my eye. True, $5 was more than I cared to pay for just a shirt, but it appealed to my fine sense of fashion. It was flannel. Blue. With red splotches on it.

“Look,” I said. “A shirt. I picked it out all by myself. Done. Let’s go eat.”

“Oh, a Southwestern print,” my wife said.

“No, it’s flannel. Blue. With red things on it. And it will be too big for me if we don’t get some lunch soon. I’m wasting away.”

But she already was in the shoe aisles. My stomach and I were getting suspicious. She hadn’t used the word “shopping” in playfulness or as a code word. We weren’t here to eat. This was SHOPPING.

“What happened?” she said. “You’ve gotten quiet. Aren’t you enjoying yourself?”

“We’re shopping,” I said. “For clothes.”

“You seemed OK when we first got here. You even picked out a Southwestern print.”

“Flannel shirt,” I grumbled. Or maybe it was my tummy that rumbled.

Had it been one of my buddies who said, “Meet me at Walmart and we’ll go shopping,” that would have been a silly code phrase for, “Let’s go eat.”

Then again, no. We wouldn’t use code involving shopping even as a joke. That’s too scary. We would have said, “Let’s go eat.”

A couple burgers later, we might want to go “lookit” something, as in “You wanna go lookit the lawn tractors?” or “You wanna go lookit the snack foods? Hey, lookit that grill!”

We “lookit.” We don’t shop.

Well, we might come home with a new tractor or a powerful grill. Or a family size bag of Oreos. But first, we’d eat. Then lookit.

My wife shopped. Then it was time for her to go back to work. Without eating.

She left revived and invigorated. I left for Taco Bell. I had found enough change in the cupholder for a chicken burrito to tide me over until I got home to build a couple peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches.

I dripped taco sauce on my new flannel shirt. The shirt was blue. With a couple new red splotches on it.

Go shopping with Cole at burton.w.cole@gmail.com or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.

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