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Life out here by Bret Kofford: A time for speaking up

June 19, 2002

People really need to speak up these days.

People are not addressing me with adequate volume anymore, and the problem seems to be getting worse and worse.

I find it puzzling that as our world gets faster and louder people tend to speak with less force with each passing year.

"Excuse me," I find myself saying several times a day.

"Could you repeat that?" I ask politely often.

"Pardon," I intone way too much in the new millennium.

Just the other day, on the way back from San Diego, the kid said something from the back seat, apparently to me.

I cranked down the always cranked-up rock 'n' roll, looked in the rearview mirror at the boy and said, "Pardon me?"

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He hesitated to repeat himself.

"Come on, tell me what you said," I implored.

"I'm not chalking with you anymore because you're growing heft," he said.

Even though he is a teen and I am getting more and more accustomed to not understanding him, I was baffled by what he said to me. He and I had only chalked the driveway once, as far as I could remember, and maybe the baseball fields two or three times, so it was never a big thing between us. And as for my growing heft, well, that is true but it has been going on for years and I didn't see what it had to do with chalking or what was going on at the moment in the car.

It just didn't make sense and I needed clarity. So I turned down the alternative rock a little more and again looked in the rearview mirror and said, "What did you say?"

For some reason he looked frustrated.

"I said I'm not talking to you anymore because you are going left," he said as he raised his voice a tad.

Even though I actually wasn't drifting left in the car, this made more sense, because he is a young teen and starting to get a keen interest in driving. Appreciative of his positive contribution to the well-being of the trip, I said, "Thanks for the input" and smiled at him in the mirror. He just rolled his eyes, shook his head and looked out the window.

Kids these days.

Here's a related thing: People really need to quit mumbling so much these days.

"Diction," I want to scream way too often.

"Speak clearly," I fight myself from imploring at many with whom I interface.

"Enunciate," I want to announce to the mumbling masses.

Early one morning last week, Sports Editor Richard Montenegro said something to me across the newsroom. I didn't understand what he said, so I said, "Excuse me. I didn't hear you."

He repeated himself, a bit more tersely.

"Did I bang her in the manger of course to get over my aging problem?" I asked.

I thought nothing I would hear from Rich ever again could shock me, but this provocative, uncalled-for query set me aback.

"What kind of question is that, you sick man?" I mumbled, keeping my remark to myself because Big Rich often threatens to deck me.

He then repeated himself, finally speaking with the clarity he had needed from the start.

"No, idiot, I was saying did you ever take an anger-management course to get over your anger problem," he said.

"No, I just worked on it on my own," I responded, thinking the course that Rich needs is not anger management but enunciation. (Not that an anger management course would be a bad thing.)

Here's another related thing: The people who run the television networks seem to turn down the sound more each season.

"Give me that clicker and let me turn that up," I say to the family when I walk in the room.

"Why do you listen to the TV so low?" I say to the wife regularly.

"Why is there a buzzing, sort of a low hum, on so many channels now?" I say to anyone around willing to listen, including the dog, who supposedly can hear highs and lows better than us.

Here's one last matter of concern: People just don't like to rock anymore.

Often people get in my car, and if I have left the radio on, when the car starts up they jump as if they have been startled by the radio volume. To me it sounds perfect, even a tad low, but many people act as if they are offended by a little hard rock these days. I guess some people are just getting older and mellowing, while I am staying young and vibrant and keeping all my faculties.

If you think I am right on all this stuff I've mentioned about not people speaking up and mumbling and the network television sound being too low with a buzzing and people losing the rock 'n' roll spirit, give me a call.

But when you do call, speak up. The volume on my phone seems to be getting lower and lower every day.

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