pop go the bullet points

bullet points
Skitterphoto / Pixabay

Soundtrack in my head:  The Church, “Tantalized” 

I’ve looked back at my first four entries in this journal and realize that I can be quite wordy.  Which makes sense because that’s how I speak as well.  I tend to paint pictures with my words, leaving no corner of the canvas untouched.  Over the course of many years, I’ve discovered that my speaking style produces two possible reactions in people 1) intrigued interest, or  2) a desire to tear the eyeballs out of one’s own head.  There seems to be no in-between. People in the latter category want bullet points.

Some of my speaking style comes from the fact that I have a little problem with word retrieval.  The perfect word doesn’t always come out right away, so I start to paint a little picture. Sort of like charades or Pictionary.

In some ways, it’s probably good that the perfect words don’t come right away.  Somewhere in a parallel universe, there is a storehouse of witty comebacks and withering replies that came to me five minutes too late.  I can almost imagine God grabbing hold of my tongues and saying, “Trust me on this one.  You’ll thank me later.”

Once, during a co-op house meeting, a housemate calculated the average length of time it for each house member to speak.  She then wrote the results in our house journal. (Many co-ops have a large blank book where people can write pretty much anything they want, but will often talk about house-related issues.) and next to each of our names, she recorded the results and left a blank space for each of us to comment.  I was the second-longest speaker.  Unrepentant, I wrote, “I want to be paid by the word.”

I understand the value of brevity, I can turn that skill on when I have to. Okay not always. Um, maybe a lot less than always. But sometimes I’d rather spit out teeth than speak in bullet points.  Garrison Keillor in his Prairie Home Companion show once made a joke about the “James Joyce School of Business Memo Writing.”  I’d be their star professor.  Think about it this way–bullet points are a recent phenomenon in the English language which is why they’re not called arrow points or spear points.  If bullet points were a natural part of the spoken English language, people would make popping noises before every point made.

I’m not knocking clarity in writing-. I’ve written enough business memos, fundraising letters and grants to know what will be the most effective in getting my point across to other people.  It’s just that in this age of information overload and packed calendars and people who have to pick up the kids from volleyball practice at 6 p.m., many people are intolerant of anything but the straight facts in the most distilled form possible.  That’s fine, but I think communication begins to lose a bit of character when that happens too much, and our world becomes more dull and colorless.

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This past Monday, December 26th marked three years since I first moved to Madison, after spending most of my life in Chicago.  I started out as a part-time resident here and became a full-time resident a month later.  I’ll tell the story sometime…

But the other significant milestone happened this past Christmas Day, in that our family celebrated its last Christmas in Chicago.  My parents just bought a house in Albuquerque, NM and will be moving there this summer.  This is kind of a huge milestone because the center of my family’s universe has been Chicago for a few generations.  Both of my grandmothers grew up on the South Side, my grandfather moved up there from Mississippi in the 1930’s, and we have many second and third cousins in the area.  But one by one, my family started evacuating the area, to the Detroit area, to Madison, to, um, the next world.  And now Albuquerque.  Only my sister and a few cousins will remain in Chicago.  I like Albuquerque, it’s like a second home to me.  But Madison’s my first home right now.  After three years, I can definitely say that I feel at home here.