I was thinking yesterday not so much of miscommunication, exactly, as of ambiguity.

A customer called to ask for posters on DNA and evolution. It struck me that “a poster showing the process of evolution” was a tall order, but I was able to find him books with prepared transparencies depicting dinosaur family trees, diagrams illustrating natural selection, and stuff like that. When he arrived, I took him over to the biology area.

“We know it didn’t happen,” he assured me as I was showing him things in the biology area. “Evolution never happened.”

I was struck dumb. Obviously, I couldn’t say, “Who’s this ‘we’ — you got a mouse in your pocket?” or settle him down to review the theory of evolution and the evidence for it.

I contented myself with, “You want to teach it anyway?” Just trying to clarify the situation so I could help him find what he needed.

What he was after, he said, was a poster that would illustrate his anti-evolution talk. We naturally do not have anything actually designed to mock scientific theories, so I sold him his DNA poster and let it go at that.

I think, after consideration, that he actually wanted one of those ape-to-man pictures which are often parodied. I am not old enough to have seen the serious forerunner of the parody, if there ever was one, but this guy must have been expecting that our biology posters would include one.

In another example, #2 daughter has started part time at her new job, training. If I understand correctly, the training section consisted of someone’s showing her to her office and leaving her alone with nothing to do.

From the brief reports I’d had, it seemed possible that the other workers resented her and were shunning her, or that she had happened into an internal mess of some kind which no one was prepared to explain, or that her new boss was scatty in the extreme.

On the third day of this, she began cleaning and organizing things. “What are you doing?” the new boss asked in alarm. “Working,” said she. He thrust a stack of things at her and said that he wanted them to be computerized. “You remember we talked about the scanning thing?” he said.

It seems to me possible that he, being an older gentleman, could have thought that when, in the interview, he mentioned that he wanted his company to move into the 21st century, he had given her the information she needed.

“All this straw,” he figured he was saying to Rumplestiltskin, “I want it turned into gold.”

#2 daughter, being of a different generation, might have assumed that he meant he had some specific computer tasks for her to do. She might have thought he was saying, “I would like our current systems updated and streamlined.” She then would wait for some intimation of what the current systems were.

I don’t really know either what the poster shopper or the company owner wanted, but I always like to have a theory.