Clarity is incredibly important in communication. Without clarity, words are just so much babble.
The first time I went to New York City, we were staying in New Jersey with Frank and Marilyn Thorne. Frank Thorne is best known for his comic book work on Red Sonya for Marvel in the seventies. He’s also known for the adult comic Ghita of Alizarr as well as a number of other adult titles. In the fifties, he started illustrating newspaper comic strips. Last I heard he was still writing and drawing out of his home in Scotch Plains at nearly eighty years old. He’s sort of a legend in comic book circles and he happens to look like Santa Claus. Long white hair, long white bread, round glasses, generous laugh. Put him in the red suit and you suddenly feel like you should have been better all year. Then you remember what he does for a living. His wife Marilyn is also a legend, mostly for being the most patient living human. Her husband is a pornographer and she plays organ for her church.
When we went to the city, Frank was going drop us at the train station in the morning and at the end of the day when we were ready to leave, we were to call him so he could meet the train. He told us to buy our tickets and wait on the platform, the train would be along in about fifteen minutes. His instructions had to be very specific because my then-husband and I hail from the sticks. The actual sticks. When I say I grew up across the street from a cornfield, I mean there was a cornfield out my bedroom window. This was many, many years before I mastered the subway system in Seoul, South Korea so I’m pretty sure I was wearing my best deer in the headlights look that morning.
We bought out tickets and went to wait on the platform as instructed. A train pulled in about three minutes later. My husband and I looked at each other. Was this the train? Frank said it would be fifteen minutes. We better wait. We don’t want to get on the wrong train. Who knows where we could end up. The station we were at was about halfway between New York and Newark. What we had seen of Scotch Plains was quite nice and the smidge of Plainfield was nice as well, but at some point we’d been through a section of Sayerville that made me want to lock all the car doors and hide under the seat. In retrospect, it might have been the area we were visiting. Frank wanted to show us “the largest concentration of strip clubs in America.” On a two block stretch, there were four. Still the risk of getting on the wrong train was too high.
Back to the platform. A conductor got off the train and started walking toward us shouting, “New – AWWWWK.” It sounded less like speech and more like he’d started to say something and someone had stomped on a sensitive part of his anatomy. We debated. Was he saying New York or Newark? Our sense of direction wasn’t tuned to this particular part of the world and we hadn’t paid much attention to the signs on the way up. My husband walked over to the conductor and said, “Excuse me, are you saying New York or Newark?”
The conductor looked him straight in the eye, from eighteen inches away and bellowed –
Just then, Frank comes running down the platform, white beard flapping over his shoulder, waving both hands at the train yelling, “This is your train! Get on the train!”
So you see, clarity in communication is essential. Without it you might end up making Santa Claus run down a train platform shouting at you to get on the train.