Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra

May 28th, 2015 by Potato

I wonder how effectively I’ll be able to communicate with Blueberry as she grows up. I mean, so much of the way we communicate is based on shared experiences, which was accelerated in an age of cable TV. So many people my age watched so much of the Simpsons that quotes from the show are an integral part of our lexicon (“I bent my wookie.” “Boo-urns.” “The goggles do nothing!”). Indeed, Scott Meyers mentioned this effect in Magic 2.0: Off to Be the Wizard. With my friends it’s even worse, we can communicate almost exclusively in quotes and imitations from various shows and movies.

It reminds me of that Star Trek: TNG episode Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, where Picard has to communicate with aliens through references to stories and metaphor.

On one level, she’ll be coming into a different world: she’ll likely never use a command-prompt OS, the mystery of bigfoot and UFOs will be so much less viable, and she’s already started learning how to read and write on a computer before she can even write the alphabet by hand. She may never know what it’s like to memorize facts just because encyclopedias aren’t always at hand/searchable. It will be different. Although there is a chance she’ll pick up my crazy language on the fly, knowing that “SPOOOOOOON!” is just something you say before doing something heroic, even without knowing the source.

Of course, I already have that Darmok and Jalad issue with Wayfare, who should be fully versed in shared pop culture lexicon. Through the winter she was constantly nagging and harassing helpfully reminding me about putting my boots on the mat at the front door. “Arrgh!” She’d exclaim randomly, “how many times have I told you, put your boots on the mat! I’m tired of stepping in puddles!” So I’d apologize, obviously thinking I forgot or something, then go check and see that my boots were indeed on the mat. Squarely, securely, indisputably on the mat. Oh, maybe she moved them for me, I’d think — next time I will definitely be conscious when I pull my boots off after coming in. Then it would happen again, and again, and I went down to see what the problem was with her. And there, despite her complaining, were my boots, sitting as neatly as could be on the mat.

“They are on the mat!”

“No!” she said, “Put them on the mat! THE MAT!”

“Look Mr. Burns, I don’t know what you think sideburns are, but…” and she just didn’t get the reference, even though it was the perfect Simpsons allegory for this particular issue.

Eventually she picked up the boots, and put them on the plastic tray and I was like “oooh, you meant the tray.”

So I don’t know if Blueberry is ever going to get that sideburns reference. But there is hope: she knows that a TARDIS goes “bwwwfff kkkkk kkkk kkkk” [I am not good at onomonopias], and I will shortly be teaching her the Transformers sound for shape changes. Of course, maybe I shouldn’t hope for too much, as it provides us old folks with a secret language all our own for when she figures out how to spell things. For instance, how do you discuss what to have for dinner without having the toddler lock in on one option and dominating the choice?

“Let’s order something in. What do you want?”
“No, we had that one the weekend. Ludicrous speed? What’s the matter Colonel Sanders?”
“No, the Pentavritim is just too far away. Look at all your different coloured hats?”
“Yes! Sandwiches!”
Blueberry: “Sandwiches?! With cheese, and cucumbers, and cheese, and buns!”
“And now there’s no backsies on sandwiches.”

But as much as I’m a little nostalgic and concerned that her youth will be different from mine, making it hard to relate, I’m also a kind of excited about her future. She is turning out to be quite shy — possibly just as shy as I was, maybe even moreso. So maybe she’ll be a bit socially awkward, but she won’t have to wait until she’s 15 for email to get big, or 18 for ICQ to be invented. I also know that she’s clever (beyond just a daddy’s pride) and in today’s society I don’t think she will ever be called a nerd except as a complement. I don’t think kids these days even know “four-eyes” as hate speech.

Not all the new experiences she has will be for the best, but at least she will always know that I am a robot sent from the future.

One Response to “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”

  1. Netbug Says:

    I’ll bet she’ll never have to drive a car either.