Lost in Translation

By Ariel
a dock looking out over a river and trees

Lost in Translation

I was shocked but trying not to show it. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that my friend Susan was taken aback also. I had driven Susan on Saturday afternoon to one of my favorite places for walking, Old River Road, near Riegelsville, New Jersey. This stretch of road winds along the Delaware River, an area I had serendipitously found one day while accompanying Shya. He had gone fishing near the boat launch there and I had taken a walk. Now this rustic area, filled with giant trees, has become one of Shya and my favorite destinations for walking in the country. Farms, deer, ospreys, large overhanging trees, even old houses from the 1700s flank the road. On warm nights in summer, there are fireflies in profusion, a natural fireworks display.

old red barn surrounded by trees


On this particular day, I parked near the boat launch and as Susan and I stepped out of the car, I spied three men down on the dock fishing. I thought it might be fun to see what they were catching that day, so we walked over and struck up a conversation.

rustic signage for a boat ramp

Clearly the guys were having fun, drinking beer and hanging out. We talked about what they were fishing for, about bait and whether or not they would be taking some home for dinner if they were successful or if they were practicing catch and release. Suddenly one of the men started laughing and announced, “Yeah, my girlfriend took a dump in the river today.”

Okay, that pronouncement was a shock. It had me immediately envisioning a gal pulling down her pants, squatting in the water and using the river as a toilet. I could tell by Susan’s widening eyes that her train of thought and mental pictures were mirroring mine.

Why is he telling us this? I thought. Why would he want people to know she pooped in the river?

sign for a historic ferry hanging on a tree

The man chuckled as he continued, “She dropped her keys and got her cell phone wet, too.”

Slowly another picture replaced the first less savory one. When he said his girlfriend “took a dump”, what he actually meant was that she fell in the river.

a dock looking out over a river and trees

My mind naturally translated what this guy said into my frame of reference – into what I thought or assumed he meant – and my interpretation was wildly inaccurate. This was a fun reminder that listening includes letting go of my mental pictures in order to hear what is really being said.

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