Finding new planets is nice, but I’ll take a translator, please

Categorized as Grounds for Insanity column, Rhonda's Posts

In science news, a team of researchers has announced an exciting discovery. Using the Kepler Space Telescope, the team, which includes a Notre Dame professor, has found a planet slightly larger than Earth that “possibly could support life.”

Hold the phone. Before you ring them up with eager inquiries about field trips, just breathe. Put your head between your knees and count to 10 because there won’t be tours any time soon. This as-of-yet unnamed planet is 500 light years away, and a light year, we all know, is a mere 6 trillion miles. George Jetson, where are you?

As exhilarating as the idea of a new planet is, I must confess that my first response was a baffled, “Huh.” This was followed by the observation that as the only female here, I’ve been straddling two planets for years. This, of course, was not noted aloud, but was whispered under my breath during a rare millisecond of quietness and solitude.

If you have raised boys, had a sibling that was a boy, married a boy, or know a boy, you’ll know what I mean. At times, it appears that there are 500 light years between the species. When half of the human race believes that leaving socks and underwear on the floor is a reasonable method of inventory (“that way, I know how many are in my drawer”), you know. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, and there are aliens on your little planet.

The truth becomes clear as Waterford crystal when one attempts interplanetary communication of any sort. Mostly, there’s a lot of static interspersed with grunts (them), squawks (me) and some Oscar-worthy charades. If you don’t believe me, you should join us at the dinner table where one night, a great belch issued forth. When I did the mom thing and squealed, the burper said, “In China, that would be a compliment.” And then beamed as though he’d done something helpful and great.

On my planet, I prefer words. I will always prefer words over startling blasts from masculine pipes. Oh, and speaking of that, we return now to the fresh and exciting discovery of Planet X all those light years away.

Seeing as how this is so new and all, scientists do not yet know if it has an atmosphere and say that if it does, “It probably has a lot of carbon dioxide.”

This small and concerning variable prompted the following warning from Ms. Kallenegger, an astronomer with the Harvard and Max Planck Institute, “Don’t take off your breathing mask if you ever land there.”

Now I know what sign to erect on The Three. “Don’t take off your breathing mask when you land here, especially if she’s serving burritos.” I would add, “Failure to comply may result in burning eyes, desperate wheezing and foggy thinking,” but that would make a long sign.

Meanwhile, as I oversee construction of the sign, I can’t help but wonder what other barriers could be broken and innovations, well, innovated by the amazing creativity of our scientists. If they can find new planets, why can’t they break new ground in the area of interplanetary communications, hmm? Can’t they invent some sort of translation device that could be installed at birth?

For girl babies, I’m seeing a cute, little pink box that will translate for males what is really being said. Clearly, this is a touchy, complex issue just fraught with relational land mines. For instance, when a woman says, “Does this make me look fat?” she’s not really wanting to hear that she’s got residual baby weight following her around. Or that all those pounds she lost earlier have found her again and brought a few of their friends.

If we’d put our A team on this, and I mean the top-drawer folks, they could tweak the design, adding in some appropriate (read “safe”) responses for a fellow to choose from. This should not be too hard for the nation that put a man on the moon in the first place. It shouldn’t.

For baby boys, they can drop those big, expensive telescopes long enough to come up with a rugged, blue box for installation. This would translate the various monosyllabic grunts and all that other stuff into words that women can work with.

What a brave, new world we’d have right here. What a happy, happy planet. Imagine if a burp said, “That was a fabulous meal. You are a queen among women, and your knack with a skillet is unrivaled.” Imagine being hit with the fat question and knowing how to answer without lying like a heathen (that’s bad) while keeping the marriage intact (that’s good).

Here in America, we believe in big ideas; in the pioneering spirit. We explore new frontiers all the time. We take risks. We dream big. We “push west.” Yes, we do.

Kudos to our scientists. And cheers to finding new planets. But don’t stop now. Down here, we’re still struggling to interpret, trying for peace. All of that while wearing those masks.

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