Reading Between the Lines

Over the last week or two, I’ve spent a fair amount of time at work wading through policy manuals. As such, I’ve become well-versed in deducing the many assumptions behind a seemingly straightforward and simple statement.

This has applications apart from the daily grind, as well. For instance, take the slogan of a local radio station, one geared toward adults and showcasing “songs that are easy to sing along to, by artists like Phil Collins, Céline Dion, Gloria Estefan, and Rod Stewart.”

Now, proceeding from the assumption that this sentiment is grounded in some sort of reality and not one of the most preposterous things I’ve ever heard, I can quickly discern the underlying caveats that would make it true in my own life.

1) I’m in a carpool that typically consists of me and four cast members from The Hills, post-LC.

2) They’re all off this week doing something simultaneously inconsequential and terrible, so I temporarily hook up with Phil, Céline, Gloria, and Rod, thinking: “Hey, it can’t be any worse than hearing Audrina talk about Justin Bobby.”

3) Everything seems to be going OK as I pick them up one at a time, with Rod’s house the last stop on my route. However, I’m barely out of his driveway when the four of them inexplicably burst into an a cappella mash-up of “Sussudio,” the song from Titanic, “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” and “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” that would make the cast of Glee vomit. It’s almost like they were setting me up.

4) Realizing this, I shout out “Anyone want to listen to the radio?” and don’t wait for them to respond, cranking it to a level I’ve never even approached before in a desperate attempt to drown them out.

5) The knob breaks off in my hand.

6) “That’s fine,” I think. “I don’t listen to stations that play songs that are easy to sing along to, by artists like Phil Collins, Céline Dion, Gloria Estefan, and Rod Stewart. Sure my head is pounding from the excessive volume, but … wait a minute. What is this? ‘Because You Loved Me’? Where am I, a wedding?”

7) Then I remember: I stopped to get gas after picking up Phil but before getting Céline. He must have switched the station. “Collins,” I say through gritted teeth as I look at him in the rearview mirror and wonder again why he chose to sit in the backseat even though I went to him first.

8) They’ve abandoned the mash-up and started harmonizing on “Because You Loved Me.” Yelling over the radio, they ask me to join in because my look of abject horror is apparently killing the mood. I know I’m running out of options, so I shout back “I will, but only on one condition.” “Name it,” they scream in disturbing unison.

9) “Any Richard Marx comes on—‘Hold on to the Nights,’ ‘Right Here Waiting,’ whatever—that’s all me. Solo. I don’t care if I only know the chorus and hum the rest. You’ll listen, and that’s all you’ll do. Understand?”

10) “Deal,” they say, and we all pick up “Save the Best for Last” just as Vanessa Williams reminds us that sometimes, the snow does indeed come down in June.

11) “This is easy to sing along to,” I think, “with the knowledge that one of those haunting piano intros may be right around the corner. And then it will be my time to shine. All mine.”

(awkward pause)

I think I need to start going to bed earlier. Maybe eat more fiber. Something.

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