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Subject: Two-Way Conversation

Management sends a memo to African greys Parker and Pepper wondering what it would be like to hear their thoughts.

Patricia Sund

Memo: To Parker & Pepper
Dept: African Greys
From: Management
Subject: Two-Way Conversation

I find your interruptions to be of interest and, although I occasionally find them unsettling, they do add to the evening. Parker, you have a tendency to add a bit of a comment here and there. It’s sometimes very witty; however, jumping right into the middle of a discussion Bill and I are having is a bit, well, not very polite. I’m not sure you have that much to add to a discussion of the economy or diplomatic relations with China.

Pepper, you seem to be taking the "interruption bit” in your beak as well, and you’ve begun to add a comment or two when we are having a conversation. I just wish I knew what it was that you are contributing.

Two-Way Conversation,

I was watching a documentary the other day about a married couple, both deaf, who decided to have cochlear implants to allow them to hear for the first time in their lives. Of course my imagination carried me away, and I wondered what it would be like to have an earpiece or ear buds that allowed me to understand what you were thinking or saying. Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Now I may be the only one, but I have had a dream or two where I sit and have a conversation with you two. This was most likely prompted from finishing up Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s memoir Alex and Me. As strange as it was, and like all dreams that seem to make sense when you’re having them, it just didn’t seem all that far-fetched. When I woke up, I was thinking, "My, haven’t we just gone off the deep end?”

After contemplating this for a while, perhaps it is best that I don’t know what you mean to say all of the time.

If I could understand you, would you be complaining to me about the menu selection for the day?  ("Aww! Mixed Bean Barcelona again!”) Would you be ordering me around, demanding more shoulder time, neck scritches and almonds?  ("All those cool tricks for one lousy half an almond? Geez, you’re stingy!”)

Would you be instructing me how to make a better toy for you ("More leather ...”) or asking to be read to? I can see where this comprehension might get out of hand during your showers with you commenting, "Next time the water should be cooler, I was sweating like a hog in there ...” or "You know, it’s kind of bright in the bathroom. Have you thought about installing track lighting?”

Afternoons in the sun on the porch would abruptly end with, "Mommmm! We’re hungry! When’s dinner?”

And there would be the inevitable early morning, "Waaaaake up! I gotta use the wastebasket!”

Taking you to the pub might prove to be problematic with me wearing ear buds and responding to you two and your incessant not-heard-by-normal-human-ears remarks. People would observe me saying to you, "Parker, put down that straw, and don’t be insulting to that lady. She looks just fine.” Or "Pepper, how many times have I told you not to swear at the server? Your french fry will get here when it’s good and ready!” I don’t think that would go over too well, and I shudder to imagine what you would say about Mattie the dog.

Perhaps it is better that nature designed you to communicate just the way you do already. We communicate tolerably as it is. That is, until you destroy something. Just something to think about.

— Management 

Previous Memo: Wired 

Read more "Memos to Parker & Pepper" here.

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Posted: April 10, 2014, 5:00 p.m. PDT

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