Many of our closest friends and associates from all walks of life fail to communicate effectively, both verbally and in print, and that is the topic of our discussion today.

How many times have you tried to nurse your computer back to health by following instructions that you’ve read online or written down during a phone call, only to fail miserably?

Our elderly friends will be glad to hear that failure does not mean that they should be packed off to a nursing home. Nor is it a reason to gnash your teeth, rend your garments and suspect that you are stupid.

The good news is that the person who wrote the instructions probably left out one or two simple steps, thinking that they are so self-evident that they didn’t need to be included in the directions.

Call back your computer guru friend to ask for more help and, more often than not, you’ll be told, “Well, everyone knows you have to push the shift button before you scroll.”

For years I have pondered the mystery of the expansion tank on my heating system. There is a rubber bladder in this expansion tank that allows the liquid in the pipes to safely expand when heated. How does one know if one has the correct air pressure in the expansion tank? Is the bladder leaking? You can’t see it.

My homemade solar water heater, which I’m always fine-tuning, is on the same pressurized system as the heat exchanger in my boiler, so my bladder problem has been a pain in my neck for some time.

Ask any number of plumbing gurus about checking the bladder, as I have. You might be told to “tunk” the tank with your finger and listen for a difference in tone. I finally solved my bladder problem when I read online that “Tank pressure needs to be tested by dropping the system pressure to 0 and then checking the tank. It should be around 12-17 lbs.”

If this is common knowledge, why should it have taken me 15 years to find a plumber who could answer my question?

The more you know about any operation, the more difficulty you have in teaching the process to others. I asked Pegg how to put up some pickled beets, and she said, “If you are using the old-fashioned jars with bails and rubber rings, do them as you always do.”

If I knew what I always do, would I have to ask how to do it?

Forty years ago, when Mary Webb would catch too many mackerel off a dock in Port Clyde, she’d often give some to me. And because I never wrote down how to do anything, every time I had mackerel, I’d ask Gladys Wiley in the trailer next door how long to cook them.

Gladys would say, “Until they’re done.”

I’d ask, “How do you know when they are done?”

“Oh, you can tell.”

When it comes to money, language tends to be more specific. The last time you asked a banker how much money he’d loan you, he probably didn’t say, “As much as you want.” We have no quarrel with the language of bankers.

There are, however, any number of self-improvement courses taught by self-anointed cult leaders who have capitalized on psychobabble: “It is not until you transcend a total denial of your subconscious that you can actualize yourself and achieve true happiness as a Real Person.”

Their disciples have emailed you cards of bunnies, flowers or sunsets and a few innocuous words: “To have a friend, be a friend.” The more words cult leaders can use to say nothing, the more some people pay to attend their lectures and buy their products.

Has your spouse ever said that you don’t listen? Most verbal exchanges occur in the home, so it is in the home where husbands are most likely to become befuddled. The process is initiated by a spouse who attempts to communicate with half-sentences.

It is my contention that husbands listen. Husbands hear and understand every word their wives say. Wives accuse husbands of not listening, only because husbands are not mind readers and wives are often stingy with their verbs.

A wife might say, “Coffee pot.” The husband immediately panics because he has only heard his wife say, “Coffee pot.” Is he supposed to wash it, pass it or pour it?

The last time my wife, Marsha, looked at me and said, “Coffee pot,” I said, “Well, what do you want me to do with it?” And she said, “My, that is tempting, isn’t it?”

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:

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