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Monday, February 27, 2017

"Wayne is ok!"

I found a yellow post-it note near the laundry room, stuck up on the glass that said "Thursday / Wayne is OK! I put him in the trees along the creek.  Cyndy."

This seems to call for some textual analysis. First of all, "Wayne" and the pronoun "him" suggest a male. Wayne, in the first instance, seems to be the name of a person, but what kind of person would one put in the trees? An able-bodied adult would not need to be put anywhere.  An infant or small child, or disabled or elderly adult, is not someone you would place in the woods either, and then confess to on a post-it note.

Wayne could be the name of an animal. We only give names to domesticated animals, generally speaking, but Wayne is somehow too human-sounding a name for a dog or cat. You wouldn't leave a dog or cat out in the woods either. There are leash laws. And if one was concerned about the welfare of this dog named Wayne, who may have been lost or "not ok" at some point, then leaving him in the trees would not be a logical act. Then maybe he would be no longer "ok," if some harm came to him there. With another kind of domesticated animal, leaving him in the woods makes no sense--a hamster or iguana or snake say. How could one ever find Wayne again?

The communicative implicatures here convey a shared concern with the well-being of "Wayne." Cyndy is reassuring the recipient of the note that Wayne is not harmed, or no longer ill, with an explanation mark  conveying some sense of relief.  But couldn't some new harm come to Wayne in the trees by the creek? The helplessness implied by needing to be taken to the trees seems in contradiction with the ability to survive a stay in the woods. (There are some woods near by, in fact.) Maybe, by now, Wayne is no longer ok.

Cyndy is the name of our apartment manager, though I don't remember if she spells it that way. The note was stuck to the glass near the door where one goes down to do laundry. It has been there several days but I only was curious enough to read it today. I could ask Cyndy (if it is the same Cyndy) if Wayne is really ok, but that seems foolish. The intended recipient of the note may or may not have read it, since it is still in public view. (Today it is Monday and the note says Thursday.) Maybe the message of reassurance was conveyed some other way as well.

There must be some other explanation that I am not seeing. If Wayne were the name of a plant, one could plant him in the woods, but that does not explain the message of reassurance and the implied danger. We can probably rule out inanimate objects.  

The most elegant explanation, perhaps, is that the verb "put" should really be "found."  That Cyndy miswrote the verb, for some reason.  Wayne, presumably an animal, has been found. You wouldn't use a post-it note to talk about the finding of human infant or elderly person in the woods. There are people here whose language is not English, most Chinese, but they do not have dogs and would be unlikely to name them "Wayne" if they did.


Jonathan said...

I'm thinking of this as a fake Lydia Davis story. It is not here style because I don't have that kind of limpid prose.

Thomas said...

My hypothesis: Wayne is a wild animal, perhaps a bird, found injured, and nursed back to health by Cyndy, the apartment manager. Wayne was given to Cyndy by someone in the apartment complex, whose name she didn't get, or couldn't remember. Perhaps Wayne was already named (a charismatic squirrel or duck) which is also why he was was picked after he was wounded. Or perhaps he just looked like a "Wayne" to the two Samaritans as they discussed what to do. In any case, Cyndy promised to see what she could do. Wayne soon recovered and Cyndy knew he had to be released back into the wild as soon as possible, so as not to get domesticated, and a good distance from her apartment.

Jonathan said...

That might work. I might have thought of that if I had a few more days to think about it.