Mark Hartley, Editor
The story of our times is the numerous passwords we must remember. A historian will surely write, "In the late 20th Century, citizens were required to memorize an average of six passwords, ranging from four to 12 characters, in order to obtain information or services essential to their daily lives." I hope the scholar doesn`t leave out the part about the joy of choosing a word or numbers. That tricky search is for something you can remember that no one else can guess - no birthdays, telephone numbers, names of pets, or family members. Computer experts warn us repeatedly against making access too easy for hackers. Of course, the scholar may very well observe, "In many cases, nerdy computer programmers with an unhealthy pallor to their skin assigned passwords to many citizens."
I hope passwords decompose into fossils. I`m itching for a paleontologist to unearth one password assigned to me. I had to key in, "allsappy," in order to access a program. I kid you not. A programmer stuck a stiletto into my masculinity. I wanted something that evoked the Duke`s swagger, Harrison Ford`s determination, maybe even Sly Stallone`s ruthlessness. Nope. My password meant, "excessively sentimental, mawkish." As in Nathan Lane`s "Birdcage." The password made me indignant (but not weepy). I`m not all sappy, unless "It`s a Wonderful Life" is on.
I wannabe the Shark, Hawkeye, Turk, not "Drowns-Chipmunks-with-Weeping-Tears."
What would be your reaction if I showed up in your chair all sappy? What if I showed up rather ripe - gamy from three weeks on the Appalachian Trail? What if I slap my left knee everytime the phone rings in the office? What if I just spent the entire appointment frowning, which is what many hearing-impaired people do when talking with someone who wears a mask?
On page 14, Heidi Emmerling writes a very interesting article about all those cues about communication when words are missing, deceptive, or just plain confusing. I loved her anecdote about men finding a dime beside the telephones at the airport. Female psych students would walk up to the men to reclaim the dime. If the young women actually touched the guy, he was more likely to give them their dime back. I groaned with this yet another realization about how pathetic men are around women.
As interesting as the subject of "body language" is, Ms. Emmerling also reminds us how difficult it is to interpret. So many variables enter into simple postures, such as crossed arms, or expressions, such as a smile. According to researchers, a smiling Atlanta woman seeking first-time treatment from a Buffalo, N.Y., hygienist will cause the caregiver to wonder: "What the heck does she think is so funny?"
Smiles, though, represent the most pleasurable nonverbal communication for dental hygienists. So we mustn`t forget it. The patient is grinning, poking the doc in the ribs, doing a little gymnastics in the hallway. You`ve just informed them that they`re in perfect periodontal health. It`s the kind of nonverbal communication we live for.