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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Black (10/15/09)

TITLE: Failure to Communicate
By Becca Gossman


A lady was planning a week’s vacation in Florida, so she wrote to a campground and asked for a reservation. She wanted to make sure the campground was fully-equipped. Being old-fashioned she couldn’t bring herself to write the word “toilet” in her letter.

After much deliberation, she came up with “bathroom commode.” But when she wrote this down, she still thought she was too forward, so she rewrote the letter and referred to it as the B.C. “Does this campground have its own B.C.?” is what she wrote.

The campground owner wasn’t old-fashioned at all, and when he got the letter, he couldn’t figure out what she was talking about. That “B.C.” business stumped him. He came to the conclusion that she was asking about the location of the Baptist Church. He wrote the following reply:

“Dear Madam: I would like to inform you that there is a B.C. is nine miles north of the campground and can seat 200 people at one time.

“I admit it is quite a distance away if you are in the habit of going regularly, but you will be pleased to know that people often take their lunches along and make a day of it.

“There is a supper planned to buy more seats. I would like to say, it pains me very much not to go more regularly, but it is from no lack of desire on my part. As we grow older, it seems to be more of an effort.

“If you decide to come to our campground, perhaps I could go with you the first time and introduce you to the other folks. Sincerely.”

As Struther Martin said in Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

There is a failure of communication in many areas of our lives. For example, in describing a zebra I say that it has black-and-white stripes and looks like a horse. You may argue that it cannot be a zebra because a zebra has white-and-black stripes and looks like a donkey. I see it one way; you another. Yet, it is still a zebra. The zebra itself is not the problem; the problem is the failure of communication.

There are the jokes that go around: “What’s black and white, black and white, black and white?” the usual response is “a nun rolling down the stairs.” Or “what’s black and white and red all over?” Unless you heard this joke you might be stumped. But when you hear the punch line you will probably laugh and say, “Of course, a newspaper, why didn’t I think of that?” You may even ask, “But where’s the red?” The “red all over” came when one “read the newspaper.” A deliberate miscommunication.

When contemplating this dilemma of black and white, and its parallel to miscommunication, it occurred to me that when I add color to an idea or to a picture that I myself can cause a failure of communication.

Take in point colorized versions of black and white film classics. These classics and the impact of shadowing draw a viewer into the mood of the scene. Color distorts that mood.

One film in particular is ruined by this colorization process: It’s A Wonderful Life. George Bailey is frustrated; he has just lost the money that would enable him to keep his loan company in business. As a last resort he turns to Mr. Potter a sour old miser who wants to own the entire town. The scene takes place in Mr. Potter’s office. George is despondent. The shadowing in the room, and Mr. Potter’s dark suit, his haughty attitude depicted by the shadows surrounding him tell us he is not a nice man. In the colorized version the shadows are lost. The viewer no longer feels the dark gloom that hovers over Mr. Potter, and what spoils the whole scene is Mr. Potter’s green suit. Who could possibly fear a man in a green suit? The added color, and the disappearance of the shadows all add up to a failure of communication.

Many American problems are nothing more than a failure to communicate. There are those who think abortion should be a choice; that the death penalty should be done away with; and that religion does not belong in the schools. Then there are those think that abortion is murder; that the death penalty should be reinstated; and that religion does belong in the schools. There are no debates just a failure of communication.

The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke10/22/09
I have heard this joke before and it always made me laugh. Made a good illustration for your real point of the story.
It felt a bit rushed at the end. Maybe condensing the joke so the message at the end can be fleshed out more?
Jan Ackerson 10/26/09
You pulled in a lot of black references to make your point.

I agree with the previous commenter--almost half of your story was a pretty familiar joke. I'd have loved more original material so that your could more fully develop your point.

Excellent job of finding various ways to illustrate one very good point.