Sometimes, taking things literally can lead to confusion

Does a 'coin laundry' mean people wash their money?

OK, I admit it. I tend to take things literally. Why don't people just say what they mean?

They have no idea how much trouble they can cause for those of us who don't understand the nuances of life and language. Here's what existence is like for me.

In the grocery store, I see a sign for "self-basting young turkeys," and I wonder, "How do they train them to do that?"

I drive past a "coin laundry" and think, "Why do people bother to wash their change? Is this what they mean by 'money laundering?' "

I find it tragic that people live in tiny, windowless rooms in apartment complexes named "self storage."

When my personal trainer advises me to "drink lots of fluids," I ask, "What else would I drink?"

Why do people pamper their furniture with a "chair massage?"

The other day at work I answered the phone and the caller asked, "Is Clinton Slayton there, by any chance?" I said, "No, he's here on purpose."

This morning a colleague says, "I'm looking forward to having lunch with you tomorrow." I quickly decipher the idiom. What he means is, "I'm pleased to anticipate having lunch with you tomorrow." Of course he's looking forward to it. It's in the future.

My nephew is a college freshman who hopes to avoid illicit drugs and drinking (I think he means drinking certain kinds of beverages). He has chosen to live in what his college calls "a substance-free dorm."

A dorm free of substance? No concrete, steel, wood, or brick? Students in sleeping bags on the campus quadrangle?

In line at the bank, I overhear someone talking about punching a clock. I inch away, leery of a person with such a violent temper. He goes on to say it's a "time clock." What other kind is there?

Why do people say that they can see the handwriting on the wall when there's no trace of graffiti?

I have searched many stores, but nowhere have I found midnight oil, elbow grease, or a thinking cap.

Finally, I'd like to say, "to make this long story short," but I won't. As you know, it's already too late for that.

Dale Roberts is a college career counselor in Asheville, N.C.

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