There is a game that used to be popular - before all popular games required expensive play consoles plugged into TV screens - with both children and tipsy parlour partiers called, variously, telephone, broken telephone or, less politically correct, Chinese whispers. The person starting the game would whisper something in the ear of the person next to her, "typically nasty weather," for example. That person would repeat the phrase on down the line until it reached the final player, at which point he or she would slap the person's face who whispered it to them, exclaiming indignantly, "Tickle your ass with a feather! How dare you?" Or something like that.
The example generally given to explain the game has roots in the muddy trenches of World War I. An out-matched field commander turned to the frightened soldier next to him and said, "Send reinforcements, we're going to advance. Pass it on." By the time it reached the field radio operator, the message sent back to headquarters was, "Send three and fourpence, we're going to a dance."
Even absent the fog of war, the game humorously demonstrates the difficulty of hearing even simple messages and passing them on accurately more than once or twice. It also explains why my Perfect Partner so frequently misunderstands phone messages I take for her, indecipherable handwriting explaining all the others.
Maybe such frivolous children's games also explain the selective hearing that goes on around the municipal council table. Or maybe not. I'm personally at a loss to understand it although a tasteless crack a fellow worker at the bank once passed on may explain part of it. After a particularly long, pointless meeting, he turned to me and said, "I think I have hearing aids. Got it from listening to too many a##holes." Gimme a break; I said it was tasteless.
One possible explanation for the less than acute hearing our councillors seem to be suffering though may be that they only hear things that'll end up creating unnecessary expenditures of already taxed revenues. Two recent cases illustrate the theory.
A couple of months ago, when mostly everybody's attention was diverted by the Olympics, a few people anxiously awaiting the opportunity to move into their new homes at Cheakamus Crossing discovered the asphalt plant operating in their new neighbourhood. They raised a fuss in a quintessentially Whistler way, waiting until the 11 th hour to discover something that was hiding in plain sight and only then complaining about it. They threatened to walk out on their initial deposit, notwithstanding the presence of the plant was clearly and boldly disclosed in their purchase agreements.