Yesterday, Martin held this conversation with his behaviorist, “Miss Debbie”:
Martin: “Miss Debbie, on New Year’s Eve, did you watch the big ball in Times Square drop from the sky to the ground while all the people counted, ‘Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero!’?”
Debbie: “Yes, I did watch that.”
Martin: “Were you in Times Square?”
Debbie: “No, I watched it on television from my bed, at home.”
Martin: “Did Rose [Debbie’s daughter] watch the big ball in Times Square drop from the sky, too?”
Debbie: “She did.”
Martin: “Did Rose get in your bed with you to watch?”
Debbie: “Yes, she did. We set a special alarm to wake us up just before midnight if we fell asleep too early.”
Martin: “Did you and Rose fall asleep?”
Debbie: “Yes, we did, but the alarm woke us up and we saw it. Did you watch the big ball drop?”
Debbie: “Were you already sleeping?”
Martin: “Yes, Miss Debbie. I was sleeping.”
Seriously! Read that exchange again! Note how Martin listened to Debbie’s answers and incorporated the information into his later questions. Note how Martin responded accurately when Debbie addressed him. True, Martin was discussing the Times Square ball, one of his current, ahem, “interests” (i.e., perseveration subjects), and a few times his cadence was awkward. But not long ago I was ecstatic at a two-exchange conversation, directed by someone else. Yesterday were six or seven exchanges, on topic, initiated by Martin.
That’s how far we have come.