Saved By An Old Woman
The other day I was wandering down town, not really wandering, just kind of maybe shuffling along. Shuffling doesn’t quite describe it either, shuffling is what drunken people do that don’t have a destination. While I didn’t have a destination, I wasn’t drunk, so maybe I’d better choose another verb. Staggering? No, ambling? Not sure if that’s a word. Meandering. That’s it, I was meandering down town the other day, and I saw this strange looking man. He had this peculiar feeling about him, and he was looking at me a bit strangely. I wasn’t sure if he was going to introduce himself as a long lost pal, or pull out a knife and kill me where I stood.
But before I describe the strange looking man, I need to explain why I was meandering down town in the middle of a sunny weekend afternoon. I had originally gone downtown to catch a movie, but as it sometimes happens, the times they list on the movie page are not the same as at the actual theater. To make matters worse, the movie I had intended to see not only started at a different time, but instead of being in English with Japanese subtitles, it was dubbed in Japanese.
Of course if I read a synopsis of the movie before hand, and paid close enough attention, I’d be able understand enough of the dialogue to make out the basic plot. But that would require brainpower, and that’s one of my main reasons for going to the movies, so I can shut off my brain for a couple hours. Not completely shut if off, I still need to be able to work my mouth and my hand so I can stuff my face with as much popcorn as possible.
But there I was, ready to spend a couple hours of brain-free relaxation, when my plans were thwarted by Internet inaccuracy. I wasn’t going to give in without a struggle. I was determined to expend a little brain energy as possible.
I can be frustrating when you are expecting one thing, but then something else entirely shows up in its place, and despite really liking this thing that you have here in front of you, you were maybe expecting something else. And no matter how much you try and convince yourself that this is OK, part of you continues to wish that you’d gotten the other thing that you’d expected in the first place.
Kind of like if you were expecting to go on vacation in Hawaii, but you got on the wrong plane and ended up in Alaska. Alaska is a cool place, and had you planned on going there, you’d likely enjoy it. They have some cool stuff in Alaska. But since you were planning on Hawaii, you wouldn’t be able to fully throw yourself in to your suddenly determined by fate vacation in Alaska. Not to mention that you’d probably be pretty cold, seeing as how all you had was a grass skirt, a surfboard, and a couple of ukulele’s. And to add insult to injury, instead of getting lei’d by a cute Hawaiian girl, you’d get hit in the face with a snowball by some angry alcoholic Eskimo. Which would suck under any circumstances.
I was just about to try and ignore this strange guy, and turn into the shop I happened to be standing next to, when he called out my name. So he did know me. I turned, wondering where I knew him from. When he started to approach, he did the strangest thing. It was odd, and I looked around wondering what other’s reactions would be, as most people don’t do what he was doing right there on the sidewalk.
Either nobody seemed to notice, or they just pretended they didn’t notice. Or maybe part of them noticed, but another part of them didn’t notice that they noticed, like some strange form of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is an interesting thing. Some say it’s the brains way of keeping everything in order, and not seeing things that are right in front of you, because if you acknowledge certain things, you would have to go through a lot of mental recalculation to re figure out your model of reality. And that can be time consuming. So the brain has evolved this mechanism for shutting out certain parts of the reality.
Those that study Freud say it’s to protect the ego. People that have bad habits, for example, don’t see them as being bad, at least to the extent that they do them. If we were to look at them objectively, or if we saw another person with the same habit, we’d be much more realistic in our judgment of the habit. But because that would require making a hard decision about what to do, we tend to ignore it.
But that only goes so far to explain why all those people ignored this guy, who pretended to know me, when he started doing what he did. People don’t usually do that out of context, and especially when they are alone. I certainly hope that I didn’t cause this strange looking man that pretended to know me to start to do that. I checked again to everybody that was walking past this guy, within a couple feet of him, and they didn’t even turn their heads. I started to think maybe I’d slipped through some crack into an alternative reality, I even started thinking that was why the movie times on the Internet were different from the real movie times.
I started to really get nervous. Everything that I thought was absolutely true was turning out not to have any corroborating evidence. What if reality really was a fiction of your imagination, and you can only succeed in life so long as you find enough people that have an overlapping hallucination? How do you know that red really is red? I started to panic, when this old lady stopped and started to lecture this crazy guy. As soon as she started to lecture him, other people turned to look, and started whispering amongst themselves. He apologized, and said he’d got carried away. He kept motioning over toward me while he was talking to this old lady, and for some reason, I stood where I was, a bit curious, and relieved that reality was still intact. But before I knew it, the man apologized once more, bowed to everybody that has stopped to watch him receive the shellacking from this old woman, hopped on his unicycle, and rode away.
Of course, I was left standing there, absorbing all the residual curiosity from the now very interested crowd. What I did next is another story.
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