Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Balloon Boy? Is That You?

It really is a tricky being me sometimes.

Not "hard" per se ... just tricky.

I'm not sure if your brain works like this, but there are times when mine seems to be powered almost entirely by a cartoon hamster riding a merry-go-round that honks and squeaks calliope music as it spins.

This morning, for instance, I noticed this fellow on the train platform.

Just a guy doing his job. Just a guy making a living. Just a guy keeping his fellow crew members safe.


Nothing weird about that at all.

No sir.

But it didn't matter how many times I looked directly at him ... (heck, we even made eye contact and exchanged polite nods at one point) ...

It didn't matter how much empirical, logical, unambiguous, verifiable, scientific proof that this was, in fact, a grown man holding a sign ...

It just didn't matter ...

Because every single time I looked away and caught him out of the corner of my eye ... my brain kept insisting that I was seeing this:




I would look down at my phone for a fraction of a second, catch just a fleeting glimpse of red ... and my mind would immediately shout: "CHILD WITH BALLOON! THREE O'CLOCK!!"

And then I'd look up and notice: "No, it's just a guy with a sign."

Then I'd glance back at my phone before catching another glimpse. Whereupon my brain would immediately shout: "CHILD WITH BALLOON!! THREE O'CLOCK!!"

And I'd look up again and realize that, no, still just a guy with a sign.

So I'd go back to my phone and the whole ridiculous pageant would play itself out again and again. Probably six or seven times in the course of just a couple of minutes.




"It isn't."


"Come on now."


"Please stop."

There are two particularly puzzling and/or troubling aspects to this incident. First is the question of why the hell was my brain so reflexively insistent on papering over that poor guy with the cartoon shorthand image of a kid with a balloon?

It's certainly not wishful thinking. I'm not overly fond of kids ... they're fine, I guess. The people who make them seem to like them well enough. But they're not really for me. And, while I do on occasion enjoy balloons (I mean, who doesn't? They're balloons!), it's not like I spend every waking minute pining for there to be more balloons in the world.

And it's also not like my brain is substituting a familiar thing for an unfamiliar one. Since I am neither employed by, nor do I regularly attend the circus, I don't encounter a lot of kids with balloons in my daily life. In fact, as a regular commuter for the better part of the last fifteen years, I'm far more likely to see a railway worker with a sign than a kid with a balloon.

It's a head-scratcher, no doubt.

The second aspect that troubles/puzzles (truzzles?) me is, of course, the fact that my short-term memory and cognition skills have apparently eroded away to nothing.



Like I said ... it's not "hard" being me exactly. Just a smidge tricky.

I just hope that when that guy finished his shift, he got to keep that balloon.

Till next we meet ...