Intelligence is arguably the most significant development that evolution has brought to, um, ‘us.’ I’m not alone in thinking this — it’s even in ‘our’ name — Homo sapiens sapiens. Not only does it include the word ‘sapiens’ (wise, sort of), it appears twice. It’s really important.
Because of this, the history of mankind is full of breakthroughs, discoveries and inventions that have changed the world. (Sometimes even in a good way.) Arguably, thinking is central to our existence.
Except it isn’t. At least not always. People think — but they don’t always think. (Apropos to nothing at all, Gilligan’s Island isn’t on every list of The Stupidest TV Shows Ever Made. What’s up with that?)
Even when people think, they sometimes don’t do it very well. Or maybe they over think. I’m guilty of both of those, of course. More often than I like to, um, think. One recent time was when I had an Appointment for my annual Goo Test.
The day started with some modest-but-not-excessive Thinking — I curled with some old men and was lucky enough to out-think my opposition and win the game. After the game everyone at the table but me had the four dollar lunch. “You should have some” my lead told me. “It’s very good.”
“No can do” I replied. “I have to go have a litre of goo squirted into my pants and apparently you have to fast before doing that.” “Ah” he replied. “Been there, done that.” (Apparently having a stranger soak your underwear in goo is a rite of passage for middle-aged men. Apparently you really do learn something every day.)
I arrived at the Goo Administration Office in plenty of time to have my traditional embarrassing battle with technology but — in an anticlimax that was positively anticlimactic — there wasn’t one. Instead, there was a nice young lady who took my health card, frowned at it, consulted a screen and told me to Have A Seat Someone Will Be With You Shortly.
Without the obligatory public humiliation I had plenty of time to sit in the uncomfortable chair, read Every Single Magazine that was less than two years old (and it’s not because I’m a speed reader or anything) check my email three times and fidget. Then I was Called.
The technician wasn’t particularly talkative. (Which is fine; I’m not either.) She told me to take my shirt off, lie on the cot provided and respire on command.
“Take a deep breath. Aaaand hold it. Now breathe.” I did what I was told. Reasonably well, I thought. Then things got complicated.
“Roll to your right. Deep breath. Aaand breathe.” Again, I managed to do what I was told. Then things got tricky.
“Roll to your right.” Wait, hadn’t I just done that? Again? Really? Roll how far exactly? Onto my side like last time, or even farther? But farther would be lying on my stomach. If she wanted that, why hadn’t she just said so? Why does everything have to be so complicated? But she was still talking: “Toward the wall.”
Wait, what? The wall was on my left. What did she mean by that? In this scenario was she Metternich or was I? Was she someone who confused left and right? I do that sometimes so it’s possible that other people do too. But she does this a lot so it’s less likely. Hmm. Perhaps this was Something More? If so, how should I interpret it? What would Freud say? (Besides Fehlleistung, I mean. Hmm — that’s almost as good a word as ‘Schadenfreude.’ Hey, that sort of sounds like ‘Freud.’). It’s been some years since I read any of his work but I remember him arguing that this sort of slip of the tongue could be a serious psychological Event. So what should I do?
“ROLL TOWARD THE WALL.”
I rolled toward the wall.
There on the wall was a Sign.
Hm. Wait — is that really a problem? It must be, dummy, or they wouldn’t have put up the sign. But who on earth would want to check Friendface at a time like this? I mean, I like technology as much as the next guy but it’s more fun to use if you’re not at the mercy of a goo-wielding (and she’s not afraid to use it) lady with possible psychological issues.
But which issues? That was key. If I could use my phone I could look them up. Maybe I’m doomed and they don’t want me to try to escape. I could say I was just checking my email. Do you think she knows I checked it back in the waiting room? Where did I leave my shirt? It’s cold out there, after all. Ready…
“I said, YOU CAN LEAVE NOW.”
Oh. I took the postage-stamp-sized-towel, wiped off about three percent of the goo and lurched toward the door.
So I survived and learned some stuff:
- Goo in your underwear is a Thing.
- You can think a lot and it still might look like you’re not thinking at all.
Not only do you learn something every day, some days you learn two.