Saturday, March 11, 2006

Cryptic and True, All at the Same Time

When my husband is driving and I am the passenger, he is forever reminding me that men have superior depth perception. Especially compared to me. He heard that fact one time and our experiences in motor vehicles seem to back up this idea. I'll be stomping the imaginary brakes and clutching the arm rests while he's still accelerating, even though a parade of brake lights shine in front of us. He'll say, "Relax!" which has never made me relax, not one time, not since the first time he said it to me nineteen years ago.

The other day, I was idly chatting on the phone with my neighbor, the one whose house was hit by a falling tree a few weeks ago. She'd called to let me know her sick son wouldn't be going to school. (We carpool.) My son wasn't going either--he missed the whole week due to this flu bug--and then we wandered from topic to topic. I washed dishes while we talked and then stood and gazed out my back window.

Over my back fence is a new development of houses and on the other side of that little development is a sporadic row of trees, tall, spindly Douglas Firs with clumpy branches at the tops of long trunks. They look kind of like feather dusters and during windy days, I liked to watch them sway back and forth.

As you imagine, when we had the wind storm, those feather duster trees whipped back and forth and some of the tops snapped clean off. In recent days, I've noticed gaps in the line of trees. And then, that morning, I saw that in that particular stand of Douglas Firs, only one remained.

As I watched that morning, phone to my ear, that tree began to wiggle and then it began to fall. I hollered into my unsuspecting friend's ear, "OH MY GOSH! THAT TREE IS FALLING! IT'S GOING TO HIT THAT HOUSE!" She has no idea what I was talking about, but having been the recent victim of a falling tree herself, was appropriately panicked.

And then the tree fell, missing the house completely.

It's all about depth perception. And how mine is wacky. I always sense danger when danger is not within arm's reach. As you can imagine, this makes me jumpy and suspicious.

But "jumpy" and "suspicious" are pejorative words. I prefer to think of myself as aware and discerning. For each negative, there's a positive, right? And, if you are negative, you must admit that for every positive there's a negative. Maybe that's just me.

As I pick my way through the maze of life, occasionally bumping into dead ends and circling in cul-de-sacs going nowhere, I sometimes open a door and come face to face with a sneering, leering crowd who holds up a distorted mirror, reflecting back a warped image of myself.

And so I do what any jumpy and suspicious aware and discerning girl would do. I already know what I look like--I am obsessively aware of my true self and how I really am when I'm in the dark--and I refuse to play along with a fun-house mirror game in which I am psychoanalyzed by the clowns. My faults are grievous enough as it is. So, I slam the door closed, deadbolt it, build a brick wall in front it, drag a heavy chest in front of the wall and carry on.

No looping back for me. No changing my mind and turning back. No way for them to get in and no way for me to waver. And once that door is barricaded, it's like the fate of those drug tunnels that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sometimes find burrowing under the border between Mexico or Canada and the U.S. Even though the tunnels are engineering marvels, testimony to the dedication and determination of their creators, the DEA officials unapologetically fill them with concrete.

I've filled in the tunnels with concrete. I go forward. I won't look back.

The weird thing is that I thought they were closer than they really were. My depth perception fails me again.


Blogger Gina said...

Oh, a rather rare Saturday post!

And a gem at that.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Amie said...

"I already know what I look like--I am obsessively aware of my true self and how I really am when I'm in the dark--and I refuse to play along with a fun-house mirror game in which I am psychoanalyzed by the clowns."

yes, that is what I am talking about!

oh and about the driving thing, that is why I drive. :)

3:42 AM  
Blogger Turtle Guy said...

Let me tell you about depth perception. I've struggled with it my whole life.

I was the kid who would trip on a crack in the sidewalk because I couldn't tell it wasn't flat.

I looked REALLY funny playing ball sports - anything where accuracy was concerned. Was the ball "here" or "here"...

...and when it came to driving... well... there were those who said I wouldn't be able to drive. I remember my instructor when I was 16. I was going on and on about my "problem" vision. He had me stop the car and look across the street to a lamp post.

"How far away is that post?" He'd say.

"About 25 feet"

"Right. You don't have a problem, now let's go!"

Over the years I've managed to compensate, as I'm sure you have too. Sure, we're probably more cautious where driving is concerned: keeping it between the white lines - not killing anyone - that's lots to think about, right?!

So have a good laugh the next time you think your depth perception is in the way.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Julana said...

I hadn't heard that depth percpetion difference. But it explains a lot.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Once again, and it happens OH so often, I read your post and think, "incredible, there is really nothing I can add" so I won't try. Except to agree that I prefer not to be psychoanalyzed by the clowns!

6:38 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

This doesn't have anything to do with our recent discussion does it?

5:10 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

I've always told my husband to just get used to my screaming.

I'd rather scream and have him mad at me, than wake up in Heaven to hear him say 'Gee...I guess they were closer than I though!'

5:38 AM  
Blogger methatiam said...

My depth perception has always been spot-on. It?s the self-perception that gets flakey ? I spent too long listening to the clowns.

5:44 AM  
Anonymous Kismet said...

I too have a problem with 'depth perception' in that I always think those tunnels are closer than they are. I know exactally what you mean about being 'aware and discerning' Ugh, sometimes it bites you tho.

Thanks for the homily. I'll reflect on it all day.


7:33 AM  
Blogger rev-ed said...

Good stuff, Mel.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Shalee said...

It took me years to get that "Objects may be closer than they appear" message on the side mirrors. Are they or aren't they close? Sheesh - make up your mind already... I've got to switch lanes.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Catharine said...

Let me take this opportunity to implore you to remind your sweet husband that, though his depth perception might be greater, your perception of colors -- particularly the color red -- is more astute than his, and furthermore your pain threshhold is decidedly hire than his.

Therefore, when he overestimates his ability to stop a 3000 pound vehicle going 55 miles per hour, and the two of you plow headlong into the car you've been tailgating for the past ten minutes (though you've repeatedly asked him to slow down), he will be in more excrutiating pain than will you. Furthermore, you will be able to accurately describe to him the color of his blood in more poetic and expository lexicon than he.

Also, remind him that all things being equal, women have better auto insurance rates than men. And for, it seems, very good reason.

Finally, tell him that you've grown quite fond of his shorter reaction time and superior depth perception, and would hate to see either impeded by his being smacked in the face by an inflating driver's side airbag. Because, as a woman, you also have a more highly developed sense of empathy.

Just a thought... since we're trying to keep the husband in one piece and all....


P.S. Depth perception is highly overrated as a perception. I find that educated depth guessing, together with an overexaggerated margin for error, is just as effective a method for avoiding traffic accidents and falling trees.

1:46 PM  
Blogger jennifer starfall said...

i'm right there with ya. not jumpy and suspicious, just aware and discerning... ;)

and since i'm here, i just want to remind you that i love reading your blog, and i'm so glad you share. i admire you, your family, your marriage, and your writing.

*sniff sniff <-- sappy moment...

6:47 PM  
Blogger oshee said...

I agree with Catharine!
Your husband ought to understand the difference..accept that things will scare you that don't scare him and then be more care and considerate when you are with him in the car.
Of course, that said...You can't really change the way a man drives. So, while I grew up riding with crazy driving brothers and a fearless father, I don't flinch at my husband's driving. My husband on the otherhand is used to being in control and even after all these years, he still grabs that armrest too often for my comfort. I wonder if it is just his desire to control the situation....oh well...

Thanks for the great post.

1:36 PM  

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