by William Stafford
It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out––no guarantees
in this life.But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
The timing could not have been more precise. My phone rang; a friend calling to deliver worrisome, though not disastrous, medical news about a mutual friend. “The warranties on our middle-aged bodies,” I remember thinking, “have well and truly run out. We are all starting to show our manufacturing defects, and there is no RMA available. It’s fix or toss, now.” And even as we talked through what this meant in the immediate term, an unfamiliar number with a 608 prefix rang me.
My cell phone number dates back to Boston, and the other number I maintain to New York City, so my personal daily cloud of no-see-em spam phone calls come to me from 617 and 917: any call from a 608 number I assume to be real. On top of that, I answer pretty much any call when I’m not physically around my kids. This was a no-brainer: I apologized to my friend and took the call.
I didn’t recognize the voice.
“This is your wife.” (It was not my wife.) “I’m with your wife.” (That made more sense.) “Piper’s been in an accident here on the bike path. I’m going to put your wife on the phone.” (A brief flapping and fumbling as the phone changed hands.) “It’s me,” Kate said, in a voice all focus and fear behind a tourniquet of concentration. “I need to you to pick up Syd and meet us at the Children’s Hospital. A biker hit Piper on the head. We’re calling 911 now. It’s bad.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’m on it.” I held the phone for a moment before asking, “Just how bad is it? What’s your read?” Nothing from Kate as an eternal few seconds fell echoing down a well, and then: “Just come.” Continue reading Openings and Closings
Kate called me this afternoon around 4 from a practice running event that Piper was finishing. “Grab Syd and meet me at the hospital,” she said. “Piper got hit by a bicyclist.”
Seven hours and three layers of stitches later, Piper is home and asleep and will undoubtedly dine out on the story and the long scar (right at her hairline) for years.
Kate is surfing by the fire and I am drinking a glass of wine. Some days (say, for instance, ones in which you see the surface of your child’s skull) simply require it.
I left the house for two hours last night to take P to judo practice and run a few errands. I accidentally left my phone on the dining room table while leaving, so for those two hours, I had no access to:
- my shopping list
- the several games I use to while away 45 second wait times, currently:
- a way to reach Kate
- a web browser
Instead, I had a book (William Gibson’s fun action thriller, “The Peripheral”), two stores to stop at, and a seven-year-old to retrieve from Judo at the end of 90 minutes. I had to keep my focus on whatever I was actually doing for 90 whole minutes.
It felt great.
This … does not make me particularly optimistic about the human tendency towards cognitive laziness.
Julia Shaw, a psychologist and author of The Memory Illusion, says memes “generally do win.” We’re exposed to so much information that digesting and remembering only the most succinct and appealing snippet—say, a misleading headline—becomes second-nature. Some politicians are already exploiting that dissonance by promoting an intentionally broad range of ideas, even including conflicting ones, so that supporters can cherry-pick the messages they prefer.
“By having a campaign that says lots of different and sometimes contradictory things, you give people the ability to only remember and care about things that match their worldview,” Shaw says.