It’s funny what the mind latches on to when you’re experiencing a crisis. Whether you’re watching it unfold thousands of miles away or its right in your face, sometimes you’re mind grabs and holds the oddest details.
I’m not the only person to have noticed this. Agatha Christie, the renowned Queen of Crime, used it as a key point in several short stories eventually published as a collection called The Mysterious Mr. Quinn.
What Dame Agatha didn’t mention though, was sometime those details are just bleeding silly. For instance, I’ve been doing my best to keep up with the details of Hurricane Harvey – the amount of rain, the flooding, the total dead, which direction the rain is coming in now – and, among all of the other problems, they now have rafts of floating fire ant colonies to deal with. These can have as many as 100,000 to 250,000 ants. My brain (silly thing it is) has hooked on to this. While staring at catastrophic destruction, loss of lives and livelihoods, not to mention the potential for further disasters, I keep coming back to one barely semi-related thought:
Who the hell is counting the ants?
I mean, I get that it’s probably ants-per-volume rather than actual, individual ants, but who counted the originals ants? Who sat down to figure out: this is how many ants joined together in a raft fit in one cc? I mean…I can think of situations where you would want that number, but…really…? Who the hell had to put “ant counter” on their resume?
This is a prime example of inane stuff the mind immediately goes to when faced with a moment of truth. Another example: while visiting California for a friends wedding, I got the chance to try my hand at surfing. My first try was probably what most people’s first try is – with the first wave, the Pacific Ocean tipped me off the board and smacked me in the face. And I remember thinking, as I slid forward off the front of the surf board, watching the water coming up to hit me in the face, the following specific words:
I don’t know why. I swear at the drop of a hat in real life. I mean it. You won’t hear me do it at work or on air or even on here, but I swear all the time. But when presented with Mother Nature offering, yet again, to had me my ass, all I can muster is, “Oh nuts?”
Okay, last example: I was lucky enough to see the totality in the most recent eclipse. Well, perhaps “lucky” is the wrong word – it was a lot of work to get there and even more work to get back, but I saw it and it was AMAZING!!!! Totally worth the 11 hour drive and nearly getting carsick.
Also totally worth the heart-pounding fear when the sun disappeared in the middle of the afternoon. The lizard-brain part of your mind flips out when presented with something like this. It thinks it’s a crisis. And even though your intelligent, thinking brain knows what’s happening, what’s going on, can contemplate how amazing and beautiful it is, your heart accelerates, your body gets swamped with adrenaline and your mind attaches itself to some tiny, unimportant detail.
Mine was the sudden realization that: yes, it does look a lot like the world is ending. This is because it happens kinda all at once. You can sense a change in light as the moon moves in front of the sun, but there’s a moment where the light really begins to go and it suddenly gets dimmer and colder and suddenly your left standing it a grey, not-quite-twilight where you can see stars and look up at the sun, which has become nothing more than a ring of light and fire.
I can see why people lost it. If I had no idea it was coming, I probably would have lost it too. Part of my mind was certainly convinced I should have.