Based on a few conversations with friends – and I’ll admit that my own are a twisted bunch – I know that I am not the only person in the world to ever stand atop a skyscraper’s observation deck and worry that some hidden inner-force might compel me to jump. Perhaps that particular concern is the baseline when it comes to impulse control issues; we might just lose our sanity – for just a split second – and thrust ourselves off of that building, only to regain independent thought on the way down, just soon enough to wonder if we’d heeded our mother’s advice: “Do I have clean underwear on?” Splat.
Yesterday, I was confronted with the mind-tingle of one of these momentary lapse of reason moments as I sat patiently at an outdoor cafe waiting for a friend. He was a touch late, and I had no smart phone (I haven’t carried one for over a year now, another post for another time), hadn’t brought a book to read, or a puzzle book to keep my caffeine-fueled brain from crunching all possible worst-case scenarios for myself. As I scanned the streets for him, my eye caught a sign on the building right across the street that read, “US Naval Recruitment Center.”
The sign’s message was like a siren song, and with each passing second I became concerned for myself. I speculated, “Maybe I’ll just hop across the street and join the Navy.” This thought didn’t seem particular irrational initially, but with each passing second that same sort of hazy thinking that arises on those skyscraper roof tops began to overtake me. One minute an Ad man, the next a Seaman. It could happen, and the longer my friend took to come eat eggs with me, the greater the possibility seemed. “Yes, maybe I’ll just get up and go check out some literature. What’s the harm in that?”
Is it possible that the government has created and installed some low level frequency that omits from such places? I had once read about an existing technology developed by the military that Coca-Cola was exploring using: a frequency and combination of sounds that could actually cause you to become thirsty. Why not use the same technology to work on the unoccupied minds of stragglers, wanders, and the vagabond-brains not focused on the status update parades being fed to them by iPhones? Maybe my own decision to not have what Stephen King once referred to as a modern day slave bracelet in my hands at all times, will actually be my undoing.
Had the gaggle of girls enjoying their brunch beside me not giggled so loudly, I’d probably have gotten up and headed to there – off to a new life on the high seas. Fortunately, their demon-pitched cackles were the impetus to an entirely new line of thinking: “These girls think it’s funny that I’m alone, and are speculating that I’ve been stood up – and are wondering how many times I can read the menu to appear nonchalant about my friendless predicament.” Yes, I was happy to be the butt of their Sunday morning – and thankful that their shrill harpie tones, dragged me from one insane spiral of lunacy and straight into another that at the very least didn’t involve swabbing a deck.
I’ve had a similar impulse at classical music performances, feeling I might suddenly burst into manical laughter during a quiet passage of music.