Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Beware of the Vortex

In Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale Jr is able to commit one crime after another - or, the same crime, over and over - by distracting people. Create a distraction, and nobody sees what you are doing. In one instance, he goes to an awful lot of trouble to be surrounded by a bunch of young ladies who are dressed as flight attendants. He walks into the airport in broad daylight, past lots of guys in black trenchcoats who are looking for him. He could have saved himself a lot of trouble if only he'd known what I know.

For years I have noticed that people are spontaneously distracted by my mere presence. I have a name for this phenomenon: The Vortex. I figure that the common factor in all of these situations is me. So what am I doing to these people? I've done all kinds of research trying to figure out what is causing this. I've researched "crowd behavior" - where an entire crowd will spontaneously start clapping in unison. Or rioting. I haven't been able to come up with any real information on people being spontaneously disoriented, but I still have a sneaking suspicion that The Vortex is real. I must be confused on so many levels that I can actually CAUSE confusion.

For example: I'm at the grocery store, and the lady at the checkout asks me if I have coupons. I put them on the counter in front of me. She makes a little comment so I know she sees them. She tells me the total, and I remind her of the coupons. She scans the coupons, puts them in her coupon envelope, and tells me thanks and have a nice day. I just stand there. I don't have a receipt. I didn't even authorize the charge to my debit card. Then she completes the transaction.

I go to the dentist's office to get my teeth cleaned. The hygienist comes out, and instead of calling my name, she calls the name of the PERSON WHO JUST LEFT. She is very embarrassed because she never does that, but I tell her it happens all the time. We didn't really establish rapport that day.

I have tried to come up with a way to explain what it's like to live in my own personal Vortex, and I found the perfect analogy the other day. I was watching TV and there was a commercial for some comedy show. A guy was wearing a drum on his back - every time he took a step, the drum would beat once. He was just walking around like nothing was out of the ordinary. That drum is the perfect equivalant of The Vortex in the physical world. If Frank Abagnale Jr had owned one of those things, he could have used it as a psychological weapon of last resort.

So maybe I'm lucky to have my own personal Vortex, but not quite lucky enough to have the often-accompanying evil intent. If I did, though, I would never have to pay for anything again. And get this: my merchandise would be bagged by a checker.