giovedì 3 agosto 2017

The tractor and the ant.

Jim was a tractor driver. He owned his own tractor and did contract work.

His tractor had a digger thingy at the front, like a bulldozer. His machine wasn't really big enough to do big commercial jobs so he tended to work on farms or do cash jobs for individuals who wanted a driveway tidied up or topsoil spread for a lawn.

Jim had a sign outside his house that read, "Digger tractor and driver available for hire. No job too small. 0275566832." He also ran adds in a few community newspapers. The sign didn't mention that 0275566832 was a mobile phone number because Jim reasoned that anyone who really wanted to contact him was capable of working that out. The people who rang him, and there were quite a few, had obviously understood. Sometimes Jim wondered how much business he lost because the sign didn't contain the word Mobile. Often, as he was out shifting dirt somewhere or digging away at a bank, he would think about this. Really there was no way he could ever know. If he changed the sign would the number of phone calls double or triple? He didn't think so. Probably it would only make a small difference; but he found that he couldn't stop wondering. There wasn't room on the sign to simply add the word Mobile - the series of numbers went from one side of the sign to the other. There wasn't room above either. The only available space was below the numbers but then the sign would read 0275566832 Mobile. That could make it look like the numbers represented something else and that the mobile number (after the word mobile) had somehow come off or disappeared. Not good business practice to cause confusion on an advertising sign. Jim had had the sign made by a signwriter and it had not been cheap, so he was reluctant to have a new sign made. It had also been a tricky job erecting the sign and he had almost lost his temper more than once. Okay, he could change the newspaper ads, but he liked the fact that all the ads were the same in their wording. Jim liked it when things were even. Jim was a guy who felt good when there was an order to things, even if he was the only person who could appreciate that order.

Jim started to notice that he was spending too much time thinking about the sign. One day, while moving a pile of shingle and spreading it on a spot where a man had decided to park his second car, Jim realised that he would have to deal with the sign issue once and for all. That evening, after a dinner that was preceeded by a few beers, Jim brought up the internet on his computer. His biggest problem was how to decide where to look. 
He typed in signs and lots of pictures of signs came up.

Jim studied the signs and decided that some were probably designed to be humorous.
No help there.
He found Wikipedia articles on different conditions that people suffered from. He got onto mental conditions.
He decided that he probably wasn't suffering from Schizophrenia or ADHD.
He tried to find advertisements that featured phone numbers. Most ads included a phone number and a mobile number. Both were labelled. 
Not looking good.
Then he found a Youtube clip by an American guy who preached that you can choose your thoughts.
Jim had a pee and went to bed. He woke in the night and thought some more about the Youtube clip.
Okay, all he need to do was replace his thought with something else.
What was his problem? He needed to forget about the fact that the word mobile was not on his sign.
A little problem really because he had enough work and generally life was good.
A little problem.
Like an ant.

Then Jim had an idea.
Whenever he had a thought about his sign and the missing word, he would simply think of an ant.
Thinking of this little creature would distract him and might also remind him of how little the problem with the sign really was.

Many years passed and thoughts of the sign faded. Eventually Jim sold the tractor and took on a job as a bus driver, working only day shifts. He took the sign down and stored it in his garage. Soon, like many objects that are carefully placed in a garage or shed, it was virtually lost to the world. 
An ant somewhere in its nest.
Existing but of no concern.

2 commenti:

THE CURMUDGEON ha detto...

At last!
Your posting is back to the way it was years ago.
Whimsical, slightly unhinged, nonsensical and without a bass string in sight.
Well done.

Robert ha detto...

Ha ha "slightly unhinged!" is a nice choice of words.
Though at grass roots level it is sensical and there is an interesting underlying idea. An aversive stimuli which the man associates with a neutral one and the later eventually replaces it. I suspect it wouldn't work that well in practise because try as he may the neutral stimuli would still conjure up the unpleasant one from the subconscious leading to more anxiety as he tries even harder to suppress the original.
I've always been lead to believe it is better to not suppress impulsive thoughts and just accept them and they should go away. Though it has never worked for me.