Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thinking About Not Having Anything To Think About Gives You Something To Think About, I Think

While I was driving to New Bedford, MA on Tuesday, for a school visit on Wednesday (I had a terrific time there, by the way), I wondered what I'd think about during the four plus hour drive.

It used to be during long drives I'd think about whatever book I was working on, or I'd come up with an idea for another book. Or I'd worry about money. That was always good for an hour or two.

But now I'm not working on any books and my brain is quite comfortably dead and I have money in the bank, so none of those were options. I had no concerns about what I'd think about on the drive home, because the Mets played a game that started about an hour after I left, so I let the Mets broadcasters keep me company.

Although I'm hard pressed forty eight hours later to tell you what I thought about during the drive, I do remember the exciting revelation I had.

Are you aware of firefighting arsonists?

In reviewing cases of firefighter arson for this report, it was apparent that one of the primary motives for firefighters who commit arson is to be seen as a hero. They may be the first to call in a fire, the first on the scene, and one of the most eager, excited, and enthusiastic members of the response team. Their main reason for lighting the fire is so they can appear as a hero, either by being the first to spot the flames, or by rescuing people and saving property. Extreme cases of firefighter arson involve fires set in occupied structures. When a firefighter sets fire to an occupied structure, the potential for being a life-saving hero is even greater. In North Carolina, one firefighter would set fire to an occupied house, and then return to the scene and rescue the family. His need for excitement, being worshiped, and getting attention predominated over any concern about the terrible danger to which he exposed the occupants.

Well, my GPS is just like a firefighting arsonist. It behaves itself for miles and miles and then it deliberately gives me wrong directions, just so it can rescue me when I get lost.

In fact, when I was driving home yesterday, listening to the Mets game (which they ultimately lost 8-7), my GPS told me to be on the left when the highway divided, and then promptly told me to make a right turn. Which not only would have gotten me on the wrong highway, but would have caused a multicar pileup, which might have been the GPS's plan, although I prefer to think it had less homicidal motives.

But what do we really know about our GPSs? Sure, they talk to us all the times, in sweet soothing tones, but what are their secret thoughts? Are they quietly mocking us? In the unplugged dark nights of their souls, do they come up with new and more nefarious ways to drive us crazy?

Notice that clever play on words. Drive. Drive. Get it?

Speaking of places I would never let my GPS drive me to, my new favorite term is Goldilocks planet. I've been waiting for decades for someone to discover life on another planet, and I hope this will happen in my lifetime. In the meantime, I find the concept of all those astronomers (not the nasty ones who decided Pluto wasn't a planet, the nice ones who think nine is exactly the right number of planets for our solar system) sitting around at astronomer conventions talking about Goldilocks Planet Number 2732A wildly amusing. Not to mention their having to explain to nice astronomers from non Three Bears countries exactly who Goldilocks was and why she deserves to have so many planets named for her ("but the third bed was juuuust right").

I didn't think about Goldilocks planets on my drive to New Bedford because I only found out about them yesterday. But I'm sure I'll give them plenty of thought when I go to visit schools in New Jersey in October.

Assuming my GPS lets me get to the schools without any quick right turns to Nebraska!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If -- and I'm saying IF -- you ever do a followup to the Last Survivors trilogy, you might want to consider a "Goldilocks planet" as a subplot, even if you present it as a long-ago part of the post-meteor history. One of the hidden purposes of some of the "safe towns" could be to locate such a planet, develop technology to go there, and possibly draft so-called "volunteers" (because they'd be considered expendable) to colonize. Just another one of the many ideas I've bombarded you with over time. I apologize if it's unwelcome.

Anonymous Santa Fe