People always ask me why I keep my head so straight while driving, seeing nobody, regardless of how animated they become trying to attract my attention. I tell them nothing is as it appears.
One Friday, Gene Autry and I were walking from school to my home. It was hot and dry, making walking a misery, but we had no choice having lost our bus fares at Wednesday races. As we trudged along, a dark BMW we recognised as belonging to a schoolmate nicknamed 'Shaggy' passed us and skidded to a stop about 20 feet ahead. Shaggy, named because he wore his hair like the Beatles, was an older boy (a year ahead at school) but, he'd obviously elected to disregard schoolboy hierarchy, since here he was offering a couple of younger schoolmates a ride.
We needed it. "Hurry up," I said to Gene as I broke into a canter, "don't keep Shaggy waiting." "You go ahead," pouted Gene (who wasn't at all athletic, despite his sporting successes), "I'm not getting hot and bothered over a ride."
So I hustled up; left him behind; opened the car's back door (someone was already occupying the front passenger seat); jumped in and shut the door behind me. The driver turned to look at me. That's when I realised it wasn't Shaggy. It was somebody with hair like Shaggy driving a car that looked like Shaggy's. Not Shaggy. Not even close.
The young lady he'd stopped to drop home obviously thought I was a gunman (or a duppy) because she let out a shriek that I still hear to this day. I've never been so embarrassed in my life. I mumbled something; fumbled with the door which, by then, had ceased to cooperate with me; and, eventually scrambled out of the car.
Of course, I received zero sympathy from Autry, who was doubled over with laughter and who reminded me of my discomfiture for years.
That was my first lesson on the importance of understanding that nothing is at it appears. Since then, I neither speak nor wave to anybody unless I'm 150 per cent sure (rarely possible) it's who I think it is. So, my reputation as a snooty driver who never acknowledges a friend is, in reality, just me protecting me from another embarrassing episode like The Shaggy Affair.
Nothing is as it appears. For example, if you're fighting a principled but unpopular battle, beware of the compadre who says, "Don't worry, Brother, I have your back!" That's your own personal Judas.
Man to man is so unjust, children:
Ya don't know who to trust.
Your worst enemy could be your best friend,
and your best friend your worst enemy.
A true friend has no need to declare his friendship out loud. He knows actions speak louder than boastful pretence.
As you learn, through experience, how to look at things, you'll realise most of what we think we see is illusion. Our minds can be tricked into seeing whatever others want us to see. The secret of success is to train your mind to look at everything slightly askance as opposed to the way you're told to look at it. Imagination is the inspirational tool of the clear thinker and the enemy of the brainwasher
SEEING WHAT ISN'T THERE
Sometimes, it's more important to see what isn't there or to assume the opposite of what appears obvious. Sherlock Holmes' ability to unravel illusion often dumbfounded officious police inspectors determined to be unimpressed. "Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?" one smirked at Holmes, who, ignoring the superior tone, replied, "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time." The inspector pounced, certain he'd exposed Holmes as a fraud: "The dog did nothing in the night-time!"
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes, who'd already surmised the intruder was someone the dog knew well.
Another example comes from a favourite lateral-thinking puzzle: "A lady is seated, writing. Outside, there's a thunderstorm, as a result of which she dies. Explain." A No-Prize awaits the first correct answer. No Googling. None of my former law students qualify.
It's all about perspective. Americans think the English too snooty about their centuries of careful breeding and tradition. "Look at me ... !" says a proud descendant of generations of US immigrants. "I have Italian blood, Greek blood, a little Irish blood, some Cherokee and Apache blood. What'd you say to that?" The Englishman replies with a slight sneer, "Awfully sporting of your mother, old chap!"
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to email@example.com.