Monday, September 29, 2008

You don't see what you're not looking for.

The interpreter was with Stacey, a younger, prettier interpreter. They were in the parking lot of a suburban mall in the city at the great river’s mouth. For the previous three hours they had been supervising a shoreline cleanup program, attended by members of the general public. The bed of a one-ton truck had been filled with bags of unsorted trash, old tires and commercial fishing flotsam. A prize find had been a set of bagpipes, perhaps in vengeance hurled from an upstream bridge.

They were heading to the fried chicken place. “Although I don’t as a rule eat this kind of food,” Stacey said as they wove through vehicles and light standards.

“Me neither,” said the interpreter.


High-pitched screaming erupted a few feet above the lights. Reflexively the interpreter pointed. An adult bald eagle was flapping strongly, but without the grace its species is famous for. This was because the large garter snake dangling from its talons was still fighting. The screaming was not from the eagle, whose expression was grim determination, but rather from two piratical glaucous-winged gulls in hot pursuit. The birds and snake passed directly over the interpreters’ heads, then onward over the townhouse roofs beyond the mall.

“That was amazing,” said Stacey.

“Want to know what is more amazing?” asked the interpreter. He didn’t wait for her response. “There are at least thirty people in this parking lot.” This was true. There were people leaving their cars on their way to the grocery store and people coming out of the grocery store, carrying bags to their cars. There was an old woman seated on a bench, smoking. There were two young women standing outside the tanning salon, talking. There was a man stuffing old clothes into a charity donation box. There was a young father pushing a tandem stroller. And there were others, coming from the bank, the video store, the liquor store, and so on. The interpreter said, “But you and I were the only ones who saw that. For everyone else, it didn’t happen.”

Stacey looked around, searching for one who showed signs of having seen the incident, a sight so wild, so extraordinary, so loud, that anyone who had witnessed it should be standing motionless, dumbstruck, staring after the birds. After completing a rotation she said, “Wow. I believe you’re right about that. Nobody else saw it. Right overtop of them, and they didn’t see it.”

“So what do you do?” asked the interpreter. “Sometimes I want to do this:” He made a megaphone with his hands, and yelled, “WOULD YOU PEOPLE PLEASE TRY TO PAY AT LEAST A TINY BIT OF ATTENTION!!!??? HAVE SOME ****ING AWARENESS!!!”

That people noticed. Stacey grabbed the interpreter’s arm and hustled him to the chicken place. She said, “If you’re going to freak out in public, would you mind waiting till we’ve changed out of our uniforms?”


kompoStella said...

LOL!!! i can picture the scene vividly, nature screaming, human shouting...

Anonymous said...

I so can relate.

Anne said...

I would have loved to have seen all of that!

You might enjoy this Flickr photo: