A Baffled Mind

Because my editor is out of town and my word prospector has developed a virus in its potatoe chip, I begin this missive with a certain cents of fore-boating. The machanical affliction, I think, may be silicosis, which is directly related to the Trojan strain recently affecting many similarly situated devices and their neophyte operators.

After my machine began acting out, I contacted a local family practitioner to request a penicillin prescription. The doctor informed me that penicillin is an anti-bacterium, not an antivirus, and refused to comply with my request. He said something that made me think I may need a suppository, and concluded by suggesting that I contact Norton. Since I was unable to find Dr. Norton’s number in the telephone book, I am still afflicted.

Even the local medicine man refused to have a look. Therefore, I beg forgiveness in advance for any missteps I may make in writing this story. Any such mistake is directly related to my viral infection and editorial loss, and does not necessarily indicate a mental or emotional deficiency. Now that I have made the appropriate excuses, I am ready to move forward, so let’s begin.

The other day my wife and I were having a lively discussion when she informed me that I have a “baffled mind." Initially I thought it was a reference to Russell Crowe’s movie, A Beautiful Mind. After a time, however, I began to wonder whether my initial assumption was accurate and went for the dictionary. Mr. Webster defines a baffle as, “A device (as a plate, wall, or screen) to deflect, check, or regulate flow (as of a fluid, light, or sound)”. Knowing my wife as I do, I felt comfortable that she was referring to my mental ability to compartmentalize things, thereby baffling them. That set my mind at rest, and I went back to polishing the glass.

My wife and I often discuss weighty subjects, and, although I have studied Ghandi for years, and consider myself a pacifier, the conversations sometimes get a little heated. I can assure you that I generally try hard to understand her point of view, but have begun to believe there may be a great deal of merit to that book she recently asked me to read. The title was something like, Men are from Vesuvius and Woman are from Marianus. I believe the thesis of the book is that men generally blow and spew like a volcano, and women are deep thinkers. That concept certainly has merit when it comes to our relationship.

I have thought a lot about that book, and have recently begun to notice pairs of ravens sitting on the rocks just above the old mission road during my morning runs. They stare down as I jog past, caw at me, and I caw back. Initially they would fly off after our little exchanges, but have apparently concluded that I am harmless and now stay put. Because of my pace, they must have concluded that I am associated with certain marine reptiles, and am therefore too slow to pose any significant threat to their general welfare.

I have often been told that the ravens are monographist; meaning they mate for life. I am a firm believer in monography, and have done extensive research into why men and women choose to live together forever. The ravens, combined with my wife’s kind comment, had once again set my mind at ease, and I felt a wave of contentment wash over me as I plodded down the highway. I figured that if those ravens can stick it out, so can my wife. After all, I have never asked her to eat road kill, or live outside.

Although I was feeling quite comfortable about my wife’s baffling comment, something happened that caused me to question my prior assumptions. That something was the visit of a middle aged woman to the trading post. The woman walked through the door late in the afternoon, and, as is my habit, I struck up a conversation with her by asking where she lived. She very politely answered, “Chicago.” The conversation continued on a congeniable basis for about ten minutes, when I once again said, “So, where ya’ from.” She looked sideways at me and said, “Chicago, still!” Obviously I was taken aback, and began to wonder whether Mr. Webster’s alternative definition, “To defeat or check (as a person) by confusing or puzzling” may have been applicable to my wife’s compliment.

Although Barry and I try to be egalitarian in our treatment of tourists who ask silly questions, we are not always equilateral. We readily excuse our own faults, and chatter instantaneously and incessantly about theirs. This woman’s comment forcefully reminded me of that specific shortcoming in my personality. It also started me thinking about my ambitions, and opportunities for long term employment at the trading post.

When I was young, I just knew I would set the world on fire; then I’d stand back with a smug look on my face as the praise poured in. I wasn’t sure how or why, but I was sure. As I have approached middle age, however, I have come to realize that I may not even spark.

In those earlier days, the trading post seemed a good opportunity to shine. When we opened its doors, everything was sparkling and new. I had a feeling that this was going to be really great, and it has been. My shining however has been generally restricted to Windex and the showcases.

As a result of our work at the trading post, Barry and I have even been compared to Lorenzo Hubbell, which is a huge indictment; but I wanted Moore. The other day, Cally, one of our trading post friends and trusted advisor, sent me an e-mail with one of those winky things ; ) in the text. I had frequently seen the smiley thing : ), but this was something new to me. All of the sudden I knew that I had missed the boat. I began to question why I hadn’t invented that winky thing? For the last 13 years, I have been trying to convince the people visiting our business that I am truly sublime, rather than just keylime. All that time, I could have been inventing winky things, a truly Nobel calling.

Now I am in a quandary. I don’t know whether to move to the Florida Keys, like Jimmy Buffet, and start a new career inventing those fabulous symbols, or stay here at the trading post. I am convinced that if I can come up with just one winky like thing, I will be a rousing success. I might even have it placed on my headstone when I die, and people will walk by and say, “Oh, that’s the grave of Steve Simpson. He invented that winky like thing. What a visionary he was.”

On second thought, since I have requested cremation and therefore will not even have a gravestone, I may just stay here. Barry probably can’t keep the glass clean without me anyway, and that virulent virus affects my ability to create.

With warm regards Steve Simpson and the team.