Monday, February 4, 2008

Redundancy Check

Jameson Bjork could swear to himself he'd been driving in that tunnel for a long time, though he knew he'd just entered it. It was curved enough that he couldn't see the end and it was long enough that only the artificial lights inside illuminated it.

It was funny, he thought, how your memory could be so easily fooled. Like déjà vu. It was so clearly a trick of the mind.

For just few moments, the tunnel had seemed endless.

Imagine that, Jameson told himself: driving in a circle for god knows how long.

Of course it raised all kinds of inconsistencies: if he was in a circle, how had he gotten there? It couldn't have been a large one. And if it was closed, someone else must have put him there.

It could start to sound paranoid very quickly.

But Jameson was not the paranoid type. He was easy-going, everyone always said.

So he changed the radio station to find something better. Reception had gotten ugly. It stayed that way because, he realized with a slight groan, that he was in a tunnel. Well, these tunnels were never long, he'd have to stop the radio from seeking after he got out.

Were his headlights on? Yes, they were. He checked the knob just to make sure - it was hard to tell in the dim overhead lighting of this tunnel. It was beginning to seem kind of long.

It had only been a few seconds, right?

He looked at the radio. It was stopped on some static non-station. He didn't recognize the numbers, so he hit the seek button again.

Where were the other cars? It must have been later than he realized. Stifling a yawn, he decided to turn the radio off. Instead, he hummed to himself the theme song for Bonanza, though he couldn't be sure why it had come to mind.

Eventually the humming became whistling, until his mouth was too dry. Why had the radio been off, again? It wasn't as if this tunnel would last forever. The static had annoyed him, he realized, and he had shut it off. It was always a nuisance, the way this stereo would automatically start looking for a signal.

When the signal came back, it was inevitably on some random numbers and not playing music. Not even commercials, just static.

One of these days, he'd have to get a better one. Maybe one that could play mp3's, then he could avoid this nonsense altogether.

After a moment, Jameson got bothered by the silence and turned the radio back on.

"Damn tunnels," he said to no one. He was actually not that bothered by it, but he imagined he could be anywhere at all, it could be anytime of day, and you'd never know it in this tunnel. It was always infused with that sodium lamp glow and you couldn't see out either end, forward or backward.

The radio stopped seeking for a second, and it had sounded like a voice! A female voice. that might be more relaxing than static, he thought.

finally, something to listen too. He'd only caught the word "host", but the woman speaking had an interesting voice, he wasn't sure why.

Manually, he set the station to the lady's voice and listened.

"We hope you're enjoying your commute today. We've just got back from the adverts and now it's back to our program."

She was British, he realized. Had he ever heard of any British radio hosts in the states? He wasn't sure. Before he finished his thought, she answered the question almost as well as if he had asked.

"You know," she told a caller, "I find that Americans really are suckers for my accent, and I haven't even lived in New Zealand for several years."

The caller's voice was too faint to understand.

The hostess answered now, "But fucking Americans who think you're from a completely different country gets boring every night. And I really wish I could find some men somewhere in the world who are less tit-happy, a bit of variety in a shag would be nice."

She paused and the garbled caller said something. What the hell? Jameson was wondering how they got away with not censoring the station. They must have to pay lots of fees to the FCC if they talk like this a lot. He was mildly offended, but more surprised.

"Maybe, maybe" said the hostess, "but men in this country can be so infantile. Sometimes I feel like I'm shagging baby. A bit like men back in New Zealand, but I suppose a bit less chauvinist on average. Feminists have them that scared, at least."

Jameson said aloud, "beck in New Zealand we doun't sheg bebies," poorly mocking her accent. He was easygoing until he was bothered, and now his sensibilities had been offended.

"Maybe you are cultured but why aren't you more interested in cunt?"

"Jesus!" shouted Jameson, who wasn't used to hearing peopel talk that way. how the hell did they get away with this on the radio?

It wasn't that Jameson never used foul language, but he felt there was a time an a place, and for some words, he'd have to be damn angry to use.

"Well then, maybe you - " said the hostess, somewhat seductively, but Jameson had tired of the filth and shut it off.

"Blah, blah. blah." He said to himself. He'd have to avoid 95.3 in the future. "Wonder if all women from down under are so potty mouthed."

Nobody had any comment on his words.

Funny, how you could almost forget that you were alone in a car, then realize at some point that nobody's there. Funny sensation. The sort of thing that made Jameson scratch his mustache

And when had he entered a tunnel? Must have been before he shut of the radio, when he was still distracted, but the station hadn't sounded like he was in a tunnel.

then again, it could just be a lucky signal. bouncing at the right angles into the tunel...it wasn't AM or anything, so it was possible. Jameson was a ham radio operator, and had been very much into it as a youth.

But now he could swear that the tunnel was longer than he remembered. He'd been in it, what, a minute now? Wasn't it much shorter than that? Probably he was confusing tunnels.

It's like déjà vu, he mused. Trick of the mind.

He could only imagine what it would be like to drive in circles in a tunnel...you'd have to have some kind of memory problem not to realize it. And of course, it also begged the question of how he got there. Someone must have out him there, and the paranoia spiraled to schizophrenic heights from there.

He caught himself for misusing the phrase "begging the question". He'd meant "raising the question"; that wasn't what begging the question actually meant, he recalled. It's supposed to be the name of a logical fallacy. Circular logic.

It was funny how people had started using a specific phrase to mean something else, when it already had a specific definition in logic. Showed what the masses knew about logic.

Strange, thought Jameson, how this tunnel seems so long tonight. He had the notion that he was driving in a circle, but that only made him laugh.

Then he had a flash of insight.

Isn't that what life is like, he realized? And history, too. Masses of people driving without being able to see far, going round and round, making the same mistakes over and over. And sometimes it seems so obvious in retrospect that you should have done things differently, but still we go on.

Well, maybe things might finally change for real, soon, he thought. Just like this tunnel was about to end. How optimistic, he told himself: humanity is about to break the cycle.

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