This is my weird thought of last week, inspired by what happened on a walk home from my sons’ school. One morning last week, as I was making my way home from the school run with two friends, talking about random stuff, I had the following revelation: we look but we don’t see. Or at least, I don’t.
As we were walking, one of my friends side-stepped on the pavement. I didn’t notice. (I never walk in a straight line so why should it be strange when someone else doesn’t?) The other friend did notice (I suspect she must like straight lines). She laughed. I queried what she was laughing at.
‘Oh she does it all the time,’ second friend explained.
‘She does what?’ I asked.
‘Oh you must have seen her do it!’ Second friend added.
‘Do what?’ I asked.
‘Oh I’ve always done it,’ first friend responded with embarrassment.
‘Do what? I asked again, exasperated.
‘You know those BT things,’ second friend explained.
‘What BT things?’ I asked.
‘Those concrete things. She’, second friend said pointing to first friend, ‘walks around them if there are three of them. Look behind you!’ I did as I was bid.
‘At what?’ I asked.
‘Those square concrete things, the BT things,’ first friend added. I looked again. I squinted. I did indeed see three grey concrete squares in the pavement, a short way behind us, slowly moving into the distance.
‘There’s another there,’ second friend said pointing ahead of us. I looked and saw by my feet two squares of concrete with ‘BT’ on a small metal plate at the top of them.
‘What are they?’ I asked.
‘Oh you’re kidding me!’ Second friend exclaimed. ‘She,’ she added, pointing back at first friend, ‘won’t step on anything that comes in threes and that includes these’.
‘I’ve done it since I was young,’ first friend explained. ‘If my daughter walks on them then I have to cross my fingers’.
‘Wow!’ I replied. My astonishment wasn’t related to her behaviour (we all have our quirks), but at something else. Before that moment, I had never noticed these big squares of concrete in the pavement. I had walked this route to and from school hundreds of times (approx. 400 per year) yet I had never noticed the grey slabs of concrete on the pavement.
The conversation moved on to other things and we soon parted. I continued my journey into town. I had been shown something I didn’t know existed and to me that was hugely important. As I made my way to town, it felt as if over the previous night someone had splattered my route with grey concrete squares, with a metal plate reading ‘BT’, without warning me. These grey squares seemed to be everywhere. I was sure they hadn’t been there before. They lay in groups of either two or three. Some were to the left of centre, some to the right of centre. In my mind, they definitely hadn’t been there the last time I’d walked to town. Some where bigger than others. Most were straight. Some where more pleasant to look at than others.
Shrewsbury is an old medieval town and many of the streets are cobbled. Walking through town I studied the BT squares with interest. They appeared to have been designed to fit the style of the road they were on. This fact, I found worthy of consideration. The ‘BT squares’ on the main streets were much more utilitarian and simple (cheap). The ones on the cobbled roads were more subtle, and generally smaller. But they were everywhere. That morning, it felt as if I couldn’t walk more than ten steps without finding another couple. I asked myself: how on earth had I survived 44 years without noticing these trap doors into the ground (assuming my ‘placed over night’ theory was wrong)? More importantly, where do they lead to? I think that is another blog entry.
This realisation shocked me. I always thought I was quite an observant person. I’m an art student, after all. It is part of the job description: ‘Artist needed, must be able to see things that others don’t.’ I began to doubt my abilities as an artist that day. I had always prided myself on being good at noticing the teeny tiny details of life. Perhaps I am wrong to think this about myself. Perhaps I should revise my career ambitions. I am also a book editor: another job that requires attention to detail.
I think I need to open my eyes.