The Mind Doesn't Like Walking Backwards

On Sunday, we had breakfast at the Broken Egg, a delicatessen in downtown Ann Arbor run by Greek immigrants. I guess the proprietors are Greek immigrants because they have three clocks on the wall over the till, and the second one shows the hours written out in Greek words. The rest of the restaurant is loaded with fifties Americana, but the second clock on the wall is in Greek, and the third clock on the wall is backwards.

Literally. The numbers are arranged counter-clockwise and the hands move backwards. I notice this right away once we step in off Main Street, but Rosemarie, my mother-in-law, only catches sight of the clock when breakfast is nearly over. She and Wendy look at the clock and talk about it, and even though they realize that the clock is backwards, they have great difficulty telling time. Is it ten to two, or ten past two? (It’s ten to two, though the hands would show ten past ten on a normal clock).

Do we realize how much of the world we take in and read at a glance? We may have twenty-six letters in our alphabet, and the ability to pronounce words we don’t know phonetically, but we don’t read the words that way. You see READ, not R. E. A. D. We see our words the same way the Chinese see theirs: as pictures, the very image of which conjures up what we intend to communicate in our minds.

It’s not just words that have this power. You remember the old test where you’re expected to read out loud the following words: Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red? Look at the words closely. Even though the words themselves conjure up images in our mind, they are supplanted by the colours I’ve painted them. Sentences even have power that supersedes words: witness how difficult it is to catch a misprint that rushes before you’re eyes.

I’m sure psychologists have plenty of explanations of how the mind works. All I can say is: “interesting”.

I had an interview today! The second this week! A position as an administrative assistant in a Dean’s Office. It came out of the blue; Erin e-mailed me to say that the H.R. Department wanted me to call and arrange an interview that day. I didn’t have time to put on a tie. At least I remembered to shave that morning.

It was actually the first of a two part interview. The University of Waterloo has an interesting procedure where Human Resources interviews you first, softening you up, perhaps, before sending you to the department in question for the second interview (I almost said “real interview”, but both interviews were (will be) very real). That second interview comes this Thursday.

Yes, people noted the irony of interviewing in the same building where I’m currently working on a Temp assignment. My current supervisors have been very accommodating, allowing me time off to go to these interviews, with the assurance that I’d give them one to two weeks notice if I’m lucky enough to be offered the job.

I hope it works out. The University is a great place to work.

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