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You See What You Expect to See

You don’t see what you don’t expect to see.

There’s a story I’ve heard a few times now that I’m not sure I believe. But it’s also one of those that’s going to be hard to prove–or disprove.¬†Apparently, when the first European explorers came to the east coast of what is now the U.S., Indians couldn’t see the ships. The ships were there, in the ocean, floating along happily, but because they couldn’t accept or believe or even imagine structures out on the sea, they couldn’t see them. Ships back then, in the eyes of the Indians, were maybe like spaceships or aliens to us today. Of course, now we have movies and Disney so our imaginations are full of, well, that. But what about something we truly couldn’t imagine, could we also not see it?

Of course, it’s a trick question: if we can’t imagine it and we can’t see it, then is it really there? If we can see it, because that’s what we expect to see, then it’s there. We see it. But do we then only see what we expect to see? Are things that we don’t or can’t expect really there?

I wish I had a photo of the parking sign that clearly stated that you were not allowed to park from 6 pm to 8 am. But I didn’t expect that. I looked straight at the sign, read every word, realized that we only had 2 hours or more if we had a local permit (which we didn’t).

But that’s not what I expected. I expected it to say we couldn’t park there from 6 AM to 8 am because I usually live in a city (not in suburbs) so the streets need to be clear for commuter times in the morning. 6 to 8 might be a little early for commuter times, but whatever. But 6 pm to 8 am? That doesn’t make sense.

I sat there, my ticket in hand and read the sign again and again. I looked at the back of the car: I was far enough away from the curb. I looked at the front of the car: nothing wrong there. I looked for fire hydrants, red paint, special other signs. Nothing. It must be a mistake.

On about the fourth read, I saw it: 6 PM to 8 AM. Oh, they don’t want business patrons parking on the residential street. I’m sure I read the actual letters earlier, but I didn’t expect it. In fact, even though I can read simple, two-letter words with impressive accuracy, I didn’t comprehend their meaning because it was so different from the meaning I wanted to give it.

68 bucks to learn to expect the unexpected.

  • Possible: expect the expected
  • Impossible: not expect the expected
  • Repossible: expect the unexpected
By | 2015-05-07T23:49:08+00:00 May 7th, 2015|Perspective|0 Comments

About the Author:

Bradley Charbonneau was sitting with his 8-year old reading a bad children's book when he said to his son, "We can do better than this ... and you're going to help me." Then they did it. He hasn't stopped since.

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