Tuesday, February 09, 2010

On being somebody else's problem

On being somebody else's problem

Photo credit: John FoxxSo, what's your superpower?

Up until recently, I thought I had the power of invisibility.

I can walk into any crowded room, such as a business conference or a party, and not a soul will pay me the slightest bit of notice.

At first, I put this down to the fact that I am – in social situations, a little awkward and a boring bastard. But I slowly came to the conclusion they could not see me at all, and my presence is only felt should I speak loud enough, or crap in the punch bowl.

But I was wrong. I possess a fully-functioning somebody else's problem field. As poor, dead Douglas Adams explains:

An SEP is something we can't see, or don't see, or our brain doesn't let us see, because we think that it's somebody else's problem.... The brain just edits it out, it's like a blind spot. If you look at it directly you won't see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye.

The technology required to actually make something invisible is so complex and unreliable that it isn't worth the bother. The "Somebody Else's Problem field" is much simpler and more effective, and "can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery."

This is because it relies on people's natural predisposition not to see anything they don't want to, weren't expecting, or can't explain.
I realised that this was the case when I was taken hostage by armed goons recently.

Yeah, that got your attention.

To be honest, I was on a course with a number of media workers, being trained in what to do in hostile situations (ie run away). When running away fails, there is a lesson in Being A Good Hostage And Not Getting Yourself Killed To Death.

Essentially, you are taken hostage by a bunch of armed goons and kept in a hut somewhere near Basingstoke. There, you are forced, along with a dozen or so comrades, to kneel on the floor and not get yourself killed to death.

For two hours I knelt there, as my pals were dragged out, shot and taken home to matron for a nice cup of tea. It was only as the last gunshot was heard, the leader came up to me in the middle of the floor, tripped over my ankles and damned my hide for "not seeing you there".

I had simply escaped the attention of ten heavily-armed former Special Forces goons. For two hours.

I'll say this for the alternate dimension into which the Someone Else's Problem field thrusts me: It's bloody boring.

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