internal traffic noise

When I was a kid, I used to stand at the eastward-facing window of my parents’ room – where the cool breezes always came in, and also the side of the house with the best view – and I would just look out at the garden and the trees before me, and at the streets and roads behind that, and out at the hills and freeway beyond that. If I remember correctly, I tended to do this to cool down either in the afternoon when it was hottest, or in the evening when I could admire the moon and the stars.

Continue reading

scrap (paper) memories

I have a lot of random childhood memories that spring to mind at the oddest moments.

The other day, at work, when I was throwing a scrap of paper into the bin and, it not being suitably aerodynamic for the course I had intended it to take, it fell somewhere beside the bin. (You can just tell this is going to be an absolutely riveting post, hey?) In this moment, as I contemplated the pros and cons of picking it up versus leaving it there (for the time being, at least), I randomly recalled this event from my childhood:

I was either nine or ten years old – because this happened in grade five (at least, I think this happened in grade five) – and I was sitting in my classroom, with the rest of the class, while the teacher lectured us about keeping the place clean, and common decency in general.   Continue reading

the life and death of ants

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. This is something that has played on my conscience a bit over the years.

Many years ago, when I was a kid (or maybe I was a teenager…? I can’t remember exactly when this happened, to be honest), I was out in the backyard not really doing anything. The drought and consequent water restrictions meant that there were usually a number of buckets of water in the backyard (from laundry, washing dishes, cleaning vegetables, etc), waiting to be utilised, as appropriate, on the garden.

It wasn’t uncommon for me to have a look in these buckets when I passed by because I’d sometimes find ladybugs in them, floating in the water, and I’d rescue them. Being the kind soul that I am, I liked rescuing these poor, helpless bugs.

But there was a dark side.

On the particular day in question, I believe I found a bucket with ants in the water (my memory is a bit fuzzy on this particular detail, but the rest of the story doesn’t quite make sense if the ants aren’t in the water).

I rescued one of these ants with a small stick I found nearby. I remember looking at the ant on the stick, noting that it was still alive, and then plunging the stick back into the water. In my young mind, I was conducting a science experiment – something along the lines of “can ants swim?” – and I suppose the findings are kind of interesting.

So, imagine, if you will, an ant clinging to the end of a stick, which has just now been submerged in a bucket of water. If you were the ant, you’d probably just let go of the stick and float up to the surface, right? Take the most direct route? But the ant did not do that; it stayed on the stick and started climbing along it, up to the surface.

As it got closer to the surface, I submerged the stick further, or I turned the whole thing around, and made it start its climb all over again. But, still, it wouldn’t let go. Of course, eventually, it drowned.

Ok, so I don’t like ants at all, but I don’t think that I did this weird little experiment with malicious intent. My observations from that day have given me a lot to ponder about over the years. In fact, I can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to finally write a post about it (although I do keep getting the feeling like I’ve already written a post on this… But I couldn’t find anything when I did a search of my blog before, so I’m just gonna run with it.)

Something that I think about now and then is whether it is “ok” to kill insects/bugs like ants, flies, spiders, etc. Well, I’m not vegetarian, so I’m not against killing animals as a general thing, but we should avoid pointless killing, or inhumane killing. And the reason this memory resurfaces now and then is because that ant would have died slowly and maybe also painfully. I assume it would’ve been quite distressed too. If it was a mouse or another pest, I wouldn’t even think of drowning it, so is it “ok” that I drowned this ant?

Sometimes this leads into thoughts about whether or not ants have feelings – did the ant feel hard done by? Did it feel sad that it was dying prematurely before it could fulfil its duty to the colony? Did it wonder if other ants would notice that it was gone? Did anyone notice that this ant was gone?

Well, no, probably not.

But does that make it ok?

And isn’t it interesting that it just would not let go of the stick? Maybe it didn’t know that it could float; or maybe it was afraid of letting go of the only solid thing it had, and drifting around, unanchored, in the water…?

4th grade confession

My colleagues and I have some interesting conversations around the lunch table sometimes. I reckon most of the time, the conversation starts with something seemingly benign, and then, tangent after tangent, it develops into something completely different.

The other day, we got around to the topic of cheating. I can’t remember where it started, but that’s where it ended. We weren’t talking about cheating in a relationship, but just general cheating, and someone made the comment that they reckon I would never cheat on an exam (or something to that effect). To which, being the honest person that I am, I had to make a confession. It was something that I’m pretty sure I’ve never, ever told anyone, but for one reason or another, I thought it was time to release this secret from the depths of my conscience.

The incident happened in grade four (yes, I’ve been living with this secret since I was eight or nine years old). There was a big maths test at some point in the year, and I’d gotten 100% on it. After all the tests had been marked, the teacher returned them to us, and she went through all the questions with the class so that we’d know where we went wrong. Part of the exam was about the use of the greater than / less than symbols (> and <); and it was in this section that I realised that I’d actually gotten a question wrong…

In my defence, she went through that section pretty quickly – at least, it was too quick for my young brain to register and process what had just happened. Of course, just looking at it, I knew that it was wrong, so it didn’t really matter that she’d already moved on to the next section.

But I was shattered. My 100% was a lie. I wasn’t sure whether or not to say anything – the question itself was probably only worth 0.01% or something petty. What difference does it make if I get 99.99% or 100%?

I think, at the time, I knew that I should say something about it to the teacher, but I just didn’t. I decided to ignore it, and swallowed the guilt. Maybe if someone had told me that I’d still be living with the guilt after >15 years, I might have chosen a different path.

And I don’t know if it technically is cheating, per se, but I suppose it’s similar to how an omission of truth could be considered lying. For the record, I’ve never cheated in an exam since then, and I don’t think I’ve ever cheated in an exam before then either. It was just that one time, I swear!

the scarf enigma

I was going to write this particular post earlier (as in, in the middle of winter) but kept forgetting or having other things to post instead. But now, since I have come to a week where I don’t really feel like writing about anything (just don’t have that spark, you know?), I thought this was a good chance to post this before winter is officially over.

It being winter is not actually that relevant to this post, but I’m reminded of this story when I see people wearing scarves, particularly small silk scarves.

I actually heard this story all the way back in grade 7 (which was still primary school back then), and it was told to my class by a substitute teacher. The thing that puzzles me (and perhaps the reason why the story has stuck with me for so long) is that there didn’t seem to be any point whatsoever in her telling us this story.

I’m feeling a bit tired/sleepy (I’ve been up since 5am, but somewhat awake even before that) so I’m just going to give you the abridged version (not that I can remember exactly how she told it, anyway). I’m actually quite interested in knowing if anyone else knows this story too, and if there actually is a point to it…

Just a quick warning: it’s not a very pleasant story, so don’t read it if you don’t like unpleasant stories. Also, if you really like scarves, you might want to preserve your good opinion of them by not reading this story.

There was once a woman who always wore a scarf, 24/7. She was pretty normal otherwise. She married a man who accepted her scarf-wearing. In all the time that he knew her, he never once saw her without a scarf around her neck. As the years went by, and they grew old together, he didn’t question her. However, one day, when she was on her deathbed, he asked her to tell him why she always wore a scarf – he had to know before she died.

She relented, but rather than tell him, she decided to show him. She promptly took off the scarf she was wearing … and her head fell off.

That’s seriously the entire story. Even as a kid, being told this story, I questioned it. Why on earth would she tell us that story??