Friday, August 7, 2009

The Mind of a Child

In second grade, I took the bus one day per week to a different school. The ride was long enough to be boring, and since I was a kid, I had time to use that imagination I seem to have since lost. I’m sure there were other fancies, but I remember one specifically that consisted of gremlins in my brain controlling me.

This isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. I was still myself, it’s just that instead of electrical impulses, a team of gremlins sat at control panels with a wide screen at the front and countless levers and buttons controlling motion and speech. As I moved my hand in front of my face, I saw the control team making much ado about moving the appropriate levers.

More complex actions required a plan, and on the way back to my home school one afternoon, I formulated a plan for greeting my classmates upon return. One action was a facial expression – a smile, perhaps – controlled by the brown gremlin at the helm. A chubby guy with a hard hat to one side of the control room would wave my hand. He had two levers to choose from, and he’d been trained to choose the correct one. A seemingly simple “Hello”, was the work of the mad genius with thick glasses and a lab coat surrounded by bleeping computer terminals on the upper level. Speech, such an extraordinary system, required extraordinary talent to control, after all. All these actions were divided and assigned and listed on the display at the front of the control room in sequence, and my controllers had rehearsed their coordinated procedure several times, surely making anybody watching think, “So that’s who rides the short bus”.

As I walked into the classroom, my gremlins upstairs sat ready, hands on levers, their moment of action nigh. And nobody saw me. I sat down at my desk in time to be dismissed for the day, and nobody even turned. The gremlins, one by one, relaxed a bit, then released the levers altogether. Their heads hung just slightly, and the brown gremlin’s face held the leader-in-distress “everything is going according to plan” expression. Nothing ever happened.

As the bell rang and we left the building, the image of gremlins faded, but that feeling, the anticipation of social interaction and eventual realization that I had been on the wrong track entirely, has shown itself plenty of times since then. It’s really no more than a curiosity; some people socialize as automatically as they breathe, but I don’t, and that’s just the way it is. Even so, I wonder if a little thing like that had a bigger effect on my sociability than I realized, or if it was just the first time I remember noticing something that was already starting to become part of me.