The Prairie Spy

Alan “Lindy” Linda

As time goes on lately, it seems that more and more of my time is spent searching for various small items that seem to think a game of hide-and-seek would be just lots of fun.

The thing is, now that I’m retired and trying to focus my mind on the fact that I have lots of time to look for stuff, it should be more fun. Hey, I tell myself, here’s some hide-and-seek to kill the next few minutes of the time I have left.

Remember hide-and-seek? It used to be fun when we were little. Then it was fun when our children were little. And more fun when our grandchildren were little. But now? Now I could be reading a book, or sitting doing nothing, nothing being more fun than wondering what other dimension has absorbed my Phillips screwdriver, which was here beside me a moment ago.

Over the years, frequent hide-and-seeks have lessened, because I’ve tried semi-successfully to put stuff back where it came from, given that there was a “came-from” in the first place. For example, the kitchen drawer has broken itself on one side because there’s so much junk in it. But putting it back isn’t always feasible. Maybe that junk drawer needs a break. Put the screwdriver somewhere else. And if you do? Here’s where I’ve developed what I call my “ambush” method. I obviously need to find a place for that stupid screwdriver, if ever I should find it again, now that the drawer is stuffed. But I don’t have time right now, so I’ll place the screwdriver somewhere that will ambush me in my travels and trips around the house or farm. Then it may disappear for a while, but just when I’m least expecting to ever see it again, I’ll have to go into the bathroom and voila! There’s the screwdriver, on the toilet tank.

(OK, this is perhaps an extreme application of the ambush, but you get it.)

Someone who is now a Norwegian has the following method: don’t look with your eyes, look with your hands. True enough, that screwdriver I was looking for was blue. And I was looking for the color blue. Except upon seeing it resting peacefully on the toilet, I realize that it wasn’t blue at all. It was red.

Using the look-with-your-hands, extremist searchers might therefore fumble their way into the bathroom, eyes closed, hands extended, and things being knocked off shelves. If following this hands-on method, the point is valid. Hands, unlike your brain, can only do one thing at a time. Your brain does several things at a time. And it’s doing them while you “think” you’re searching.

You’re thinking while you’re searching, alright. But it’s about what you have to do once you find the missing item; about how you’re going to do it; about that tooth that’s been bothering you; about, about, about. Hands at least don’t think. Brains like to think, especially while playing hide-and-seek.

Once in a while the brain comes back in focus, back from when it was playing its own game: Oh, yes, that’s right. We were searching. For? Ummm. Something? Oh, look! There’s the whatchamacallit I was looking for yesterday–now I can fix the… thing… what was that thing… maybe if I look at what I did yester…

And then you realize that your brain hasn’t been with you at all. That you’ve been aimlessly wandering around in circles? Now you’re trying to find your brain’s drop-out point, so you can search where you were again.

Hence the hands thing.

Research has been done on this game, and has proved that it’s best to focus on cluttered areas. Focus. Because more than half the time, people being observed in these studies let their eyes go away from the clutter to something easier to search through. Leaving less than half their attention where more stuff was.

And finally, my best advice: Don’t kid yourself that once you retire you’ll be able to leisurely approach situations that used to drive you nuts.

Hmmmm. Let’s see. Where did I leave that stupid screwdriver when I decided to write about this…Well. Let’s go to the toilet.