Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Crazy

I went to a different car repair shop today. Like some others around, I'm choosing to do business with businesses based on my self-interest, and that means that when I learn that certain folks associated with some companies donate majorly to organizations focused on taking away my right to collectively bargain or to subjecting me to paycuts, well I vote with my feet to use what pay I get where I like.

I had been going to the dealership where I bought the car, which was okay. It's a local iteration of a multinational, a dealership shop. And it had that dealership shop feel. And that was okay. (The dealer actually has a good reputation for treating women customers decently, so I'm sad that the owner feels the need to donate to certain organizations in a big way. But I'm pretty sure they won't notice that I'm not visiting.)

Anyway, the new place is highly recommended. It's a small place, much smaller, with the owner, Gary, right there with his name on his shirt and all. It looks like it's taken over an old gas station, the ones that used to have a little office, on one corner, and then the other three quarters of the square/rectangular building were the auto shop areas. Only the inside of the office looks sort of like old and very tiny diner seating went there to visit and stayed, and has a wi-fi internet thing and coffee and such.

I called this morning to make an appointment to get my oil changed and a headlight (or do you say headlamp?) changed. But they said I didn't need an appointment, and to just drop by. So I did.

It's a very cool shop. I looked at a National Geographic magazine from 1928 for a bit, and was blown away by a picture of San Francisco taken from the Twin Peaks area and looking north to the Marin Headlands. It's a striking picture for someone like me, because I've never seen this vista (except in a few old pictures) without the Golden Gate Bridge dominating it.

I wasn't the only person at the shop, though.

One of my colleagues came in. And then this other woman, and Gary, the shop guy with her.

Then Gary took my colleague back to work (while another shop guy worked on my oil change) and the other woman and I waited.

And she told me about being an alternative healer and how we all have these energies and she can tell what's wrong with people by touching their hands (I did not offer mine) and how humans are special and unique because we have an anima sort of thing and so on.

And I finally politely disagreed on the uniqueness of humans, because I'm pretty sure we're just really cool bags of chemical reactions, no more unique and wonderful in reality than other really cool bags of chemical reactions. My preference for bags of chemical reactions I have more in common with than not is merely my relative position.

Gary (having returned) offered that dogs are pretty special, and seem curious (which was one of the things she said was unique about humans, but I'm guessing she's never noticed a lot of other animals). But she said dogs were special only because we had bred them to be and blah blah. And who is to say that a daffodil isn't experiencing whatever unique daffodilness is?

She also said that every other animal had a purpose and just did that. So I wanted to ask if that purpose weren't misleading, and a result of the success of evolutionary processes that look like purpose, to which humans are just as subject as any other reproducing species. (Though, I, having chosen not to reproduce, have failed that part. But genes similar to mine are carried on in lots of other peoples, so I'm not too worried. And I don't think my genes for bad eyesight and such are all that wonderful anyway.)

Why is it that you never run into anyone in a car shop who wants to talk about the scientific method? Or who's interested in Hume or Locke? Why is it I never end up hearing out of the blue about someone's interest in language acquisition or prairie restoration?

Nope, I always get the people who want to talk about energy fields or how their sky fairy came into their life to have a special relationship with them. And it's not like I'm going out of my way to Norwich or something. I can be sitting in a car shop looking innocently at a 1928 picture of the Marin headlands, and I get to hear about energy fields and diagnosing people through their hands.

And then you have to remember that this person votes, too.


  1. The crazy people tell you about their crazy because they're solipsists who don't really care what you like or don't like.

    The people who can tell you interesting things, like you, don't start a lecture at the auto dealership, because you long ago realized that 98 out of 100 random auto-shop neighbors will be annoyed if you just start telling them cool stuff about The Winter's Tale. The interesting people have to be drawn out.

    I think that's it.

  2. sophylou3:51 PM

    Also, part of the crazy seems to be a sense that one is on a MISSION and must spread the word to anyone and everyone in sight.

  3. Sachi3:59 PM

    Yup, sounds about right. The interesting people are usually in possession of basic social filters, which stop them from performing monologues in the mechanic's waiting area.

    Also, bringing up more interesting topics often leads to unpleasant reactions, so many of us have sadly learned to keep our mouths shut. I'd love to discuss the scientific method or language acquisition or whatever, but over the years I've learned to choose the time and place and partners for those conversations with care. I think I'd be even less able to tolerate proselytizing and being damned to hell for mentioning "science" than I would the alternative healing lecture.

  4. this happens, especially if you go to smaller businesses that don't donate to idjits of the powerful sort. mechanically speaking, you just might have found a good shop.

    i live near berkeley, and i don't actually hear a lot of woo-woo beliefs in my daily life. on those odd occasions when someone obviously raised on another planet has something to say, it's handy to switch into another mode, where one grunts something non-committal and needs to go do something.

  5. Peter6:11 PM

    Part of me agrees with all the above...except...lots of my colleagues, who seem clever and rational will begin conversation, and suddenly I feel I'm in that funky Vertigo/Twilight Zone vortex where I'm tumbling around against a green screen with black and white spirals projected behind me as I flail my arms and kick my legs.

    It starts at astrology and ends with miracle cancer cures the government wants to keep from us. And these aren't odd strangers in car repair shops who may vote but people hired by a college and put in charge of teaching statistics (I know, right? Validity and reliability and confidence intervals and all that?) or biology (yes! science of the non-creationist variety!) or advanced composition(logic! logical fallacies!).

    So, while my instant reaction is that, yes, wacky people are more visible (or audible), they're just the crust on the tip of an immense iceberg. And that may help explain why a huge percentage of Republicans believe Obama wasn't born in the US and disbelieve evolution. Or, for that matter, believe that God commands them to fly jetliners into occupied buildings.

  6. Peter6:13 PM

    Ouch! bad drafting. Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that God commands Republicans to terrorism. Should've revised before posting. Regrets.

  7. a. noony mouse6:26 PM

    i have a little crush on peter. of the long-distance sort, because he made me laugh really hard.

  8. Now I want to find the car repair shop where customers discuss Locke and Hume in the waiting room. I want to live in that town.

    Though, actually, I think I've been looking for that town since I was 12. Hell, I dated my second boyfriend *solely* because he was the first guy I had ever met in my useless town who had a vocabulary to match my own and had read (nearly) as many books as I had. (Well, okay, he also had a motorcycle and kissed very hotly.)

    I kind of expected the university to be that town. Sadly, it is not. At least mine is not. People talk about shoes and assessment, not Hume and Locke.