H2G2 Researchers' DNA Moments

3 Conversations

My intention for this piece is to pay homage to Douglas Noel Adams and his creative way of blending reality and fiction for humour's sake.

All this first part will disappear, of course, but I encourage all other researchers to share in the creation of this entry.

Douglas Noel Adams, as a writer for Monty Python's Flying Circus, Dr. Who, the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy novels, the Dirk Gently series of mysteries, and more, often blended reality with fiction in such a way that one could never be certain whether he was relating or inventing a given scene.

As an example, when Douglas' character, Arthur Dent, spends some time with a conscious Fenchurch in a railway station, he relates a wonderfully absurd and unbelievable story about a packet of biscuits. Yet, in a later work, he tells the same story, with himself in place of Arthur, and laughs that the funniest bit is that the other character in the story is walking around telling of the same event, but doesn't know the punchline.

This type of moment is described as the feeling one would get walking around blind for one's entire life, only to suddenly discover that they were simply wearing too large of a hat. There is a sudden revelationary sensation, followed by a sense that one is now in possession of a previously unnoticed truth.

For the purposes of this entry, these shall be known as a...

DNA Moments:

Here, then, are some stories of actual such events, experienced by your reseearchers, told in their own words.

DNA Moment #1: Shopping in Surreal Town

I had stopped at a large market, where I often shopped unaccosted, sometimes for hours, rarely having more than a three word conversation with anyone.

I dodged a very old man's shopping cart, which he had left in the middle of the aisle as he shuffled slowly off to search out orange juice. Standing near the spices, I heard a deep voice far above my left shoulder ask, "Would you know what Arrowroot is?" A very tall man with a friendly face stood there, holding a cookbook. "Oh!", I responded, "Arrowroot is a thickening agent used for stews, sauces, and the like."

He seemed so very pleased to find someone who knew, I decided to help him find it. During our tour of the shelves, we interacted with a women who suggest that Corn Starch could be substitued, to which I added that very fine flour works as well, if the recipe's authentic ingredient could not be acquired. But, we completely failed to find any arrowroot, and he went to ask the manager whether they carried arrowroot, after which I found myself once again talking to the same woman about cooking styles.

Back in the spice aisle, as I went along the side that held the products I needed, the elderly gentleman berated me for traveling the 'wrong side' of the aisle. As I turned a corner, I heard a small voice coming from below my left shoulder asking, "Can you tell me if this is the price for this product". A very young, blonde girl stood holding a battery charging unit that came with four batteries.

I discovered that it had been on the wrong peg, and its correct price; and that the product for that price was not what she needed. It turned out that she had a charger at home, but didn't know that the brand batteries she had. I explained that the brand of the charger was incidental to the charging, as long as the size, type, and specifications were identical.

She went off, happy, and I again found myself having to avoid the abandoned buggy of the elderly curmudgeon.

Believing that my shopping was finally done, I headed for a checkout station when I again found myself facing the young girl. Now, it turned out, she didn't even have enough money to buy the pack of four batteries; and, really, she only needed the two. I suggested that I could always use a couple of rechargeable batteries that size, and I offered to buy the pack and sell two to her for half the price. But, "No", she said, She "wasn't yet ready to leave just yet".

I ducked down one last aisle for something I'd forgotten, and headed back toward the front; and, there was the young girl, now ready to make my proposed transaction. I stood, with the pack of batteries, behind a woman with a full cart, in and otherwise empty line, because the scan-it-yourself line looked backed up.

Almost immediate to the young girl going to wait at the opposite side of the checkout, the scan-it line suddenly seemed to empty. Eight people had been standing together with only one order between them. I moved immediately to an open scanner when I realised that I'd dropped out of site of the young girl. So, I motioned until she saw me and started over.

As I went to scan my first item and was suprised to find an unusual product in my cart, and another, and another! All my fruits and vegetables were gone, and only three items in the cart were mine! I'd somehow ended up with someone else's buggy?!?! But, where? When? And, where was MY cart?

I paid for the batteries, so the girl wouldn't have to wait around, and went off searching for 'my buggy'. I found it, abandoned in the middle of an aisle, completely unattended, and noticed the elderly gentleman wandering nearby.

I added my three items to my previous selections and checked out with my purchases. I don't know whose buggy I had been escorting around the store, or for how long, but I suspect that there's someone out there who's telling the same story as a sordid trick that had been pulled on them, and they just don't know the punchline.

DNA Moment #2: A Long Runway from Home

I purchased my first 'new' automobile, back when petrol was quite inexpensive, and offered to take my girlfriend for an evening drive. She lived quite a distance from me, so I attempted to stay in the area, without unnecessarily distracting or detracting from the company and conversation.

As it began to get dark, we continued our drive. The twists and turns couldn't have taken us but a couple of miles from her home, but the area started to look less familiar. I began to casually zig-zag looking for a familiar landmark of some sort, but wasn't concentrating enough to make headway, and I'd lost my sense of direction with the setting of the sun.

The time really began to get late and she suggested it was probably time to head back. I agreed, but mentioned that it had become somewhat foggy, and I wasn't really certain which direction to go.

We tentatively tried a couple of directions, but realized that we could not even find street signs. Not only that, but intersections seemed oddly misaligned!

We finally spotted some lights and decided to try that direction. We found ourselves facing an airport hangar, and realised that what we had thought was a very wide street was, in actuality, an airport tarmak! We had somehow passed an airport gate without realising it or being challanged, and had ended up on a runway.

It took almost half an hour, but we finally found a way around a terminal and back out onto the street. At least we had found our landmark!

DNA Moment #3: Breaking out of the Car Park

I picked up an antique Wakefield B-1 adjustable bicycle wrench (spanner), years back, at a resale shop or flea market. Like a lot of bicycle wrenches, the B-1 is rather flat and adjustable. Instead of finding it a place in one of my normal toolboxes, I kept it in my collection of travel tools that fit in luggage. As my last few jobs have not required much of a commute, or travel, I'd lost track of the 'kit'.

I used to keep a set of tools, for emergencies, in my car, too; but the complexities of recent models have made that all but useless, so I stopped lugging it around.

On a recent Friday, trying to leave work for the weekend, I was stopped at the exit of the parking structure by the security gate. The card-operated lane refused to recognize my digital card pass and let me leave. I realized that there were two cars in the intercome lane (very unusual), so I presumed that they shifted over when their digital cards didn't work. Even the 'Intercom Lane' was no help because it was linked to a distant office by telephone, and all it generated was a busy signal.

I have to put up with a lot of the rude parking that goes on in structures, but I'd visited the Security Office of this structure, just the day before, to point out a car that literally straddled a parking space dividing line. They were helpful and offered me a phone number to make it easier to report future violators.

I used that number now, to make certain that someone was on-the-job, only to be hung up on with a curt 'use the intercom button'. There were two more cars behind me now.

Twice more they hung up before I could get there attention enough to explain the situation. And, another couple of cars piled up behind the crowd. A guard came around the corner of the distant office and waived me over to the intercom lane.

I called a fourth time and managed to yell into my phone 'the card readers weren't working, and that the intercom was a bleedin' busy signal!' before they could cut me off.

Although the guard headed over to us, it was obvious that he would not be able to solve the problem at the gates. He forced open the never used door of a gate booth, but there was nothing useful in their either, so he forced the door closed, threw up his hands, and assured everyone that 'someone' was coming. I could see people starting to exit their cars, and grew somewhat concerned for the guard's safety.

I called out my window, as even more cars came up, 'Hey! Just turn your back for a minute and I'll just dismantle the bloody thing!' It was more an attempt to defuse tension with levity than a serious proposition; but, to my surprise, the guard's response was, 'Do you have a wrench?', 'Do you have a good wrench?' I'm afraid I boasted, 'I AM Mr. GoodWrench!', a registered trademark of General Motors Corporation.

The group of six or more people had gotten close and were visibly upset having their weekends postponed. So, the guard called out, 'The gate will be open in a minute or two, but I didn't see anything, and you didn't see me see anything!'

Now, he had really put my foot in my mouth, and I realized that this car was so recent from the dealer that I hadn't gotten around to putting together a real toolkit for it. All I knew that I had was a canvas car organizer that I had stuffed with some bare essentials from my previous vehicle; emergency battery cables, a tow-rope, a quart of oil, road flares, etc.

I pulled it out and began what I was certain would be a futile search, hoping only to stall for time until the 'real' help got to the problem.

The only thing in the organizer not immediately identifiable was a small plastic case about six inches by four by one. I don't know what I might have thought could be in it, but I opened it up. Inside was a small pair of pliers with a short pointy nose (worthless), a small pocket knife, a packet of utility blades, and my Wakefield B-1! Yes! Huzzah!

Impressive it wasn't, and I had no idea how tightly the fasteners had been tightened, of if their might be rust, or if it might not take TWO spanners to loosen them.

By the time I got to the arm, a crowd of four surrounded me, with more waiting in reserve, and even more waiting (not to patiently) in their cars. As I loosened each fastener, hands moved in to further turn it. I had to go to each one twice, but the little wrench (perhaps sensing that it had better perform on its first ever use, or just break and be thrown away) didn't embarass me.

Up until then, 25 to 30 minutes had passed from when I first pulled up to the arm. In two minutes, I'd found my spanner and completed the job, laying the diagonally striped arm on the ground. The hurrah and applause from the crowd was quite unexpected, but I gave them a standard 'Rocky' victory salute with both fists held high.

Apparently, it was our 'help' that arrived just then, but obviously with tools or a plan. The guard that had been on duty told him that it was the strangest thing. 'This arm just suddenly shot out of the mechanism, and landed here on the ground!'

They were still discussing it during the three or so minutes it took all of us to escape to the sounds of 'Be sure to swipe your passes!' which I'm sure that we all did, although it was obvious that the readers were not 'reading' a thing.

And so, for a brief and unexpected moment, because of a randomly captured phone number and a randomly purchased antique that suddenlyt turned up, I was their hero of 08-08-08.

DNA Moment #4: A meeting with technology

It was time for a planned meeting, in a 32-person conference room that was equipped with a ceiling mounted projector (in the center) and a electric powered screen. As host on the East wall. I had arrived a bit early to set up my laptop. The center of the room was dominated by six tables, the one at each end, perpendicular to the two rows of two tables between them. Let's call those tables Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest.

All the tables were bare, except for three or for microphones connected by slender wires to a conference call device. What was missing was any sign of the remote control for the projector. I walked around the golden wood-toned, six conference tables, all but sweeping them with my arm. I started up my laptop and continued searching.

Satisfied that the device was not on top of, or under, any of the tables, I continued my search as my laptop continued to connect itself. I checked inside window ledges, cabinets, rolling easels, etc. Finally, I gave up and climbed onto Northeast to manually press the On button.

I made a couple of trips back to my desk to gather additional materials, and was ready for the meeting on time.

Ten minutes into the meeting, I mentioned my dilemma of the missing controller. We came to the conclusion that someone must have inadvertently 'packed it up' with their stuff when leaving the room, and that it would probably find its way back soon.

Then, a participant sitting at Southeast pointed to Northeast, to my immediate right, and asked, 'You mean THAT?'

I turned my head only slightly and saw the little gray brick of a control, with its colourful buttons, taunting me, daring me to deny its existence!

I could only presume one of three things had happened; 1) I had just been an idiot (not impossible, except for the exacting search I had made), 2) There was a prank playing poltergeist involved, or 3) The culprit had snuck the thing back in, placing it neary my equipment, while I was transferring the meeting materials.

I can't say which is the truth, and Northeast isn't talking!

DNA Moment #5:

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