Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Pay Attention!"

Ah, were I to have a nickel for every time I've heard those two words, I would be a very wealthy man indeed. And my only problem with being told to pay attention is that I generally don't. Oh, I try. Really. And I often convince myself that I really am. But ten seconds later, I'm hard pressed to remember just what it was I was supposed to be paying attention to.

Throughout grade school, my parents accumulated a sizable stack of notes from various teachers saying, in effect, "Roger is a wonderful, wonderful young man, but would do far better in his studies if only he would pay attention." (Well, maybe everything up to the "but" is wishful thinking, but the latter half is almost verbatim.) I think part of the problem lay in the fact that I am so easily distracted. I mean, how can anyone be expected to concentrate on the formula for determining the hypotenuse of a triangle when there's a very strange little insect staggering across the top of my desk. Obviously, it had been out all night and was trying to find its way home from a party, and I had to speculate on how it got on my desk and where it really thought it was going, and....

Unfortunately, not paying attention has almost gotten me killed on more than one occasion while I was learning to fly as a Naval Aviation Cadet. The airfield from which I was flying had several runways, each one designated by it's compass orientation, and the runway in use at any time was determined by the wind direction. It was important to memorize the runway numbers so that, when requesting permission to land, we would know which runway to use. But try as I might, I could never remember which runway was which, a problem I solved by simply following whatever plane was preparing to land in front of me.

But the closest I actually came to death was on a night flight with a dozen or more other planes. We were told to ascend at a set rate of speed, and to descend at another set rate of speed. All was well until the time came to return to base, and we began our descent. I remember the two speeds, but not which one was which. I chose the faster speed on the grounds that at least I wouldn't be plowed into by someone behind me. All was going fine until I noticed the wingtip lights of the plane directly ahead of me seemingly racing toward me. I shoved the stick forward to dive downward and looked up in horror as I passed less than 20 feet under the belly of the plane that should have been ahead of me. I surely could not only have died myself, but caused the death of another pilot. It was one of the most sobering moments of my life.

But did it make me pay closer attention to things from that moment on? For awhile, yes, but....

I cannot read instruction manuals of any kind because, the moment I take my eyes off the instructions themselves, I forget what they were. If someone tells me their telephone number, I seldom remember it long enough to write it down, even with a pencil in my hand. Transposing a phone number I did manage to write down into a computer file requires endless going back and forth. The handwritten 773-949-0211 becomes 773-994-0112 or 773-994-0121, or ....

When I was in service, our Marine drill instructors had a rule for teaching: "Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em." A very wise method. Unfortunately, it never worked for me.

I have come to the conclusion that I am emotionally dyslexic.

Now, what was I talking about?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out http://bit.ly/m8CSO1 for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."


1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

Ralph has a problem where he thinks he has a photographic memory, yet nothing is EVER where he says it is. It's not on the same side of the room, not even in the correct room and, lately, not even in the correct home. You just need to have very patient people around you to assist and who speak fluent Rogerese.