Friday, November 10, 2006

Pavlov's Dog

It’s a matter of instinct, a matter of conditioning, and a matter of fact… you can call it Pavlov’s dog.’ ~BNL’s Brian Wilson

It’s been a whirlwind of a day revolving around household duties such as mold clean-up (sigh), finicky irons, and crazy loads of laundry… which is a little surprising since I actually haven’t been slacking on it lately.

In the middle of it all, I got a call from a friend of mine. Instead of fast-paced and jovial, her voice had taken on a subdued tone normally associated with distress. Unable to convince her to tell me what was up, I regretfully apologized for being unable to go to lunch due to all the work awaiting my attention. It was at this moment that she blurted “I would really like to see you today, there’s something I need to tell you face to face”.

As the last ten words struck home, my heart dropped to my stomach and I faintly agreed to swing by her house on my way home from the grocery store. I was instantly transported back to college and the “conflict management” that was practiced among my circle of friends as we strove to walk in the principles of the Bible. Usually that simple sentence carried the unspoken meaning of “There’s an issue between us that we need to work out”.

I’m a firm believer in tackling problems before they become huge and unmanageable (and certainly try my best to back this up with action, although I’m sure I drop the ball from time to time), but that doesn’t mean I don’t wince and fervently wish I could jump in a deep hole and hide from the bombshell.

Either I’d done something to hurt my friend (the most likely conclusion given the word choice), or she just needed someone to talk to about something that happened in her life that didn’t have anything to do with me (the conclusion I hoped for).

It was the latter reason… and I silently sighed in relief. I’ve the head-knowledge that something is lost in translation when speaking in a foreign language, including unspoken cues on what’s really going on, but apparently my initial knee-jerk reaction wants nothing to do with such frivolous details.

Then again, I’m not the most incredibly perceptive person to begin with.

Looking back, it’s interesting to see what we become conditioned to and the resulting reaction that’s as predictable as clockwork.


Anonymous said...

The phone rings with that certain menacing series of notes of the ringtone I have chosen for that phone number. My stomach instantly lurches and I feel a hot burning sick feeling, as I begin to violently shiver and I can no longer think about the task at hand. I let it go to machine, for nothing under the sun will convince me to answer it in person. I fear, more than most things I can think of, this inevitable phone call, almost once a week, and dread the moment it arrives. The phone beeps, to inform me that the message is finished and I can safely pick it up and listen to it. My hot temper rises to the surface as I listen to whatever message has been left. I have been conditioned- the thing I fear the most- a phone call from my sister.

(comment from Christy)

Kyle said...

Ah, I hate that feeling. I used to have it about once a week while living in Fort Collins. James would come back to the apartment or meet me somewhere and say, "Kyle, we need to talk" and every instinct in my flesh would demand an instant excuse to get me out of said talk since I was just certain I'd done something wrong to either him or another one of our friends...

I'm glad that this time it was simply that your friend needed to talk and not to *talk.*

Kyle said...

Haha, I just noticed the bottom of each comment has the date and time that it was added on. 11/15/2006 7:59 AM! It's like looking into the future!

I wonder what life will be like sixteen hours from now when I write that comment... I hope there are flying cars...

Star said...

I also cast my vote for flying cars.

Tell me if you see any when the present day catches up with your future commenting self!