A few weeks ago as I was leaving the office I was stopped by a random guy who appeared to be waiting at the bottom of the stairs to our building. He asked me for directions to Thursday’s, a popular bar in downtown Montreal barely a minute’s walk away from where we were. The conversation that followed went like this:
“Yeah of course, I know Thursday’s. Just keep walking here along Crescent Street and it’s the second or third building on the other side of Maisonneuve, you can’t miss it”
“Merci beaucoup,” he exclaimed. “Hey I hear an accent there, are you from Britain?”
“No mate, I’m Australian.”
“Aaah Australian! Of course, I should have known. G’DAY MATE! How’s the kangaroos? Hey I love that sport you guys play in Australia, AFL?”
“Yep, Australian football, it’s pretty unique huh?”
“Yeah and I love how you guys do the Haka before each game!”
Before I had the chance to correct him on either the nationality or code of football, he bent over at the knees, punched his chest, grunted “Ka mate, ka mate!” and gave me his own personal interpretation of the famous Maori war cry right there on the Crescent Street sidewalk. I couldn’t believe how quickly our conversation had escalated!
He finished his Haka demonstration and went on to ask if I’d like to see a poem he wrote. He handed me a sheet of paper with a piece he’d penned called “The Ocean of Wolves”. And with that, he wished me a good night before heading off up the street – the total opposite direction to Thursday’s.
So, Alexandre B. A. Lebel of Montreal: if you ever happen to Google your own name and stumble upon this post, please know that I have your poem pinned up at my desk at work. It always makes me smile to glance over it and recall the brief but hilarious encounter we had on the street that evening. I hope you made it to Thursday’s eventually. Thanks for the laugh!
Precisely an hour ago as I write this, I was laying unconscious in a Toronto clinic undergoing a medical procedure. For the first time ever, I’d been given general anaesthetic.
IT WAS INCREDIBLE.
The closest I’d had so far to general anaesthetic was around 7 years ago when I was given a shot of morphine to ease some pain. I was taken aback at how it only took a matter of seconds to come to life, instilling me with a magical golden glow all over and instantly relieving me of all discomfort. The full effect lasted an hour, followed by another semi-blissful hour of the comedown.
Fast-forward to today and I found myself between the siderails of a hospital bed, complete with peripheral cannula in a vein in my hand awaiting the intravenous fluid. I was wheeled into the room where I spoke briefly with the the doctor & the anaesthetist and signed the form giving my consent to release the sedative into my bloodstream.
Similarly to my morphine experience, I almost instantaneously began feeling its soothing effects. My senses narrowed within the space of 10 seconds; all external stimulants vanishing into an internalised tunnel of comatose perception. My final few words were something along the lines “Oh, this is quite relaxing” before total darkness ensued.
I didn’t see or feel a thing during the 25 minutes I was under. I wasn’t completely dead to the world, though. I don’t know whether it was my imagination or if it was an actual physical awareness, but I could hear the reassuring beep, beep, beep of the cardiac monitor. And there was one other thing. Constantly, throughout the entire 25 minute session, I had a line from the lyrics of California by Phantom Planet repeating over and over again in my mind:
California, here we come, right back where we started from California, here we come, right back where we started from
I have no idea why my mind selected California of all songs – it is a fantastic tune but I hadn’t heard it for probably two years, and aside from my three hour stopover in LA 7 weeks ago, I have very little connection with The Golden State.
All of a sudden, my peaceful slumber came to an abrupt end. My body started shaking as if I was having a fit, and some nearby nurses reassured me that everything was ok and I was just waking up.
The first thing I said to the nurse in my groggy and generally unaware state was, “I dreamt of this amazing melody and lyrics to go with it, I need to write them down so I don’t forget!” And indeed, as soon as my possessions were handed back, I went straight to my phone notes & keyed in “California, here we come, right back where we started from,” thinking I’d had one of those almost-religious moments you hear about where a songwriter receives material for a hit song directly from God or whatever spiritual entity lies in the realms beyond us. It wasn’t until I got home that I remembered it was actually a Phantom Planet song and not a creation of my genius subconscious or assistance from divine intervention. Dammit :-/
I was fine to leave the clinic within 10 minutes of my awakening, and I’m pretty well recovered right now. It felt genuinely enlightening to experience the effects of general anaesthetic this morning – it’s another tick in the box of uncharted territory, and at least I know what to expect now if I ever need the stuff again. If you’ve never had it yourself, I’m sure you’ll love it should you get the chance.
Have you ever been under, and if so, what was your experience like? Did you sing Phantom Planet songs in your head too? Let me know about it in the comments section!
(And for the record, everything health-wise is fine!)
I had a few hours to spare the other night in Chicago and took the opportunity to venture up North Michigan Avenue and check out the John Hancock Observatory. 94 floors above the famous Magnificent Mile, it’s a spectacular destination for anyone wanting a birds-eye view of Illinois’ most illustrious city.
I didn’t have a tripod to steady my camera for the long exposures required at such a time of day, so I decided to have some fun instead.
I present to you: the Chicago skyline on LSD.
Ok… my camera did manage one relatively sober shot before it tripped 🙂
Before I get into the significance behind the title of this post, firstly I must explain an encounter I had with a customer at work about 18 months ago.
One of the joys of working in a customer contact environment is that you get to talk to some interesting, bizarre, and often downright crazy people. It’s a true eye-opener into how different people can be; one call might be from a pleasant old lady who tells you her life story, and the next caller might be a complete madman who yells and swears at you.
Probably the most perplexing, and to be quite honest, frightening, of all customers I’ve ever dealt with was a middle-aged woman I spoke to when I worked in London. She didn’t speak English very well, and she called with a complaint about an order that she’d just received. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: “Good afternoon, this is Daniel speaking, how can I…?” *gets cut off by woman shouting*
Lady: “YOU TOLD ME THERE WOULD NOT BE BARCODES! YOU MUST TELL DRIVER COME BACK AND TAKE DELIVERY, I CANNOT KEEP IT! I MUST HAVE REFUND! YOU TOLD ME THERE WOULD NOT BE BARCODES! I CANNOT HAVE THE BARCODES!”
Me: “I’m very sorry, but I don’t quite understand?”
Lady: “THE BARCODES!!! I CANNOT HAVE THE BARCODES! NO NO NO THIS IS BAD, THIS IS BAD, THE BARCODES”
Me:*goes into crisis response mode* “Ok, ok, ok, please take a deep breath for me and let me know your account number so I can look further into what has happened”
Lady calms down slightly and gives account details. “THE BARCODES THE BARCODES” I can see that this is the first order she’s placed with us, which consisted of 6 or 7 various items, totalling around £30. “I MUST HAVE REFUND” For the purposes of explaining this I will refer to the lady as Mrs Smith. “THE BAAARRRCOOODEESSSSSSS!”
Me: “Mrs Smith, am I right in saying that you wish for a refund of your order because the items have barcodes on them?”
Mrs Smith: “YES BECAUSE YOU TOLD ME THAT THERE WOULD BE NO BARCODES!! BUT I GET YOUR DELIVERY AND THERE ARE BARCODES! YOU MUST GIVE ME REFUND, YOU MUST TAKE THE BARCODES AWAY!”
Me: “Can’t you just cut the barcodes off the packaging and throw them in the bin?”
Mrs Smith: “NO!! I CANNOT TOUCH THE BARCODES, YOU MUST TELL YOUR DRIVER TO TAKE THE BARCODES AWAY”
At this point I place Mrs Smith on hold and discuss the situation with my supervisor, who is just as perplexed as I am. We both agree on a fair course of action, and I return to my phone, not looking forward to the remainder of our conversation.
Mrs Smith: “THE BARCODES. THE BARCODES!”
Me: “Mrs Smith, I’ve just spoken with my manager and what we are happy to do is request for our driver to return to your address and collect your delivery. However, as these items are perishable, and as it is standard procedure for any form of packaging to contain a barcode, I am afraid that we will not be able to offer you a…”
Mrs Smith: “NO NO NO I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE BARCODES YOU SAID THERE WOULD BE NO BARCODES WHY WILL YOU NOT GIVE ME REFUND BECAUSE OF THE BARCODES TAKE THEM AWAY TAKE THEM AWAY THE BARCODES THE BARCODES THE BARCOOOOOODES” *hangs up phone*
It was an insane conversation, it really was. I felt so sorry for her; I mean, how can you possibly go through life with a phobia of barcodes? You’d pretty much be housebound and you’d have to get somebody else to do all your shopping for you. You’d drive yourself absolutely nuts.
So I did some research. I needed to find out how and why this poor lady came to possess such a fear. And wasn’t it interesting what I found!
There are plenty of websites out there that detail the reasons, and I’m sure some of you reading this will be aware already, but I’ll explain it briefly here by borrowing an image from an article by Dial The Truth Ministries:
This particular type of barcode is known as a UPC, or Universal Product Code, which is the standard for most grocery-related items. Basically, every digit that appears within a UPC barcode is represented by a combination of black and white bars. Digits from 0-9 that appear in the manufacturer code (left hand side) have one particular representation, and digits from 0-9 that appear in the product code (right hand side) have a different representation. There are also three guard bars that appear at the beginning, middle, and end of the barcode.
This next image, borrowed from an article at Hidden Bible, shows how the digits 0-9 are represented in the product code. Pay particular attention to how the digit 6 appears:
As you can see, the 6 is depicted by two thin black bars with a thin white bar in between. Now, if you go back to the first image and look at those three guard bars that I mentioned, you’ll notice that all three of them appear the same as the 6. These three guard bars appear in every UPC barcode, which effectively means that every item you purchase containing a UPC has the number 666 coded in black & white on the packaging. And we all know that 666 = The devil’s number!
Now, it must be pointed out that technically, the guard bars aren’t exactly the same as the representation for number 6 (you can read about this in further detail at Dial The Truth Ministries). But the fact is, to the human eye, they appear the same as the 6.
So you can understand now why particularly religious people may possess a fear of barcodes.
Give it a go yourself! Check out some everyday objects lying around the house and you can witness this in action:
You get the idea!
Anyway, I hadn’t thought much of the barcode thing for a while – until recently, when I was struck with a very ironic and almost morbid thought:
Does the barcode on The Bible contain the number of The Devil?
So I headed on down to the local bookstore to find out.
* * *
It does make me wonder, is all of this purely coincidental, or is it some kind of cruel joke that the inventors of the UPC barcode came up with way back in the early 70’s? If you do some reading up on the subject, you’ll find the inventor, George J. Laurer reckons it’s a coincidence. A pretty bloody funny one, if you ask me.
Now, I am completely accepting of all religions, but I’m not a religious person myself so I can see this whole barcode thing from a light-hearted and humorous perspective, as I suspect most people would do. But what I’d like to know is – are you religious, and if so, does it shock or offend you in any way to know that there’s a little bit of the Devil in (almost) everything you buy?
Feel free to leave a comment and share any thoughts you may have!
In August of last year I took a trip to Amsterdam for a long weekend:
I ate a muffin and I saw some pretty colours:
Then I floated back to my hostel room, laid my exploding head down on my fluffy white cloud, and wrote the following:
There is a guy in the room. He is looking in his locker. He just took a sip of a drink. I think he’s taking a pill as well, it looks like he’s getting one out of the foil wrapping. But no, he’s not, he’s just getting out his toothpaste. Brushes teeth. I can hear the gentle whispering of the brushes against his molars, with the trickling of the basin tap in the background. Perhaps I should request that he closes the tap valve so as to cease said trickling? No, that would be foolish of me because he just closed the valve himself. Leaves bathroom. Changes shirt, sprays deodorant. He is moving too quickly for me to make note of his actions, I ask in my mind that he slows down but the fucker doesn’t catch my drift, he keeps on moving and moving, quicker and quicker, my world slows as his becomes fast, fast like a rocket, fast like the speedboat I hear in the canal outside my window, which on my following moment of awareness introduces its road-handling abilities indicating that it’s not actually a speedboat, it’s a motorcycle, and I do possess a motorcycle learners licence so perhaps I could ride off into the unknown and use that to gain my advantage with the situation. This here situating moment that I currently notate, as I return for a brief sobering moment to compose the fact that I bear a magical auric shade of green. And not in a way which particularly refers to compassion with ones surrounding ecosystem, although I’d say much the same about the green in question. This is the emerald oasis of absolute confusion, fascination, morbid darkness and intrepid awakeness which emanates majestically from my harrowing hallway of whispering echoes. The hallway upon which nobody dares speak their truths, utter their desires, or bask in any form of brashen hopefulness altogether. Are they the sinners who retire amongst the trio of perpendicular shadowed edges? I hastily sermon my response as a yes, a yes for humankind who wishes for nothing more but love and peace coexisting with all lifeform, defiance not existing for but a second. As I pause to reflect among said goings-on, one realises where ones true foolishness lies. ‘Tis where the greying embers plunge away the golden.
Oh skyscraper in the sky,
Were you merely a scraper, the moons rays you would not reach,
Caught abreast your cracked, crooked lips.
The epitome of our evolutionary evils rests amongst the laurels of your tall, cumbersome self.
Were you not prefixed “sky,” the heaven’s blazing self you’d nay embrace, trapped amid fields of brashen development.
But skyscraper, the two criteria by which you fulfil, encompasses all such qualities of a yearning and ever-exploring wisdom beyond worlds of whomever is physically highest.
My tuneful self slowly returns to one of less melody, as the horizon draws near centre from its previous unbalanced windowframe. I have returned, but my travel sickness may linger with her aromatic breeze.
noun a term for the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep, characterized by dreamlike auditory, visual, or tactile sensations when half-awake.
One morning many years ago I woke up early and went to check the time on my phone, but I was instead surprised & intrigued to see six strange words on the screen: “I need to talk to Gentor.”
What on earth? It made no sense at all. I didn’t know anyone or anything called Gentor and I certainly didn’t want to speak to him/her/it. Eventually I summoned a vague memory of mentally procuring this random sentence out of nowhere as I was trying to fall asleep the previous night. In a semi-slumberous frame of mind, I must have woken and keyed the words onto my phone as a note.
Over the following few weeks I did some research and found this was caused by a phenomenon known as the hypnagogic state. This is the watery, dreamlike state of consciousness your mind turns to as you are in the process of falling asleep or waking up. If the conditions are just right during this transitional phase between wakefulness and slumber, you may experience brief hallucinations in the form of images, shapes, colours, sounds, physical sensations, or in my case, random words & phrases. From personal experience, these sensory perceptions are not usually as poignant or lifelike as those experienced during an actual dream; instead I find they present themselves in very short bursts and are often more easily memorable.
Anyway, recently I’ve noticed these hypnagogic words have been coming to me two or three times a week, so over the past two months I’ve written down every one that my mind has graced me with! Most nights as I go to bed, I close my eyes, begin to drift off, and then all of a sudden out of nowhere I’ll be hit by this short, ludicrous, extremely random statement or question that makes barely any sense at all, sometimes even including completely made-up words that have no meaning whatsoever. I wake up and write it down as soon as this happens – and now, for your enoyment, transcribed below is this unpredictable and peculiar insight into my subconscious night-time mentality:
I first had a chicken when I was twelve.
They get all desperate to find out.
You don’t want to suit me up to be a bear?
In the process of renewing and travelling, did you go travelling?
Red guppy beach steps.
Were you a better king for Jack Thompson?
It might just be a soaked up point of water but he’s not ready to justify his actions.
Just put it with my pride and strike the wall.
Broad beans and bomb shells don’t do what they do.
There’s enough memory in this biscuit to keep the silly climber alive.
I have olive oil, but how can a product which is a mild apleasiastic help you? I can’t keep my finger on the zero.
Elevation can’t stand the personal justice of our bleeding yacht.
I love the shadow that they want.
After three nights on the same row, everyone was asking them: why did they move the traffic?
We don’t want you stoppers running into sand, come on, leave it!
What are your secrets, what did you say to them twice?
Draw the line on the strawberry glace pot.
Slipping out junk and the Rockerfeller’s procedure.
The story is of Sarssche.
Turning into a rabbit bagoon egg.
Café Piara D’ombardo.
One noodle he met her and nobody fetched her.
Heritage farm listed like a Chinese letter rip.
Quickly, you’re up the tree.
We had a faisty elephant come in to see us at number two.
There are the shortly’s, these are the nowhere else.
Don’t give coffee a break as you did at the Mandatee.
Nothing represents an actor more than a box of charred bananas.
Err….. crazy hey?! Feel free to leave a comment if you’ve experienced anything like this yourself. I’m off to bed now to compose more tales from hypnagogia…
Since this post was published, there is now a Twitter account called @HypnagogicTales, as well as a web site dedicated entirely to these crazy phrases at hypnagogia.com.au – please follow & visit!