Losing the Thread
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Losing the Thread<br> By Marc Porter Zasada<p> I don't know about you, but here in the metropolis, I'm always worried about losing the thread. You know, the thread. Where I'm supposed to be...later. What calls I owe to...whoever that was. Whether I'm presently in conflict with X and if I'm okay with Y. And yes, sometimes in the middle of a conversation I do forget whether I'm escaping consequences, waiting for a callback, or holding my own. <p> I mean, like any modern human, I can usually handle a hundred disparate facts, a half-dozen situations, and three or four significant developments, but then, well...I'm sure I wrote it down on a scrap of paper, somewhere. <p> This afternoon, for example, my colleague and I have taken our laptops to a booth at Norm's diner in Santa Monica. It's a little noisy, but we've come because the place is sincere, the booths are comforting, there's no Wi Fi, and you can get unlimited refills on your iced tea: All in all, a good place to hold onto the thread. <p> So now we've got our Powerpoints booted, we're pursuing a rational conversation, we're eating mixed green salads with house dressing -- and yes, we're close to developing a carefully-constructed train of thought --when all of a sudden, we overhear a guy speaking on a cell phone in the booth next door, and it's clear he has lost the thread. <p> At first we just hear a voice rising a little too loudly above the clatter of plates. He says, "No, surely you've made a mistake." But there's something unnaturally calm about the way he says it, and that something tells us the person at the other end of the conversation has begun to shout. <p> We look over to see that the guy is sitting very straight and wearing a tie -- but his table is suspiciously scattered with piles of paper and his hair has become a tad...loose. Now, he says, "Yes, Fred, I hear that you're angry about the order, but as you remember, I said you should call me at seven last night. No, seven. I'm sure I said seven. This would have been much easier to resolve if I had heard from you last night, as I'm sure we agreed. Fred...Fred, I'm going to have to end this call if we can't get back to a polite conversation. I do wish you had contacted me last night as I'm sure we agreed. Goodbye, Fred. Fred? Goodbye." <p> Now, as he hangs up, everyone at the restaurant is already on the side of Fred. I mean, we're pretty sure the guy in the booth didn't actually tell Fred to call at seven. On the other hand, we've all been there one time or another, I mean, having lost the thread. And sometimes, we know, all we can do is make it up; sometimes all we can do is invent some new logic and pretend we still have that scrap of paper. <p> So we have a little sympathy until the man makes another call. Once again, someone's obviously yelling at him at the other end. "Now, Sheila," he says, "Sheila, I simply forgot....No, it happens...And then there was...no time to get back to you, and I had to...Sheila, Sheila, I'm going to have to end this call if we can't get back to a polite conversation." <p> After a while, my colleague and I try to return to our Powerpoint show, where we've been developing a tight series of inevitable conclusions based on a long record of sensible outcomes, but somehow, even here in a comfortable booth at Norm's, the infection has slipped over from the other table. We begin remembering facts we've forgotten or calls we have to make. After a while, we find ourselves losing the thread, and at last we just ask for the check and head home. <p> Copyright -- 2006 Marc Porter Zasada. All rights reserved. <br>
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