Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Story About A Story About Four Stories

Ten years ago, when I decided that my busy tech-industry lifestyle needed some organization, I purchased a Palm III. I used to use it constantly; I completely filled the memory with to-do lists, memos, scheduling, more memos, more to-do lists, a program to keep track of all of my passwords and PIN numbers, restaurant guides for Boston and New York, and a cheap translator program when I was working in France. I was constantly jotting things in it, although whenever anyone asked me about it, I just said, "Oh, I'm playing hearts." Unfortunately, that little joke turned out to be a large link in the chain of events that led to my retirement. The lesson: when you're working on multimillion dollar deals, don't be glib; clients won't want to pay if they think you're actually enjoying your job. Ironically, I had deleted the hearts program long ago - not enough memory.
But I digress. A couple of months ago, I was going through the old notes and lists - I had cleared out anything work-related, but there were still a few random thoughts in there, a shopping list from before I got the awesome HandyShop program, a URL for a band called Fencing David that probably no longer exists, and one memo that just said "an instance of the fingerpost." This one caught my attention, because I'd seen it before.
In fact, I knew the memo was about eight years old, because I vaguely recalled finding it one Monday morning and having absolutely no idea what it meant. Clearly, someone had told me something over the weekend, but who? Was it a band? A book? A game? What the hell is a fingerpost, anyway? I asked a couple of people at work, but they were no help. My roommates were similarly clueless. I asked some folks in a chat room I used to frequent, and checked Hotbot or Lycos or whatever it was we were using back in '99, but nothing. I left the note in my PDA, thinking at some point I would resume the search for its meaning.
On this particular day in January 2007, however, it occurred to me that if this was a band or a website, it had probably long since disappeared. I assumed searching the web for a random phrase, particularly one with this many little words, would be fruitless. I took action. I deleted the memo.
The next day, I was at the library, exercising my brand new library card. I was browsing the fiction aisles, and I had nearly settled on a book, but I figured, "I'll take one last pass to see if something really grabs me." I don't even remember what that book was, because when I turned around, I was face-to-face... er, face-to-spine? Anyway I'm sure my savvy readers have already figured it out: right at eye level was a large black tome, on which was written the phrase An Instance of the Fingerpost. The choice was made.
I won't further lengthen this post with a review, but every once in a while, I get all philosophical and reflective (some would say I get "drunk." Cynics), and I think about the interconnectedness of things, how choices and events lead us to a particular point in space and time, and this is a good example of that. I was in a particular place on a particular night, talking to a particular person about who-knows-what (I'm guessing it was Sick Boy's Sean Connery monologue from Trainspotting. Points to those who can connect the dots from there). I kept this nearly meaningless memo in my Palm Pilot. Eight years later and hundreds of miles away, the day after I finally delete this memo, I find this book, and suddenly it all has meaning to me.
How 'bout you? Any stories about butterflies flapping their wings in China?


anne57 said...

My chaos theory moment, if you can call it that, is the inverse of the kind you had. I was in Waterloo, Belgium on a day trip and after getting off the train, walking a mile or so to the visitors center, a very helpful women told me how to make my way to the battlefield and assorted museums. I had to go another 2 miles on a bus called the VT bus. She gave me a bus schedule and pointed me in the direction of the bus stop. While waiting for the bus I noticed the bus schedule had a clip-art image of a bus on the top next to the name and on the side of the bus it said 'Hokies'. See here, which I found is on the first page if you google image search 'VT bus'. So I found myself standing on a street in Waterloo, Belgium with a bus schedule bearing clip-art generated by my school's alumni office, trying not to laugh so passersby wouldn't think I was crazy. I've always thought that the majority of tourists who get the same bus schedule think that 'Hokies' is either a Flemish or French word.

leo said...

Sometimes I, too, wax philosophical about the karmaic interconnectedness of the universe. Great story!

Mike Torian said...

On a similar note...

I just received a Barnes & Noble gift card from your Dad yesterday and caught up on your blog for the first time in weeks today.

Which brought me to a particular point in time and space that I purchased "An Instance of the Fingerpost"

Miss you bro