Sunday, January 13, 2013


We often refer to animals and their instinctual drives. How does a dog know to steer her newborn pups to her teats? How does a bear know when it's time to hibernate?

These are rhetorical questions. Please don't send in your answers...

But we less often refer to our own instincts as human beings. Our world has been so dismantled in regard to how things work and why; the basic necessities of our lives have been so institutionalized, so simplified, that we have no clue how we would ever survive if all the niceties disappeared tomorrow.

But — somehow — we probably would.

We have so modernized and simplified our world and our lives that we rarely rely on our instincts. But they still crop up at times, even when our power of reason in the civilized world would rather they didn't.

Most of us deal every day with a wide assortment of people. I drive a taxi, so I probably spend time with more than my fair share. What is it with certain people — or us — that at mere sight or sound of them, we react the way we do? Positive or negative, we sometimes have a strong feeling about someone. Intuition. A "vibe." Something triggers it, but what? There are the more obvious signs. If someone is just bat-shit crazy, we tend to get out of their way...and out of their sight. But others...

The night before this writing I picked up a passenger near the local commuter train station. Within seconds of getting in the car, she was on a rant about the police a couple towns down the tracks who wouldn't give her a ride to a particular spot because she's "not from around here," and was lost. I wanted to tell her that the police aren't in the habit of giving people rides unless it's to the police station, but something told me I was better off grunting in a way that sounded like I sympathized with her, if not in total agreement. Not quite bat-shit, but still on the crazy end of the spectrum. A few more minutes into the ride and I learned that her destination was a homeless shelter at a church, and suddenly I was worried that I might not get paid for the ride. A 50/50 vibe: I was half-right. She was a bit off her rocker, but she had enough money to pay for the ride.

This afternoon another woman called for a taxi from the hotel where I often sit and wait for dispatched fares. I pulled up to the door and out came a hardy looking woman in a camouflage military field jacket and carrying a stuffed backpack. She said, merely, "I saw you comin' from across the way," and I instantly disliked her. Why? A vibe. Something in the delivery, something in the timbre of her voice... something. And then she went off on a rant about the taxi driver who brought her to the hotel who had tried to run up the fare on her. Maybe she had a vibe about taxi drivers in general, and her suspicion spoke to me on some subconscious level?

I'm no expert on the subject ...or on any subject... but I think I wouldn't be far off the mark to surmise that the vibes we get from other people harken back to the days when our species used rocks and sticks to kill for their food, and roamed about the planet in search of a better place to live. When the people of one clan encountered the people of another, their instincts told them whether or not to trust the other. I think today modern humans still feel those instincts — sometimes in true fight or flight moments of danger — but more often in those instantaneous thoughts of "This guy's a loser," or "This woman is bat-shit crazy!" I suppose it's the same for those "love at first sight" moments, too. Just as you may know someone is an example of Darwinian bottom-rung advancement, some of us also know when we see the right person for us...we just sometimes never get the opportunity to express that...Jennifer Aniston, I'm referring to you!

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