Monday, October 26, 2009

Observational Humour

I pride myself on my powers of observation. For instance, I am very good at noticing when people are left-handed, either in real life, or on-screen. Obviously this is fairly easy if you are consciously trying to spot if someone is a leftie as you can just wait for them to pick up a pen. What I mean is that I notice without consciously looking. As soon as I see someone writing something with their left hand, the thought immediately pops into my head: “That person is left-handed”, but if they are using their right hand then I don’t immediately think anything at all. I have never found a use for this beyond annoying my girlfriend during films, or pointing things out to new acquaintances that they would have been aware for the majority of their lives, but who knows what crime I might witness where the conviction hinges on which hand the accused was using to plunge a bloody knife into someone’s body? Beyond reasonable doubt I would notice if they were using their left hand, but if they were just like 90-93% of the population I would probably not register the scene at all and carry on walking. So beware, all you sinistral stabbers. Though I actually have no statistics as to how many southpaws I am missing – I only have my intuition that I am spotting them all. What I need to do is team up with someone who only consciously notices when people are right-handed, spend a lot of time together, filming everyone we see whether on-screen or in real life, then play the video back and see if there is anyone we have missed. Perhaps those people will turn out to be ambidextrous. Who knows? It’s a crazy life I lead.

Anyway, I was sitting in a cafe in Brighton on Saturday with my girlfriend when I noticed a strange thing. There were two photos of Brighton Pier on the wall behind her, taken from different angles. But something was odd about them. As I looked more closely I realised that the right-hand one was not a different photo taken from the other side of the pier as I first though, but was the first photo, reprinted in reverse. All the detail, down to the last pebble, was just flipped around. It felt like a cheap trick. How much time and money had the photographer tried to save by doing this instead of just walking to the other side of the pier and taking another photo?

After some intense study and internal conjecture whilst my fry-up got cold, I pointed all this fascinating detail out to my girlfriend, who stopped eating, sighed, took one look over her shoulder and said, “There’s a mirror between them”.

Sadly, she was right. The end wall had an alcove entirely filled with a mirror. There was only one photo, and I had been looking at its mirror image. This also explained why for 15 minutes a man had been sitting on a chair looking straight down the stairs to the basement, which I had thought a bit odd, even for Brighton. He was merely a reflection of a man who was sitting perfectly normally on a chair in the cafe eating his lunch, oblivious to the idiot at the next table. I consoled myself with the knowledge that one of these two men would be left-handed.