It’s a weird time. For whatever reason, my nerves are heightened, senses sharpened. I don’t know if it’s that we’re now in the second year of the pandemic or some kind of mid-life crisis, but I’m starting to see things a little differently. It began, somewhat unexpectedly, on Eastlink. Generally speaking, I’m not one for experiencing a philosophical flashpoint whilst charging down a major commuter expressway, but it wasn’t something I chose. Rather, it seemed to choose me.
I was driving to my brother’s when I saw it: a large flashing sign hanging above the road. In no uncertain terms, it explained that the right lane was strictly for overtaking and that, if not overtaking, you should remain in the left lane. The message was put clearly and with great economy. Namely, venture into the right hand lane only if you plan to overtake. Otherwise, remain in the left lane. At this particular point of Eastlink, there are three lanes. Whilst the purpose of lanes one and three had been made crystal clear, the circumstances under which you were permitted to utilize lane number two were a mystery.
That’s not to say that lane two was empty. Far from it. There were all kinds of vehicles traversing the no-purpose lane, unaware of their status as visitors to a world without status or recognition. They were, in effect, cruising along in an existential no-man’s land, oblivious to the consequences. From the safety of the left lane, I wanted to sound my horn as a warning, but it was no use. These people were using the supernatural mystery lane and nothing would change their minds.
Given this absence of clarity, there ought to be warning. Perhaps a road sign that reads ‘Warning: Existential Crisis Ahead’. Usually such signs are accompanied by a stick figure of some sort to ram the point home. I feel that those responsible for creating these stick figures often fail to get the level of recognition they so richly deserve. Within the genre of ‘road sign stick figures’ I’m quite fond of ‘beware of falling rocks’. I’m not sure how best to signify a spiritual flashpoint of this kind – perhaps a stick figure modeled on Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ would do the trick.
It’s not the only challenge to the time, space and the cosmos that’s been troubling me this week. In between avoiding paranormal lane-changes, I’ve also been thinking about the bin in the kitchen a lot. Maybe too much. When I empty the bin, it remains empty for a day at most. Ninety percent of the time it appears full, even as further rubbish is added. This shouldn’t be possible. If the rate of input remains pretty much consistent, then this should simply not be so. Obviously, some of this waste is being transported to another dimension – possibly the second lane of Eastlink – where it bides its time, waiting for bin night.
Keen for answers, I decided to try and Google my way out of my conundrum. In short order, I found myself on YouTube watching cat videos; when it occurred to me that people stopped referring to the internet as ‘the information superhighway’ probably about the same time as cat videos took over. Or, alternatively, the information superhighway has three lanes and they couldn’t figure out what the second lane was for and abandoned the idea altogether.
But YouTube is a strange, mysterious place that is yet to be touched by the rules of western civilization. It was whilst I was there that I discovered ‘reaction’ videos. A reaction video is where someone films themselves listening to or watching something for the first time. We, the viewer, then get to watch them react. As best I can tell, no formal qualification is necessary. Note; to date no-one has created a video of themselves reacting to a book they’re reading for the first time – presumably nobody’s interested in watching a reaction to ‘A Remembrance of Things Past’ by Marcel Proust. Or it’s not considered an efficient use of time. Not only do people make these videos; people generate income by making these videos.
You can guess what happens next. These overseas video correspondents are bombarded with requests to react to things that – whilst incredibly popular here – are unknown in other countries. So it is that people end up reacting to Cold Chisel and John Farnham songs. Some presenters were clearly taken aback by the work of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The video of some dude in Florida reacting to ‘This Is Serious Mum’ is not one I’ll soon forget.
Forget ever understanding how Eastlink works. Instead, I need to start filming reaction videos. And since it pays to specialize, my plan is to film myself reacting to other people’s reaction videos. Or, better yet, film myself reacting to footage of people driving in the second lane of Eastlink. To ensure that it goes viral, I’ll superimpose some footage of a kitten. With those crucial ingredients in place, success is all but guaranteed. Or maybe I should forget it completely and take these ill-conceived ideas and throw them in the bin that, although it appears full, won’t need emptying for another three or four days. It might be just me, but I suspect the last few weeks of social isolation have taken their toll(way). I’ll wait it out in the second lane.