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Wrong place, right time

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Ever look at something you’ve seen hundreds of times, and not recognize it? Sure you have, and it’s usually harmless. Unless it’s in your woodshop.

Shopping for vegetable plants for my annual garden, I was taking my time as I always do, just enjoying the day and the surroundings. Another shopper selecting plants smiled and said hi, and as I nodded pleasantly back and continued shopping something felt oddly wrong about it.

It took nearly a full minute before realizing that I knew her: It was a clerk at the grocery where I shop, a person I’ve seen two or three times a week for the last 10 years, whose name I’ve also known for ages. Once the lightbulb went off I fumbled a bit to recover and started chatting about veggies and planting weather and the usual things acquaintances do when they bump into each other at a nursery. Even though I’ve known this woman for years I only know her from one place, and seeing her out of context prevented my wandering mind from recognizing her.

The brain works like that, and it’s usually no big deal. But in the shop last week I did something similar. I was lining up a crosscut – measuring twice, of course – but something seemed off that I couldn’t put my finger on. The oddness was such that I took a step back, head cocked, trying to figure out what it was.

What my eyes were seeing but my brain not registering was the fact that I had my miter gauge in the left slot. However, the gauge and its wood fence are set for the way I typically use it in the right slot. Nothing serious would have happened had I made the cut other than ruining the easily replaceable wood fence, but my brain couldn’t come to terms with something it was seeing that was completely familiar and yet somehow out of context. And even though I hadn’t yet tumbled to what was amiss, my brain wouldn’t let me proceed.

It’s nice to know that even when it sometimes skips a beat, my brain’s still sharp enough to send up a warning flag.



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