Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Deer in the Headlights

Ellie, my wife, and I were in our car, headed home from a friend’s.  We were passing through a wooded area, known to be populated by deer ( though we’d never seen one, let alone had one cross our path ) and about which our friend frequently warned us to be careful. It was well past twilight — early dark; Ellie was driving. This was pretty much our modus operandi.

Suddenly, four deer, in single file, jumped from a ravine onto the road and crossed ahead of us. Ellie was paying attention, easily stopped in time, and the deer were close to the car. We could see their little white-tipped tails in the headlights.

“Wow, that was cool,” I said.

She replied, “Yes ... wasn’t it. It looked like a doe and her three fawns. You think?”

“I dunno,” I replied; “I sort of got stuck on the lead one, as it pranced over the road in front of us. It was so cool to be so close to them.”

“'Twas,” she replied, as we were leaving the scene.

By now both the deer and the incident were behind us. But as we talked it became evident that we had not experienced the same incident. In my incident, the deer crossed from the driver’s side to the passenger’s side of our car; in Ellie’s they crossed the opposite way.

This discrepancy amazed, befuddled and perplexed me. My world view is that truth is truth; facts are facts. But it also amused me. Both of us are mature human beings, reasonably aware of what’s going on, and yet we had opposite views of what we had just experienced. I had heard of such a thing but always found excuses for the principals. Being personally involved challenged my world view. But I am also flexible enough that, while the incident did bemuse me, it also amused me. Part of the amusement was that we would never be able to know which of our views was correct. Was the fact. Was, indeed, true. I also knew, of course, that it didn’t really matter.

I had told this story, representing it as the down side of eye-witness accounts, several times; everyone, knowing Ellie and me, shook their heads and chuckled along with me. Representing it the same way, with Ellie present this time, I launched into the story with another couple of friends. Ellie picked it up at the point where there deer were crossing the road, “ ... and four of them jumped from the ravine on the left side of the road and crossed, single file, right in front of us.”

“Yes, isn’t that ... ,” I began; then I realized what she had said. “No, that’s not what you said that night.”

“Sure it is,” she responded.

“No, you said,” and I waved my right hand, indicating movement from right to left in front of me.

Shaking her head energetically, “That’s what you said.”

We continued that fruitless discussion a bit longer, eventually realizing that our disagreement about this had the same strength that the disagreement on the direction of the deer had earlier. Our difference had morphed from being about the direction of the deer across the road into being about who changed their story. The only similarity between the two disagreements is that there is no way to know for sure. Oh, and it really doesn’t matter.

No comments:

Post a Comment