Where Are All The Aliens?
Mindy waved to me as I entered the restaurant. I maneuvered thru the crowded tables to where she sat, gave her a hug, and took the seat opposite. “I think you’ll like the food here,” said Mindy, “Lunario’s is new and it’s the only restaurant in the state that features Pelugistan cuisine. I’ve eaten here twice and love it!”
There was already a cylinder of water for me so I took a slurp as I examined the menu. However, all the terms were apparently in Pelugian. “Can you suggest something for me, Mindy? I don’t recognize anything here. Maybe just something simple?”
“Oh, you must try the Pelugian puff balls. They’re to die for!”
“Puff balls? Aren’t those mushrooms of some sort? Poisonous, maybe?”
“I don’t know about that,” said Mindy, “but these are light, fluffy bread balls with herbs and vegetables inside.”
“Oh! Okay, that sounds good to me,” I replied. Mindy signalled the waiter, who had been hovering nearby.
“We’ll both have the puff balls,” she said, not looking at the waiter, “and jaliba juice to drink.” The waiter gave an affirmative hum and moved off.
I looked around and noticed that almost all the customers were consulting their phones rather than conversing. “You know, a seven foot, green alien could walk in here and not even be noticed; everyone is so absorbed in their social media,” I declared. “The art of conversation may be killed off by technology.”
Mindy giggled. “You’re so right. That’s called the ‘fixation error’ in psychology. Humans can only really concentrate their attention on one thing at a time. Anything not being focused on will go unnoticed. There’s a famous experiment where subjects are asked to watch a video of people bouncing a basketball among themselves. The audience is asked to count the number of bounces. At the end of the video they are not only asked how many bounces they counted but whether they saw the person in a gorilla suit who had wandered thru the scene. None of them had noticed it!”
“Wow! That’s amazing,” I said. “But, you know, it reminds me of something I read about people not noticing the unexpected. For instance, people driving cars often fail to see motorcycles on the road because they are only looking for cars. That’s one reason there are so many motorcycle accidents.”
Mindy nodded knowingly. “Yes, I’ve read, too, that the Indians who lived along America’s East coast in the 1500’s might have looked out on the ocean and not even noticed the ships of the Europeans because Indians had never seen any boats except canoes before. It’s almost like they have to know something is there before they can really see it. The human mind is both quite limited and quite willing to deceive itself.”
While we were talking our food had arrived and we had begun eating. My puff balls were indeed very tasty. But Mindy called the waiter over and said haughtily, “My puff ball seems to have a rather large cockroach in it!”
The waiter bowed, cringed, and stammered a bit, “Uh, yes, madam, these are our special new roach puffs. We are trying them with a few of our special customers to see how you like them.”
“Why, what a nice surprise,” exclaimed Mindy. She waved the waiter away with a whisk of tentacle and crunched eagerly into the cockroach with her mandibles. “Delicious! Did they put one in yours, dear?”
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Michael Baldwin, MLS, MPA, is a novelist, poet, and creativity consultant residing in Benbrook, Texas. He was a public library administrator and professor of American Government until he wasn’t. He was also a would-be astronaut, a might-have-been tennis pro, and a jazz clarinetist manqué. But he is definitely the great, great grandson of Crazy Horse. His book, Scapes, won the Eakin Poetry Book award, 2011. His mystery-thriller novel, Murder Music, was published in 2014, and his collection of science-fiction short stories, Passing Strange, was published in 2015. Visit his website at: www.JMBaldwin.com.