Today’s post is a little out there but bear with as there is a point I’m trying to make at the end (I promise).
In my early twenties, I was working for a company in Erie, Pa and living in a place about thirty minutes away in Edinboro, Pa. The commute between the two, depending on which route you choose, is about 30 minutes and takes you through a cozy little town called McKean.
On one of those evening commutes through McKean, I saw a randomly flashing blue light off in the distant sky.
The night was a fairly clear night, and yet the light was very sporadic and random. I could not determine any sort of pattern out of it and I couldn’t stop noticing it.
What was it?
At the time, and because I’ve always been fascinated by the topic, my brain immediately jumped to it being a UFO. I ran through all the possibilities in my head and simply had no other rational explanation…but I also was having a *really* hard time excepting that it was a real UFO.
So I veered off course and drove towards it.
By this point I was starting to get really excited (and a bit nervous)…could it *really* be a UFO?
It’s still just hovering in the same general spot when it appears…and it’s still showing no set pattern of time between appearing and disappearing.
What can it be?
As I got closer and closer to the source, my mind raced more and more. A few times I pulled over to the side of the road to take a deeper look and regather my emotions and thoughts.
What the heck was this thing?
With every minute, and as I got closer and closer, I became absolutely convinced this *must* be a UFO.
Would I be the one to finally prove aliens exist or was I about to become another one of the ‘crazies’ who spend their lives trying to convince people they really were abducted?
I had serious butterflies by now, and I wasn’t sure I was ready for either of those options, but I had to have an answer - so I continued to drive closer.
After about 20 minutes of this driving closer, stopping to ponder and get over my anxiety of what I might be approaching, I was almost directly under the spot of the blue light.
…and then, being so close, it *finally* revealed itself.
Turns out it was nothing more than your average airplane warning light on top of an electrical tower above a hill.
The light rotated around so it wasn’t always facing the direction I was approaching…and because of weather that night there was a bit of fog on the hill (but not on the roads below).
The combination of these two things were causing the completely random pattern of visibility.
Having solved the mystery, my anxiety was completely washed away and immediately replaced with a massive feeling of being an complete and total idiot.
A UFO? Really?
Fast forward to about a month ago.
My youngest son and I were just heading out to the store for something (I forget exactly what) and just around the corner from our house is a small path that cuts through the woods.
As I drove past the path, I noticed a stroller sitting on the path behind a few small trees…I couldn’t see the whole stroller but I could see a leg of a kid hanging out the side of the stroller motionless.
I also couldn’t see anyone else anywhere near the stroller or anywhere in the woods.
At first I drove by thinking, “Hrm…that’s odd”.
Then about 200 feet past the spot, I started to think “What if someone left a kid there!?”.
I stopped the car and I backed up to the side of the path to double check what I thought I saw.
Still no one to be found in the area and the leg still isn’t moving?!
Now I’m worried that I’m about to find a dead kid in the woods!
I grab my cell phone and tell my son to stay in the car no matter what (if I *was* about to find a dead kid I didn’t want him to have to see it too).
As I hop out of the car, my heart is racing and I’m already sweating just thinking about how horrible this is about to be (and I’m getting ready to call 911 and thinking about how I’m going to explain this situation to them).
I quickly jog down the path till I’m about 20 feet from the stroller and then, about 20 feet past the stroller, I finally see an adult sitting in the tall grass watching the stroller (clearly letting the kid nap in the peaceful outdoors on a nice sunny day).
I stop immediately, make a huge sigh and wave to the adult trying to quietly (so I don’t wake the kid up) say “Sorry - I didn’t see you there!”.
Then I turn around and go back to my car.
Of course my son is completely confused by this point and I have to explain to him that it was nothing, his father is just an idiot.
BTW - as I pulled away from the spot, the local police did pull up and stop as well. My guess is that someone else drove by, saw the same thing, and called rather than stopped like I did – so at least I wasn’t all that crazy!
Anyway - my point in telling these two stories is that, even in the cases where you see something with your own two eyes you can’t just blindly trust or assume you know the full story.
Yes I was wrong about my wild assumptions and guesses…and felt very stupid in both situations…but they were both really great personal reminders that, even when I directly see something with my own eyes, it’s not always what it appears to be.
It’s impossible not to jump to conclusions and it’s often very scary to actually explore the truth behind them…but that’s where all the *real* learning and understanding comes from.
All it takes is the courage to explore for the truth and willingness to except feeling a little stupid once you find it.
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Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.
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