We're still at the height of tick season — thought I'd throw that out there to make 30 percent of all readers scratch their heads compulsively.
In case that wasn't enough to give you sympathy willies, you should know that I had a tick crawling inside my pant leg a few days ago. (And another 30 percent of you just scratched some imaginary niggly.)
Y'know how you're just sitting there and you realize that you have this not quite right tickle-thing going on, and some hypersentive voice in the back of your brain tells you to investigate. And then you find one of those creepy crawly creatures slowly creepy creeping its way toward a warm, tender part of your skin to embed itself into your flesh ... and I just got to the remaining 40 percent of you.
Oh sure, maybe you were that one-in-100,000 person who didn't react by uncontrollably scratching your head or neck or that unreachable spot on your back that you have to rub on the chair or the door jamb, but you'll have to scratch something later when you haven't even been thinking about ticks.
That's the thing about the power of suggestion — it prays on our minds. and it haunts our subconscious until it spontaneously overcomes our bodies.
Yawns are contagious; everybody knows that. But only in our minds, right. Yawns aren't like a super-virus that we catch immediately; it's just our brains reflexively reacting to the suggestion that a yawn is necessary to fight oxygen deprivation and/or boredom.
But these reflexive actions aren't only related to self-preservation. It takes the average northerner 10 minutes in the South to start y'all-ing everyone — or, as they say in the South, all y'all.
Sometimes we just flat out embarrass ourselves, like when we're talking to someone with a facial tic or a stutter.
I went through 12 years of school with a kid named Frank, the seventh of eight siblings who all made the same face: not the full-grimace of pain like when getting a big sliver, a piece of glass or some other foreign object removed from your foot, but the almost-grimace from the anticipation of the pain to come as the minor surgical instrument of choice is poised above the foreign object ready to transport you to a world of hurt.
Occasionally, I'd notice someone talking to Frank or his siblings, or his dad who also had the tic, and I'd see that person start to make the face. Sometimes I'd catch myself doing it even after years of classes together. It always made me wonder if the face was a disturbance in the family's genetic force, or if all the kids just picked it up after years of watching their dad make the face.
And maybe the grimace went back to an ancestor named Sven in 1780s Norway who didn't have a genetic problem at all, but rather nerve damage from a grievous injury sustained one winter while attempting to impress a girl with double back flips on a frozen pond. After one-and-a-half rotations, he awkwardly face planted into the ice instead of landing gracefully back on his feet — thus embarrassing himself and spawning untold generations of sympathy grimacers, all mimicking his tragically somewhat-disfigured face.
All that said, I really didn't have a point to this week's column. I just thought I'd share some of the rambling thoughts generated to distract myself from itching my scalp while picking, literally, more than 100 ticks off a horse I have in for training. He came in from ranging in the Bear's Paws where the creepy crawlers are, apparently, as thick as fleas this year.
If you need a purpose, perhaps you can take this random set of thoughts away from our time together:
I haven't seen Frank since high school graduation, roughly 300 years ago, but I can still make the face. I've spent a total of only six days in the southern U.S., but I still say y'all. Even in the dead of winter, I'll get a niggly itch when someone says "tick."
And maybe, just maybe, that's what happened to ol' Sven. A thread on his wool scarf tickled his neck then, when he should've been focusing on putting some whoop-di-do into his flippity-jig, he was thinking "Oh my Odin — tiiiick!" Splat.
Tick, tic, verbal glitch or niggly itch, keep your mind in the middle. If these subconscious urges are stuck in our heads, we might as well learn from them.
(Feel free to scatter your thoughts to email@example.com.)