Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Not What I Imagined

I know there's no good reason for it, but when I talk to someone on the phone repeatedly over time, I usually develop a mental picture of what s/he looks like.

This week I actually met someone I'd been working with for about a year, and per usual, I wasn't even close.

Do you ever do that? Is there some sort of capital-R Reason for it, or is it just a quirk?

Sometimes it happens with writing, too, but it's usually less pronounced. If I read someone repeatedly, over time, I develop a mental picture. The weirdest case of that was during the depths of dissertating, when I actually had a dream in which one of the people I wrote about appeared. Years later, I still remember the dream, because it creeped me out so much.

Several years ago I discussed a project with a professor, and I mentioned an adjunct who was interested in the same thing. She stopped me and said that his name was so evocative that she could immediately picture him: she described a tall, lanky, foreign man. She got the 'man' part right, but completely whiffed on the rest. It stuck with me, though, because it was so random and so wildly off-base, yet she seemed so sure.

I don't think there's any meaningful correlation between voice and appearance, or writing style and appearance, but the habit persists.

(My occasional forays into clairvoyance are about equally successful. A few months ago I had a really vivid dream about receiving a wedding announcement from an old friend. I called her and left a voicemail saying that I had that dream, and I wanted to see if I had psychic abilities or if I just ate something bad. About an hour later the phone rang, and before I could even get "hello" out, I heard "YOU ATE SOMETHING BAD." Oops.)

Is there some kind of explanation for the mental-picture habit? It doesn't seem terribly functional, and it's hugely inaccurate, but it keeps happening.

For those who have the same weird habit I do, what was your most memorable mistake?