Tag Archives: recency illusion

Gator Bait

You know how sometimes you notice an unusual object, and then suddenly you’re seeing them everywhere?  Apparently this is the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon:  There aren’t actually more of the items than before; you’re only noticing them more.

Okay, fine.  That makes sense.

So… why have I been seeing plastic alligators this week?  I seriously doubt that there’s a plethora of plastic gators lurking in the small towns of Parksville and Qualicum Beach and I’ve simply failed to notice them until now.

But on Friday I arrived at the art centre for my painting group, and there was this:

Yes, somebody had posed a small plastic alligator on the handrail. With a potato chip in its mouth.

I blinked. Looked again.

Yep, it was still a plastic alligator eating a potato chip.

I glanced around, but nobody was lurking nearby with a video camera to capture the reactions of passersby. (Or if they were, I didn’t spot them. For all I know, my befuddled expression might be all over the internet in a Punk’d video by now.)

I drew a deep breath.  Ooookay, fine.  Nothing to see here, folks; just move along.

So I went into the building and forgot the whole thing for a couple of hours. But when I came out, the gator was still there, noshing on the same chip. It might still be there for all I know. (*Update: The gator was still there on Friday but his chip was gone, and the poor little guy was looking hungry.  Maybe I’ll take him a new chip next week.)

Assuming that this was a one-off experience, I filed it under ‘another example of weird shit that happens to me’, and got on with life.

Until the very next day, when I attended a potluck for our local Rhododendron Society chapter. Now, let me just say that this is not a group of youngsters. I’m 55 years old and my face shows every one of those years; and yet one of the members patted me on the arm and said, “Oh, how nice to see young people taking an interest in rhododendrons. Are you attending the local college, dear?”

So it’s not exactly the milieu where one might expect to encounter a plastic reptile. Particularly not stuck to the ceiling in our hosts’ dining room:

I didn’t spot it for quite a while; but when I did, my mouth dropped open.  ANOTHER plastic gator!  (Turned out it was a gecko; but I didn’t realize that until I zoomed in for the photo.)  Anyway, I was agog.

When I buttonholed the host, he explained that their grandkids had several of the little toys.  Whenever they came over they’d throw the critters at the ceiling, where they would stick for hours or sometimes days before finally dropping off.

I probably should have asked how long that one had been up there (especially since it was poised over the buffet table like the Gecko of Damocles), but I was too busy feeling relieved that I wasn’t hallucinating plastic reptiles in unlikely locations.

I haven’t seen any more in the past couple of days, but now I’m alert for the opportunity.  If there’s a gator to be had, I’ll spot it.  Baader and Meinhof would be proud.

Has anyone else seen plastic reptiles in public lately, or am I just gator bait?

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