Lollygaggers & Neurological Deficits

Musings about neurological deficits, prompted by my proven inability to recognize vehicles. Even my own.


They’re blocking the road. Well, not the whole road, just my lane. But that seems sufficient, not to say excessive, frankly.

After dropping off the Big Guy at an annual pseudo-grudge golf event, I’m skirting Ottawa International Airport to get back to the main road home.

What I’m driving on isn’t a through road, but it’s a real road nevertheless, and one with a fair bit of real traffic. Airplane spotters come looking for the parking areas apparently designed for this activity. Workers and customers travel to and from commercial hangars and maintenance facilities that front onto this road and back onto the airfield. Trash talkers make their way to their own pseudo-grudge matches at the golf course.

The three middle-aged adults on the road appear to be none of these: my guess is they’re just lollygaggers. Although there’s lots of room on the gravel shoulder, they’re on the road itself, spread out in a way that entirely blocks my lane.

I’d seen them on the way in, so I’m watching for them on the way out. We meet just where the road curves around the east edge of the airfield. They don’t move over, so I do, hoping I don’t meet another vehicle on this curve.

And so, of course, I do. A large black pick-up truck barrels towards me.

Before I can get too excited, the other driver sees what’s happening and slows down. I pass the walkers and scoot back into my own lane, getting ready to wave to this helpful stranger. Instead, as I pull abreast of the completely unfamiliar truck and get a glimpse of the driver, I wave and smile at one of the Big Guy’s oldest friends, en route to the same tournament.

As mentioned earlier in these pages, neurologist Oliver Sacks suffers from face blindness ““ the inability to recognize people he’s worked with for years, if he meets them out of context. I believe I suffer from vehicle blindness ““ the inability to recognize vehicles I’ve seen for years, in or out of context . . .

Arriving at a planned rendezvous in Phoenix, we look for the Big Guy’s brother’s SUV — which vehicle I have seen dozens of times and ridden in numerous times. The Big Guy scans the parking lot for the right make, model, and colour. I scan for another Ontario license plate.

Coming out of the grocery store in the summer, I retrace my steps to the general area where I parked and look for the kayak racks on top of our Honda. The Honda we’ve driven for 11 years.

Coming out of the grocery store in any other season, I used to walk confidently up to any grey car with four doors. Having met my quota of indignant rightful owners this way, I now hit the button on the fob and wait to see which car winks at me before I make my move.

Close-up of grey Honda Accord with rooftop racks that enable identification.

Honda with rooftop racks that enable correct identification of my vehicle. Nine times out of ten. In my home garage.

When I first realized that I had a problem, I thought I must have missed school the day they were teaching vehicle recognition. Older but no wiser, I now believe there are some things I just can’t learn, due to my neurological deficit.

It can’t possibly be that I’m just not paying attention. You know, like the lollygaggers.

No, on consideration, I acknowledge that I might have an attention deficit, but I’m pretty sure they have a bona fide neurological deficit.


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10 Responses to Lollygaggers & Neurological Deficits

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Bill Nye (aka “The Science Guy”) says that the two most recognizable things about people are their walk and their smile. The walk helps recognition at a distance; the smile, up close. Neither of which will help you identify cars, of course. Me, I can recognize cars, faces, walks, and dogs — but can I put a name to them? I’m still trying to figure out who that woman was who had an animated and obviously well-informed conversation with me on the Bruce Trail in 1982…..

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Yeah, my car winks but doesn’t smile . . . As for the walk, someone I know likens writing style to a person’s walk and can tell whether it’s me or the Big Guy actually responding to a text or email, independent of the account it comes from.

  2. Dave Jobson says:

    Would you call yourself a big picture person? Or is it just a vehicles characteristics that do not seem to stand out. Seems to me I recall posts from you remarking on details for flora and fauna.
    I am a big picture person so can relate to your presumed weakness.
    I do not see details in most contexts. Could it be related to personal interests? No interest in autos but much interest in flora and fauna.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Dave J – One interpretation of the Myers Briggs typology suggests that my type (N) is good with big picture and picky detail (and not so much the middle ground) – which makes sense to me, given that I edit for structure and also see copy editing errors (typos and such). But I suspect that interest plays a crucial role. It’s hard to notice things you don’t attend to in the first place, like cars.

  3. Is it possible that cars, as a category, just do not interest you the way birds and flowers do? I relate to your neurological deficit. I have embarrassed myself by confidently opening a car door THEN doing the double-take. Seagulls have more individuality than car types, and that’s not a compliment to either Creator of those species.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – OMG, don’t get me started on seagulls, which are impossible to identify – beyond “gull,” that is. Cars don’t interest me. I usually go by colour, and the light grey of our current vehicle doesn’t much appeal either.

  4. Cars, schemers, who cares?
    Live in a high-rise and one doesn’t recognize the floor one is on sometimes — they all look exactly alike — or the elevator will let you out at the wrong floor
    (it happens. At least twice I have walked right into the wrong apartment, wondering when we got mirrored closet doors, or when did we get a pink rug. Perhaps that’s why most people lock their front doors immediately on entering.
    Saves the embarrassment. Oooops. Sooor-y.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – LOL. Pink carpet! I knew you shouldn’t leave John alone in the condo. I’ve seen some of the effort that transit designers go to to make every station part of an integrated whole, yet clearly (and quickly) recognizable/differentiable so passengers can jump off where they meant to. It’s an art. If I weren’t so cheap, I’d have a Frank Lloyd Wright design painted on our Honda’s haunch – that would do it!

  5. Dave Jobson says:

    Colour codes on washroom doors was a useful device to alert individuals as to which gender should enter. The old Imperil Oil building in Calgary located washrooms in stairwells between floors. The washrooms for each gender were only in alternate stairwells. If you were not careful it was easy to forget which floor you were on and accidentally enter the wrong washroom. The loud colours used on the doors, orange and yellow, helped yours truly to avoid embarrasment.
    The symbols sometimes used to indicate gender used these days in some cases are poor and easily misread. One day in haste I did not look carefully enough I guess and got a dirty look from the female I encountered as I entered.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Dave J – Yes, there’s something to be said for clarity, especially in washrooms. I wonder whether all the new 3D printing capacity will end up giving us cars as customizable – at least by superficial appearance – as our wardrobes already are. That will be a great boon for this “yours truly”!

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