Familiarly unfamiliar

Photo: Chandler Fischer

                                        Photo: Chandler Fischer

There is a pedestrian bridge just north of Aliso Creek Beach on Pacific Coast Highway in South Laguna. At least that’s what my son, Chandler tells me. I wouldn’t know, though, because I’ve passed under it at least a half a dozen times a week for the last twelve years and never seen it. How is it possible that I am so familiar with this road and yet have failed to notice a whole bridge across the highway?

This all started when Chandler got a new camera for his birthday and announced he wanted me to take him there after dark so he could get some time lapse photos of cars passing under the bridge.

“What bridge?” I asked.

“The one right near Aliso Creek,” he said.

“You’re kidding,” I said. “There’s a bridge there?”

“Of course.”

“All the way across PCH?”

“Well it wouldn’t go halfway across the road!”

I knew that, of course, but I just couldn’t believe it. How unobservant! How familiarly unfamiliar! I actually couldn’t wait to take him there just to see what I apparently had not been seeing, though I thought I knew that stretch of road better than that.

When we got there, I at least understood something of why I hadn’t seen it at night. There are no lights on the bridge. I could barely see it even though I was looking for it. It’s painted dark green and there are no street lamps around there; it easily disappears into the darkness. Suddenly I didn’t feel so stupid about missing it at night. But that doesn’t help me out much in the daytime when it’s perfectly visible. That’s me, flying under a bridge I don’t see.

It’s true that familiarity can lead to blindness.

Marti claims that after almost 40 years of marriage, there is still much about her that I don’t know. That’s because I’ve been under that bridge too many times without seeing it. Once you don’t see something, then you get used to not seeing it, and, lo and behold, you’re looking right at it and it’s not there. This is forgivable when it comes to bridges across highways, but not when it comes to people you and I are around all the time. Familiarity can breed unfamiliarity.

This is something we should know and do something about. Probe… question… dig. This could be an adventure. The important thing is to care enough about someone to want to find out. This applies to everybody, but especially those closest to us. Find out, today, something you don’t know about someone you should know better.

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4 Responses to Familiarly unfamiliar

  1. David Reis says:

    Portland Oregon has a bridge to nowhere! SW Barnes Road and Sunset Transit Center. It can be viewed on Google street view and looks very nice. Satelite view reveals that there is no road, not even a trail. Built as part of the deal with the land holders to use the land for the transit center. Drove under it for years without knowing the secret. I train bus operators for TriMet and one of them had been involved in the project. We also have ramps on I-5 that end in the air. A planned highway to Mt. Hood that was changed to what is now I-84.
    Monuments to hopes, dreams and plans that changed course like a river.
    The newest bridge in Portland is only for bus, light rail, bicycles and pedestrians. Recently named the Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People. It will be completed in 2015.
    That one will definitely be used 😉
    Relationships give us eyes not only to see what we don’t see, but to also better understand what is obscure or hidden. Maybe that’s what fascinates me about bridges.

  2. Cynthia Vera says:

    Great! I have been in so many conversations recently where I have seen much of what I never noticed.
    Location, Perception, questions, more information, I agree. I admit some times some loved ones have revealed a truth about me that is hard to look at, but I am thankful that I am with those who care enough to find out about me and then the exchange of talking becomes a blessed intimacy and bridges can be viewed and crossed! Thank you!

  3. Markus says:

    I can so relate to this “bridge” metaphor! There are three bridges near where I live. The one in the middle is pretty big, but the one that comes right before it is pretty small. The same goes for the one that comes right after it. For years I had only really noticed the big one in the middle until I realised that there are three of them. Something like that teaches you to watch out for the smaller things in life.

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