Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Hitch (being a discussion about Johari, You, and Me)

(Photo courtesy of Mike Jablonski)

The Hitch:

As soon as dawn begins to gild the African sky I jog, often with my thumb out at a passing car, alongside the highway for about an hour before a lone cream Toyota, a brand new 1975 model, stops just ahead of me. I get inside and the lanky driver, somewhere in his late forties and dressed in a business suit sticks out his hand, and says, "Ian. You?"

"Boe... Adam," I blurt, changing my South African accent to sound more British.

He glances quickly at me, then steers the car back onto the road. "You have something to hide, Boe... Adam?" His accent is foreign. Canadian?

I grimace, "No! Sorry. Just prefer my English name, that's all."

"Ah. So, you look only through one windowpane at a time, eh?"

I realize I'm in for an interesting conversation. There is something educated about the man, something classical. I respond with, "One windowpane. Ha! We have several panes in our windows on the world do we?"

The side of his eye crinkles. He nods. "Yep. I read somewhere that we're viewed through a four-paned frame. The Johari Window, it's called. One pane is the stuff through which you usually view yourself that others see too, the other is the pane through which others view you that you don't know, and the third is the pane you don't let others know about you." He drives on, keeping quiet.

Soon enough, I prod, "The fourth?"

"Ah!" He smiles briefly. "The insight you have yet to discover about yourself."

I chuckle, "We are talking about a 'p-a-n-e' here, are we, Ian?"

"Ha! Not always," he rejoins, "Not always."

As the car winds steeply down through the spectacular jungle of the Knysa Gorge we go quiet. The dense rainforest makes me uncomfortable with its shadowy reminders of my recent army involvement; I see snipers, and my eyes dart about for snares, and snakes; and my skin can feel the itch and crawl of ants. But then, as we emerge over the lip of the climb from the jungle back into the sunshine, I volunteer, "I guess the trick is continually to be aware of the whole window frame of oneself in the first place, isn't it? Ha! It would be good to remember to always look into others that way too."

"Ah! But others could always draw their blinds," smiles the man, his long face appearing sad. "Others do draw the blinds."

I look for a point of intimacy. "Blinds. Yeah. Say, Ian, I knew this old guy, a Meneer Venster. Ha! 'Venster,' it means 'a window,' you know. This old guy thought he saw clearly, but he sure pulled a blind one on me, poor fellow."

His chin rises. "Why 'poor fellow'?"

Suddenly I feel too close to revealing my headlong purpose; to revealing that I'm actually AWOL. I cannot afford to be stopped now! I have to hitchhike to the Cape, stowaway on a ship or work my passage if I can, but I have to...

"Why 'poor fellow'?"

"Ah... his intentions were good."

Ian grimaces. "Intentions, without insight, I think, are like a pecking chicken found suddenly without a head. Perk-perk. Flapping about. Ha! What'd he do?"

Somehow, I now recall George, the old goose of my childhood. Do we all get caught in the end? I become progressively uncomfortable. "Oh, nothing... he just thought he'd be helping me out, when in fact he precipit..., provided that doomed chicken its own ax! Ha!"

Ian grimaces, then, "Yeah," he sighs.

I keep my eyes on the road. "So?" I venture, "Someone had an ax to grind while you were too close?"

"Ha! Happens to all of us." He smiles with blue eyes, dips his head, and volleys back. "You?"

Again, I feel disconcerted. I'm aware that this gentle-talking man will easily pull my story from me; there is something of the seeker in him, the mentor, the consoler, the intimate. I fob him off with: "Me? Nah. Too busy getting out of the way! Ha! That's my motto: always get out of the way!"

"Getting out of the way, eh? Yes. Yes. So? That's what you're doing now?"

I nod.

"Want to tell me about it?"

"No! No. Thanks. Not yet. Maybe you'll read about it sometime. I'm think I'm going to write about it... someday."

He focuses on the road intently, and then says, "Promise."

"Promise what?"

"That you'll write."

I swallow. "I promise."

"O.K. So? I'm only going as far as Bredarsdorp. You?"

"Bredars..." Images of the nearby Air Force base overwhelm me. I cannot afford to have anyone who'd perhaps served with me in some capacity or other recognize me; I've got to get outta here!

Ian adds, "Or is that too far off the beaten track?"

"Oh! Well, thanks. I'd like to be dropped off at Swellendam then. I'm going to Stellenbosch. You know; the university and all that. I'm a student." I lie.

He looks quickly at me. "Great. Well, not much further."

We fall silent.

At our parting Ian says, "Adam. Look. Here's my address. Calgary. Write sometime."

"I promise," I say, again. And then he is gone, the sun glinting brightly off the back window of the hurrying Toyota.

Now let's get outta here, I keep hoping, as I set to flagging down passing cars. I gotta get outta here!

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