01 January 2007

Me and My Shadow

In the 1980s I worked several years in
Saudi Arabia as a freelance computer consultant
with ARAMCO at their headquarters in Dhahran
which is just north of the tropics.
Prior to that I had never been so far south,
in fact, although well travelled, I had never
been outside northern Europe.

When I first landed at Dhahran International
airport it was early May and early morning but
32C and I remember thinking -maybe hoping-
as I walked down the steps from the BA747,
that the heat was coming off the engines.
However, the heat followed me across the
tarmac and I soon realised that it was a normal
late Spring night in Arabia.

The following day I was walking with my new
project leader from our office tower block to the
personnel office, less than 10 minutes walk away,
to get an ID card for me. It was roughly local
noon and my colleague was using an A4 writing
pad to protect his head from the sun.

As we walked along chatting I sensed that there
was something unusual, something new,
something different.
Well, I reasoned with myself, you are new here
so of course everything seems different.
That did not pacify the inner queries for long.
They became more focused:
It is not your surroundings, it is something
personal. What do you mean, I countered,
it is nothing personal. Yes, they came back,
it is something personal and there is something
missing here! Don't be so ridiculous, I thought,
as you well know, everything is here.
No it is not, came the inner promptings,
are you going to investigate or not?

I felt an urge to look around me in order to find
out and then, as I looked over my shoulder, I
suddenly instinctively looked down at my heels
and there was what I was seeking, or rather it
was not there: my shadow!
I stopped and looked on the ground around my
feet several times until I found the sad remains,
a mini-shadow about 5 cms long but at least it
was a real shadow and it was mine!
Nothing was lost, just changed.
Thus reassured that everything was OK,
although different, we continued.
My colleague found the incident most amusing.

Sometime later, reflecting on that experience,
it struck me that it was another wonderful
confirmation of just how comprehensive our
on-board software is:
Somewhere in there in the real PC, the one
just behind our eyes, is a real-time programme
monitoring our shadow, whether present or
absent, and clearly referencing tables of
averaged-out values from stored data on what
is normal or acceptable, or I would not have
been alerted, through other programmes, to
the fact that my current shadow had reached
abnormal values.

What amazing creations we are.....

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