©Arlene R. Taylor PhD
It started out as a quick noon-hour shopping spree to grab a birthday present for one of my best friends. Over the years our typical modus operandi has been to take each other out for lunch or dinner—sometimes on the anniversary of our respective birthdays (exactly one month apart) and sometimes in between the actual dates, depending on our schedules. This year I’d decided to surprise him with some dress shirts.
Driving to the store I had a running conversation with myself: He is very kinesthetic when it comes to the feel of clothing against his skin. It will be a challenge for an auditory to find something that looks really good and that also feels really good. Hmmm. I know! I’ll close my eyes and imagine I’m kinesthetic. I’ll feel each shirt. Whenever my fingers register “soft and smooth,” I’ll open my eyes and decide if the fabric color and pattern meet the criteria for looks!
Being less than a month away from having my right hip replaced, I limped toward rack after rack of long-sleeved shirts. Leaning on my cane, I began to hunt. By feel.
Close eyes. Feel, feel, feel. Soft! Open eyes. Orange. Nope. Close eyes.
Feel, feel, feel, Soft! Open eyes. Royal blue stripe on black. YES! Drape that one over one arm. Close eyes.
Feel, feel, feel. Soft! Open eyes. Pink and purple checks. Nada.
Close eyes. Feel, feel, feel. Very soft. Open eyes. Black with black-and-white checked collar and cuffs. That’ll work. Drape it over my arm.
Close eyes. Feel . . .
“Excuse me, Ma’am,” a voice said. “If you tell me what you are looking for I’ll see if I can help you find it.” He must be a visual, I thought to myself. He’s using visual words. I opened my eyes and turned toward the speaker. Tall, slim, male, blond spiked hair. Late teens? Early twenties?
“Thank you,” I replied. “I’m buying shirts for a birthday present. Two down and one to go. I’ll let you know as soon as I’m ready for checkout.”
“But your eyes were closed!” He sounded incredulous.
“Yes,” I said, laughing. “My friend is kinesthetic so I’m selecting shirts by the feel of the fabric. He won’t wear anything that feels scratchy against his skin.” I resumed my search.
Close eyes. Feel, feel, feel . . .
“That is one weird shopper.” My concentration was interrupted by the sound of his voice from the other side of the three free-standing dressing cubicles. “She’s feeling each shirt—with her eyes closed, no less. I think she might be blind, and she does have a cane.”
“A white cane?” asked voice number two.
“Then she’s not blind,” said voice number two. “Dude, if you’re blind you use a white cane. It’s the rule.”
“She said her friend was a kini...kini-something,” said voice number one. “Kinicynic or kinisonic. Something like that.”
I started chuckling. Couldn’t help it, although I continued my search.
Feel, feel, feel. Soft! Open eyes. Lovely black and white pinstripe. Done!
At the register, voice number two waited on me. “Three shirts. Selected by feel, so I’m told.”
“Yes,” I answered. “I have an auditory sensory preference myself, but knew it would be ridiculous to say to the rack of shirts: ‘The three softest black or blue shirts please speak up and identify yourselves’. So I just closed my eyes to avoid distractions, imagined I was kinesthetic, and used my sense of touch.”
The clerk, not laughing, simply asked, “What was that word you used? Kini-something?”
“Kinesthetic,” I repeated. “It describes a person who...”
“Ah, yes,” he said, interrupting, “Kinerjetic.”
“Actually it’s kinesthetic.”
“Right,” said voice number two. “Kinerjetic. I’m pretty picky about how my clothes feel myself.” Okay, he’s not auditory so no point in trying to correct him again.
“What do you do?” asked voice number two. “When you’re not shopping for shirts by feel.”
“I study the brain,” I replied, keeping it simple.
“The brain,” he said, busily taking off the shirt tags with some type of electronic pliers. “The brain. I hope mine shows up soon.”
“Matter of fact,” I said, containing my mirth and making small talk as he finished ringing up my purchases, “after my conference ends, I’m heading over to Sacramento to make a presentation this evening.”
“Oh,” said voice number two. “What’s your title?”
“No,” said voice number two. “The title of your presentation.”
“Oh! Questions Potpourri.”
“Cool!” said voice number two. “I heard on the news today that the Pope’s retiring. So you’re answering questions about the Pope’s brain?”
I laughed, thinking, Who’s on first? Potpourri and popery probably do sound the same to his brain.
Before I could reply, however, voice number one piped up. “What’s this about the Pope?”
"Dude!” said voice number two. “She said, 'Questions Popery.' Obviously that’s about the brain. Duh?! She’s lecturing about the Pope’s brain. Tonight. In Sacramento.“
“Talking to a bunch of Catholics, are you?” asked voice number one, obviously unperturbed.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I never ask people about their religious affiliation.”
“So how do you know they’ll be interested in the Pope’s brain if you don’t know whether they’re Catholic?” It was voice number one.
“Dude,” said voice number two, “people who aren’t Catholic might be more interested in the Pope’s brain. After all, he’s the first guy who’s died in 600 years.”
Bite your tongue, I told myself. He means the first Pope who’s resigned in 600 years. Slipping the VISA card back in my purse, I left the register—cane in one hand, shirts in the other.
“Hope your kinigenic friend likes his shirts,” voice number one called after me.
“He will,” I said, over my shoulder. “And I enjoyed pretending to be Kinesthetic!”
“That’s funny!” said voice number, his pronouncement followed by some chuckles.
“That’s one weird shopper,” said voice number two. “That’s all I gotta say. I mean, Dude, picking out shirts by feel—and she’s not blind!” More chuckles.
No doubt they thought I was out of hearing range. But then, I’m auditory, after all.
Once in my car, I laughed all the way back to the conference.
Someone once said that we are a people divided by a common language. I would argue it’s more like we are a people confused by a common language! Nevertheless, it’s all fun for my brain.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, my friend loved his birthday shirts!