Saturday, October 6, 2007

Neja Vu

I believe I may have just coined a phrase...I've googled it and come up with zero results. The phrase is "neja vu," which describes the feeling of seeing something that you have never seen before. Has this ever happened to anyone else? One example of when it has happened to me is when I saw a pick-up truck passing by with a college-aged white male in the driver's seat and a middle-aged black male in the passenger's seat. I had never before seen that particular driver-passenger combo. The statistical odds of it happening are not all that low (given the number of 17-23 year old white males and 40-50 year old black males in the country), but I would imagine the practical odds to be quite low (given the vastly different social groups these two men would occupy).

I began to wonder exactly how they came to be in the same vehicle, postulating possible scenarios in my head. Each scenario I created seemed implausible in some way, or reflected an embarrassing, subconscious stereotype that I held. One possible situation I though of was that the white guy was giving a stranger a ride. This situation is particularly ironic, for it presumes the black man lacked a car, while at the same time accepts the unlikely situation that an average UGA student would provide a ride to a total stranger, not to mention one of a different race. Thus the scenario encompasses one stereotype, while at the same time rejecting another, leading to its implausibility. It is one strange paradoxical circle of logic (if that makes any sense).

This train of thought led me to dream up even more improbable carpooling couples, such as an elderly Asian woman and a young black male (I challenge you to think of a good back-story for that one!). I also began considering the most common driving partners (around UGA), the vast majority being white male/white male and white female/white female. "Bisexual" driving partners are also common, but it certainly seems to be the norm to drive with someone of the same sex. If one were to see a boy and a girl driving in a car together, one would likely assume them to be a romantic couple, a conclusion that reflects the societal status such an arrangement signals. But I digress. Anyway, keep an eye out for neja can really make life interesting.

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