When good eyes play bad tricks

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Can your eyes play tricks on you? Define tricks. Okay, rather than verbally spar with myself let us assume we mean some wild pinball games can take place inside your brain that result in what you think you are seeing not necessarily being what you are actually seeing. You see?

I bring this up because of something I saw — yes I actually saw it — while driving back from the beach this afternoon. I was cruising on this road that is pretty much flat Gulf coastal marsh. That is why I was astonished to see this very red, 100,000-ton deadweight, double hull, petroleum tanker ship appear before my very eyes.

The ship, The Eagle Phoenix, was traveling and appeared as if it was going to run into the highway. But how could that be? On the left hand side of the road was Keith Lake, a sort of back bay and on the right was the ship channel running from the Gulf of Mexico to Port Arthur and on up the river to Beaumont. But I only saw this huge ship that looked like it was going to ram Texas 87, which already has a long interrupted section along the beach because of a hurricane more than 20 years ago.

Strangely enough this momentary cross-communication between my brain and my vision wasn’t frightening. I say that because a huge tanker running aground onto a highway somewhere would probably be rather dreadful. With my experience in journalism, I can easily predict that such an occurrence would make worldwide news. I guess I just knew it couldn’t happen, or hoped it wouldn’t happen, and instead just let the awe take me away like mental Calgon.

Of course, as I rounded the curve I could see the ship was just churning down the channel and I could almost picture a collection of multinational merchant seaman singing in about 10 different languages: “Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river.”

Once I did drive astern (hey, I learned ‘astern’ in the Navy), I just laughed and looked awestruck at the big tanker. I then realized for the umpteenth time that it’s funny what your brain can do to you. Well, I’m sure for some people it’s not very funny. As a matter of fact, I remember a couple of times when it wasn’t all that hilarious for me either what my brain was doing.

I made it home though. The whole ship experience was one of the more interesting parts of my afternoon. I was a little disappointed with the beach because hardly anyone ever goes where I go. That’s because the beach is just off the highway that once went to Galveston but now runs nowhere because of the hurricane. But today a lot of people were on the beach. Well, it’s Memorial Day, what was I thinking? I also saw some kind of dead four-foot fish that was at the road leading to the beach that was pretty gross. I mean, it didn’t ruin my day but I have had better outings there.

I don’t know where The Eagle Phoenix is tonight but I hope the crew is having a good trip. Hopefully, those who take the helm of the tanker won’t have problems with their eyes playing tricks on them. Despite being somewhat funny when it happens, it can create some serious difficulties both ashore and offshore.

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