Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Man in the Coffee Beans

Suddenly, the phone on my desk rang. Not once did I consider it might have been Susan, but here she was, calling. Seconds earlier, I had sent her my humble admission of failure. I couldn't find the man in the coffee beans.

At some point this afternoon, she sent me an e-mail titled, "The Man in the Coffee Beans". The object was to locate the man hidden in a picture of cluttered brown coffee beans. As soon as I realized this coffee bean thing was a perceptual test, something stirred inside me. I rarely do well at these things and always end up scoring the intelligence of a gopher. Before scrolling down to see the picture, I noticed Susan's remark, "I did it in less than a minute."

La di da.

I checked the clock on my desk before scrolling because that was part of the test. I began looking at the picture. Nothing. Thirty seconds zoomed past. Squat. A minute. Zippo. Two minutes. Nada. Maybe if I remove my reading glasses. Bupkis. I've seen these drawings where you have to go into a trance before the hidden image emerges. Three minutes. Zilch.

What am I doing this for; I'm busy and gopher-brained, so what?

Reading on, the test heaped the inevitable praise on all those able to discern the man in the coffee beans within a matter of seconds. Those rodents who could not accomplish the task within three minutes, had strict instructions to find right-brain exercises and diligently start doing them before it was too late.


I sent Susan back an e-mail stating simply, "Never found the man in the coffee beans". Then, somewhat steamed at the man in the coffee beans, I deleted the file. Now, Susan was calling. Coincidence? I think not. Was this a pity call? A gloat session? Some sort of misguided consolation attempt?

I answered and sweetly, she asked, "Did you find him?"
"I deleted the file," I answered, indifferently.
"Aw", she said, realizing she might be robbed of her fun.
"Fine", I muttered.
Partly curious to see whether I could bolster my shattered self-esteem, I went into my deleted items folder and opened it. Once she sympathetically told me how to find the man in the coffee beans, I spotted him immediately. Craftily, she made her phone call sound like it was meant to offer encouragement, but she was gloating! I could smell it; a definite dry roast.

The man in the coffee beans had left a bitter taste in my mouth. Still, he'd proved nothing. In the art of Dutch graphic artist Maurits Escher, I've studied ambiguity of  two and three dimensions, and of figure and ground. In class, we'd discussed Escher's mathematical and crystallographic influences. Phooey on the man in the coffee beans!

Susan went to Tristan's school tonight to get his report card at parent-teacher interview night.  For my part, I drove to my hockey game and pulled into the overcrowded arena parking lot before suddenly remembering this week's game had been cancelled. I drove back home feeling quite gopher-like. Neither of us has dared mention the idiot in the coffee beans.

I don't want to overstate the obvious here, but if  the man in the coffee beans shows up on your computer screen, you can be sure of one thing. Trouble's brewing!

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