I went to a drugstore
near my home to pick up a roll of paper towel. The day before, I had read about the M0
hypothesis and I decided to test it on the drugstore environment, which I have always found a highly ritualized and mind-numbing
Typically, when I shop, I enter the store, obtain the item I need, pay for the item, and depart, all in as short a time as possible. But this time, I decided to take a close look around, and see what was really there. I entered the store, and stopped.
The first thing I noticed is that the floor and the ceiling were the only repeating patterns in my visual field. These patterns were themselves simple: the floor was a checkerboard-style grid of white and slightly off-white squares, and the ceiling was a grid of white squares separated by thin bands of off-white. This gave me the impression of being inside an infinite, featureless space.
The repetitive ceiling pattern was occasionally broken by some shiny black hemispheres attached to the ceiling, and the occasional glowing rectangle of pure white light coming from fluorescent bulbs. These artifacts made me feel uneasy and uncomfortable all at the same time: the hemispheres housed video cameras, and the lights were sterile.
Then I shut my eyes. The music that I heard was simple. It consisted of only three different notes repeated in succession, with a standard four-four beat. The music was very difficult to listen to, because it was so simple.
I opened my eyes and moved forward to stand at the end of an aisle. Looking down the aisle to the end, I saw a complex jumble of shapes and colors, in which I couldn't see any patterns. The grid of the floor and ceiling, framing this complex jumble of shapes and colors, conveyed the impression of an endless variety of useless things.
I began to move through the store towards the paper towels, looking only at the floor. I started to experiment with walking around, just to keep myself from getting bored. As I walked, I put my feet only on the corners of the floor grid squares. Then I started modulating my walking pattern by making my left foot step only on the sides of the squares, and my right foot step only on the corners. This proved difficult as the distances constantly changed, but I was able to do it without stumbling or missing a step.
Finally I reached the paper towel, looked up to the shelf (momentarily disoriented by the terrific array of choices, like being lost in the supermarket) and grabbed the roll I needed.
It was at this point, looking around towards the cash registers, that I noticed the store manager standing about fifteen feet away, holding a large box of Christmas ornaments. He was looking at me with a frown, obviously upset by something I was doing. I made eye contact with him, and his face instantly blanked. His body rotated as though on a track, and he continued the task of carrying the box to the storage room.
When I reached the cash register, I greeted the cashier by her first name, and asked her how she was doing the day before. She blushed, grinned, and said, "I'm fine, how are you?" without even realizing that I didn't ask her about her current state of being. I then realized I also needed another product which was kept near the front of the store, and which is quite heavy. I ran to the item, looked at it, and ran back to the counter. I said, "I also need one of 1006644025, which is the UPC code. If you just key it in, I won't have to carry it in here and lug it up on the counter." This took the cashier a moment to understand, and then she said, "I wish all our customers would do that."