Jamais vu? Oui oui!

Posted on
Aug 19, 2010

Folks, can I take a minute to praise the French? (Note: I have never been to France). They are responsible for such wonderful things as croissants, Pasteurization, and taking the entire month of August off for vacation.

A lovely people, indeed.

The French are also repsonsible for coining a term without which I would be seriously concerned for my mental well-being. But because the French have given something I experience on a near-daily basis a proper name I no longer feel alone in my crazy.

The term in question is jamais vu. It is French for “never seen”, and refers to the phenomenom by which someone can go someplace very familiar, where they’ve been countless times, and see something entirely and wholey new, that they have never noticed before. (Fun Fact: deja vu is French for “already seen”. Go! Impress your friends with your vast knowledge.)

I cannot tell you how positively thrilled I was to learn that other people experience jamais vu. I was starting to worry that all the fun I had in college was catching up with me, because how else could I walk into my yoga studio, a place where I’ve been hundreds of times before, and not notice a DOOR RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FAR WALL.

I stared at it, blankly, trying to figure out if they had just installed it overnight (doubtful) or if I had just failed to notice it (infinitely more likely, but still … how did I miss it? I mean, it’s a friggin door.) In the end, I just passed it off as jamais vu, and felt instantly better (being French, even for a few moments, is glorious.)

And it was jamais vu that I experience in full-force when my friend Katie was in town a few weeks ago, and we wandered around Seattle Center. It’s a place I’ve been hundreds of times before, but in the company of friends seeing it for the first time, I, too, noticed things I had never seen before.

Like this ride at the Fun Forest, which had little kids shooting water to put out a fire. For some of the taller kids, the fire hoses were at waist-height, making for a hilarious scene:

Its funny, because it looks like theyre PEEING.

It's funny, because it looks like they're PEEING.

Just as we passed by some of the rides, I was explaining to Katie and her friend Dalia that there were once carnival games that used to line one of the far walls of the Fun Forest when I was a kid. I just assumed, since I hadn’t seen them in a while, that they were gone. So, naturally, my jaw absolutely dropped when I saw them.

I swear, this permanent structure, apparently built circa 1980, was not there the last few times I visited.

I swear, this permanent structure, apparently built circa 1980, was not there the last few times I visited.

I figured it was okay – I mean, how often do I go to the Fun Forest? It’s perfectly fine if I fail to notice something for a few decades, right? But the Space Needle and its surrouding areas? I knew them well. No surprises there.

Yeah. Like hell there weren’t.

In the shadow of the Space Needle, we encountered a ton of adorable statues and sculptures. Like, everywhere. I don’t know how I’ve missed them, since they are obviously not new. But without Katie, I’d have walked right by them for probably the hundredth time.

There was a little collection of animals with a lot of personality …

Pouty fish are pouty.

Pouty fish are pouty.

The flying piglet was so cute, we wanted to pick him up. Except that he was solid metal and bolted to the ground.

The flying piglet was so cute, we wanted to pick him up. Except that he was solid metal and bolted to the ground.

And there was a cluster of stone heads which we all got a kick out of …

Seeing all these things, seemingly for the very first time, after having passed by them at least a few dozen times, made me contemplative. It made me think of all the things I’ve missed, both at home and during my travels. I promised to keep my eyes open more, to be more observant and respectful of my surroundings. I vowed to appreciate the world around me and —

Um, yeah.

Um, yeah.

Err, scratch that. Maybe somethings are better left unseen.

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