The Copenhagen Interpretation

by Robert HIATT
 

Depending on whether there is an observer to measure it, a sub-atomic particle will behave either as a wave function, or collapse into a value defined by the measurement of the observer.

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My chiropractor didn’t hesitate when I complained about a persistent knot in my neck.

“Get a massage,” he said. “Call Max.”

He nodded toward a selection of business cards laid out on a table next to the door. I found a white card that had a phone number, the name “Max!” and a picture of two hands, palms up, that looked more like supplicant hands than massaging hands.

The next day, I called the number on the card. I got a recording with new-age music and Max’s non-new-age voice:

“This is Max. Please you should leave your name and number, and I will most definitely call you back. Oh…within fifty-five minutes. Yes I will.”

I left my name and number, and noted the time. Exactly fifty-two minutes later the phone rang. I answered and said, “Hello?”

“Are you the one in need?” said the caller, “Can I please help you to feel better?”

“Is this Max?” I said.

“Of course,” he said, “Are you in need? You want to feel better?”

“Well, Dr. Lawrence gave me your number. He recommended you as a masseuse.”

“Ah yes, Dr. Lawrence is a fine man. Good for him. Good for you. So, you are in need?”

“Well, I want a massage, but I wouldn’t say that I’m ‘in need.’ At least I wouldn’t put it that way.”

“Well, whatever way you want to put it is fine. You may not want to call it a need, but you do want to feel better, and you do want a massage, yes?”

I had an impulse to make up some kind of an excuse and been done with it then and there, but I was grotesquely intrigued and curious about this character, so I said, “Yes.”

“When would you like me to come?”

“Here?”

I assumed I would be making an appointment to go to some kind of massage facility or maybe a spa.

“Most of my clients prefer for me to come to their homes. Sometimes people come to my apartment, but I usually do house-calls. Yes, I do house-calls, but I’m not a whore!” Then he started laughing. Really laughing.

“Well, a house-call sounds okay,” I said. He said he was available “immediately,” so I made an appointment for later that afternoon, and I gave him directions.

I was taking a nap when Max showed up. He was about an hour early, and I awoke to my two dogs barking furiously at the front door. I looked out to the driveway, and saw a big, middle-aged man, dressed all in white, pulling what looked like a huge black suitcase out of the back of a beat-up, old Ford Econoline van. There was a faded, airbrushed picture on the side of a cowboy swinging a lasso over his head. I went out and asked if he needed help.

“Oh yes, that would be lovely, uh-huh…” he said, and put the strap of the huge case on my shoulder. It was awkward to carry, and a bit heavy. He then reached into the window on the passenger side of the front of the van and lifted out a small orange tote bag with the word “Fun!” written on it. I led the way to the front door of my house and put the case down. It seemed odd to me that he would have me carry the big, bulky case while he just carried a tote bag.

“Are you okay with dogs? They won’t bite you, they’re just excited.”

Max looked worried.

“Really, they’ll calm down once they smell you and see that I’m letting you in,” I said.

Max nodded, and I carefully opened the door to keep the dogs from coming out. The dogs were barking like I’ve rarely seen before, and I held onto them as Max brought his stuff inside. When I let the dogs loose they lunged at Max, barked wildly a couple of times, then they settled into alternating patterns of approaching him, taking cautious sniffs, then backing away. Max just stood there, and I could see he was sweating heavily. There were big wet stains under his arms and on the front of his shirt. I pulled the dogs away from him, and got them both out the back door. They continued to bark and scratch at the door as I tried to make small talk with Max. He sat down on the couch and closed his eyes. He looked as if he was praying. Out back, I heard the dogs mumbling to each other, finally settling down.

“Can I get you something to drink?” I said.

“Hmmm, something to drink…”

I went to the kitchen and got myself a glass of water. When I got back to the living room, Max was snoring.

“Max?” I said.

He was asleep.

“Max?” I said again, “Hey Max?”

For a few minutes I let him sleep. Then I let the dogs in. They went over to Max and he woke up to them sniffing him. They had calmed down, but they kept Max in sight. Good dogs.

“Oh, I must have dozed myself off,” he said. He looked around the room, stood up, and grunted a few times as he stretched.

“Well, I have to get going,” I lied.

“What about the massage? You are in need!” Max looked puzzled and hurt.

“Maybe another time,” I said.

“We had an appointment, yes?”

“And you fell asleep,” I said, “I have to go.”

Max looked at his watch. “Our appointment was for this time, now.”

He had me.

“Yeah, I guess I still have time,” I said.

Max unfolded and set his table up, and the dogs took turns sniffing him and retreating.

“Okay,” Max said, “strip yourself there and hoppity-hop on up.” He patted the table and grinned at me. I nodded and took off my shirt and pants, and started to climb onto the table.

“What you thinking with the underwear?” Max said.

“What?”

“Why you still wearing some of the underwear?”

“I’ve always worn my underwear when I’ve gotten massages,” I said.

“Well, that’s such ridiculous,” Max said, “You must take them on off.”

Reluctantly, I did as I was told. I took off my underwear and got on the table.

“Yes that is it,” said Max.

The massage started normally enough, but after a few minutes, he started to massage and knead my upper and inner thighs. It seemed to me to be a bit much.

“That’s probably enough there,” I said.

“No, you’ve got much of tightness here; I must to work it out.”

“You know, it’s actually my neck and shoulders that are bothering me,” I said.

“You are carrying much tension here that is tightening your wholeness of body. Your neck and shoulders and all things are connected to the muscles here,” he said pushing on what I suppose we should call my gluteus maximus, “and this is much where you need attention if you want to feel better. This is the source of your needs.”

He lingered there; he was really working on it, I’ll give him that, but when I heard him let out what sounded like a high-pitched little moan I slid out from under his hands and got off the table. I put on my clothes as fast as I could, and reached out to shake his hand.

“Okay, thanks. I have to go now,” I said.

“But we have not finished it all,” Max said. He looked hurt and confused.

“That’s okay, I’m good. That’s enough. I really have to get going now.”

Max just stood there.

“Well, okay; I’ll come back tomorrow to mostly finish,” he said as he started folding the table and packing up.

“No, no, I’ll call you to set up another appointment,” I said, “tomorrow’s no good for me.”

Max acted as if he didn’t hear me. I opened the door for him, and he said, “Okay I see you tomorrow. Happy good.”

“No. I won’t be here.”

“Yes you go. I’ll be back and finish up.” He grinned again. “My professional duty.” He turned and walked away quickly to his van. I called after him, “I won’t be here.”

He turned toward me, smiled broadly, bowed, and waved as he got into the van and drove away.

The next day I went to my neighbor’s house, which had a relatively clear view of the front of my house. Sure enough, Max’s van pulled up. He got out, unloaded his stuff, and walked to the front door. I heard the dogs barking. Max stayed at the door. My neighbor joined me at the window. Max bent over, stood up, stretched, and shook his body like a wet dog.

“Man, this is some kind of situation you have here,” my neighbor said. He smiled and shook his head. Max continued standing at the door for quite a while. The sun was going down, and I could see him swatting at no-see-ems. Finally he walked to the van, put his table into the back, and got in. I waited to see him back out of the driveway, but the van didn’t move.

“Unbelievable. He’s not leaving.”

“You’re kidding,” said my neighbor. He came over to the window to take a look. “Maybe the van won’t start.” The van’s windows were rolled down, and I could see Max. He was reading something. His manner suggested a man with experience sitting in a van, waiting.

“No,” I said, “I think he’s settling in.”

So I hung out with my neighbor, watched The Elegant Universe on TV, and looked out at Max’s van every now and then. I wondered if Max still would have stayed there, or would he have behaved any differently, if he knew he was being observed? Max seemed to have collapsed into a value that was unsettling and unacceptable as defined by any of my measurements. Finally, later, when I returned to the window, Max was gone. He had finally become a wave function.

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