Visit SpaceCampUtah.org to learn more about the Space Education Centers in Utah. Visit SpaceGuard.org and ProjectVoyager.org for information on joining a simulator based school space and science club.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Waiting at the Wonderland Station. Our Vacation Starts.


I stood on the platform and waited for the next train. It was quiet, no sound at all except for the humming of a young lady waiting on the station's one turquoise bench. She was dressed in white. Her yellow handbag and jacket rested beside her.

“It’s not very busy tonight.” I tossed the statement in her direction to test the waters hoping for a bit of conversation to fill the quiet induced by the cold concrete.

“Everything is either closed or closing for a few weeks.” She accepted the invitation. I was relieved. Sharing a train platform with one other person is similar to riding an elevator with a total stranger - except the time between trains is longer than a journey between floors.

“You’re the director of the Space Center,” she spoke with a questioner's tone.
“Yes I am,”
“So you’re the reason then.”
“Reason for what?” I asked.
“The reason I’m off for a few weeks. You’re closing and that puts Wonderland on minimal staffing. Thanks a lot!” Her voice sounded angry. A moment later a faint smile delivered the sarcasm.

“Where do you work?” I questioned.
“The Imaginarium. Its a sub section of the Ministry of Wonder. I’m an office assistant in the Office of Joinings," She replied.

“Oh, I see. And how does the closing of the Space Center affect the Ministry of Wonder?” My question was an honest one. The Ministry of Wonder was enormous in scope and size with the Imaginarium only a small division of the whole.

“My office is responsible for the inspiration that comes from imagining what might be from what Is.”

I walked closer and asked if it was OK to sit with her. She nodded and extended her hand in welcome. I sat on the opposite side of the bench leaving one square of turquoise between us.

“So, let me see if I understand what you just said. Your office creates images of the future based on what we experience around us in real life?”

“Got it in one,” she smiled and reached into her purse for a stick of chewing gum.

She opened the package and held it out. “Would you like a piece?” ‘

“Yes, thank you,” I replied. I took the gum. The gum had an odd taste, sort of a mixture of hazelnut and raspberry. “Where did you buy this?” I inquired.

“There’s a little shop around the corner from the Ministry. It’s awesome, you walk in, wait for a clerk and then imagine your favorite flavor or flavors. A moment later you're handed the gum you imagined.”

“Is this shop a product of the Imaginarium?”

“Yes, mine actually," She replied with pride. "An imagination came across my desk several weeks ago from a young girl in Nebraska. She had it while waiting to purchase a pack of gum at her local WalMart. The line was long so she had time to daydream. And when you day dream you open the door to my Departement. Her thoughts told me she was tired of her usual brand of gum and was looking for something different. Well, I also knew from reading the print out that she had just come from lunch at a pizza restaurant with a build your own salad bar.”

“Stop, let me take it from here,” I interrupted.

“Go right ahead.”

“You put the two thoughts together to create a vision of What Could Be from What Was. You took her memory of a build your own salad bar and combined it with a desire to build her own gum flavor.”

“You got it. We call that a Joining in the trade. I do Joinings all day long. That is what I do.”

A strong gust of wind moved through the station announcing an approaching train. It was the Express from Inspiration. Express trains never stop at the Wonderland Station. We had to wait for the local train.

The train sped by. The people inside were framed in the windows. They looked tired and ready for home and supper. Their work was grueling, having to managing Inspiration day in and day out. My hat was off to them.

A few moments later and the platform was still again.

“So, you Joined the images and created a thought. Then what?” I continued the conversation with my bench mate.

“The girl imagined such a place where you could mix and match your gum flavors and when she did, it became real here in Wonderland.”

“Will it stay?” I asked.

“Only as long as she revisits the thought. The shop becomes an anchor point in her imagination. A place for her to mentally visit whenever she chooses. What’s cool is how the shop changes its shape and design every time she imagines something different. Today it looked like that wand shop in Diagon Alley. Tomorrow it may look like something else.”

“And when she gives up the idea?” I asked.

“Then the shop disappears?” she replied.

"Never to come back?"

"Not unless someone else Imagines it." We sat quietly, each staring a some point in the concrete.

I thought back to the starting point of our conversation.
“OK, so getting back to the original question. How does closing the Space Center for a few weeks so we can recharge our own imaginations, affect the Imaginarium - A Sub Section of the Ministry of Wonder?”

“You have no idea how busy we are when the Center is running at full steam," She answered. "The imaginations you help create in those kid's minds pour into our Department filling our In Baskets to the point of burying us. You fill their minds with Wonder at what could be based on what they’re experiencing in the real world. Our job is to Join the two images and inspire them to go out and make what they experienced real. Now, Suddenly you close and the cascade of ideas and thoughts goes from the raging Niagara to the dribble of a leaky faucet.”

“And the department lays off its staff.” I said.

“The Department has a budget. With this economy every penny counts.”

“Well, we open for the school year on August 20th. You’ll be back to work then," I assured her.

She smiled and reached for her bag. A strong wind from the dark tunnel blew across the platform. Our train was approaching. We stood and walked towards the platform’s edge. The train’s powerful headlamps appeared first, piercing the darkness with 3 yellow lights. The lights grew brighter and brighter until the body of the train emerged. It slowed to a stop, a moment later the automatic doors slip open to welcome us aboard.

“After you,” I said while reaching out to hold the automatic doors open until we were both safely inside.

“Thank you,” she replied.

The train started with a jolt. I reached for the nearest hand strap which was attached to a metal bar running the length of the coach. The Wonderland Platform, with its blue and red sign, disappeared into the dark.

My vacation had started.

Mr. Williamson
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