Repeating Decimals

The other day I had an experience that made me think of the optometrist’s office that I used to visit as a child. I was always excited to get new glasses. (I must say, though, that looking at old photos makes me question my taste. But I’m going to blame that on my mother. I was just a kid, after all.)

The reason this optometrist’s office sticks in my mind is that his glasses were displayed in a long narrow room, with mirrors along both sides of its entire length. This meant that you’d be in this tunnel of what seemed like infinite reflections. As a child I thought that was very cool. As an adult, my first thought is that the feng shui must have been really off, and I’m amazed he was able to sell any frames at all. How could you focus on the product when there was so much going on, visually?

Ever since then, I’ve always called that never-ending feedback loop experience a “repeating decimal”. When I get into some sort of infinity room, whether it be literal or figurative, it makes me feel like I’m caught observing parallel universes, in a place where time has no end.

The other day I was standing in my drawbridge tower, getting ready to open my bridge for a barge. As it got closer, I realized that the tugboat was actually pushing a pontoon that was part of the old 520 bridge that’s being dismantled in Lake Washington here in Seattle. But even more interesting, it was the section of the bridge that included the drawbridge tower.

I gazed at that tower as it floated by. I thought about the many bridgetenders who had worked in it over the years. It looked like it was still in very good shape. I wondered what was to become of it.

So here I was, in a tower, opening a drawbridge for a drawbridge tower. A mathematical repeating decimal of sorts. I was tempted to look over my shoulder to see if there was another bridgetender looking down at me from above, doing… what, exactly?

I don’t know. And I’m not sure I’d want to know. But it was rather surreal.

Read about other strange things I think about.

11 thoughts on “Repeating Decimals

  1. Angiportus

    Ah yes, I have seen that tower many times, even after it was separated from its no-longer-with-us host/possessor/whatsit, Always liked the look of it. Wonder what they will do with it. Your moment of.. recursion? on seeing it is the same thing that would happen to me if I was in your position. As for the mirrors, I recall an escalator that had them on either side. I noticed that the cascades of diminishing images tended ultimately toward darkness, and figured that this was because the reflection was not 100%, some light was absorbed each time.
    Thanks for the pix!

  2. Your piece makes me think of a much loved M.C.Escher calendar I adored as a teen that I kept in a box of memorabilia for decades….for the art. Your powers of observation are heightened by the work you do and how you do it. Happy New Year to my favorite bridgetender/writer of all.

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