I don’t claim to know much about physics.
I never took a class in the subject; hybrids of math and science should be avoided at all costs, especially for English majors.
However, it is from the realm of physics I must borrow a term from, as my fields of knowledge lack the accuracy I seek – the “observer effect.”
The “observer effect” refers to changes in an observation that occur because what is being studied is being observed.
To break it down to an applicable level here, when the watched are aware of the watcher, they act accordingly.
Part of my job is to observe and report on public meetings – one such meeting being the Opelika City School Board meeting.
I have always been aware of this and try not to fail to get as much down as possible, even the bits that aren’t usually fit for publication.
Tuesday, I was at this month’s OCS board meeting when an interruption was made to inform stalwart board member Patsy Boyd Parker that Superintendent Mark Neighbors had posed for and was soon to be in possession of a portrait to be placed in the lobby of the Opelika Center for the Performing Arts.
Several of the other citizens assembled for the meeting looked slightly puzzled as to why this was brought up; I tried to keep my head down and look unnoticable – I knew exactly why it was brought up.
Several months ago, Parker had upbraided Neighbors for long refusing to pose for his official portrait, even going so far as to make vague threat-like remarks if he did not get them done.
Attempting to be humorous, I wrote a column about said remarks, a column I think may only have been enjoyed by the people it was written about.
Parker laughed when she was informed of the portrait’s imminent arrival.
“I want you to remove that hoodoo,” Neighbors said, laughing.
He then turned to face the media gallery of the meeting. I maintain he wasn’t staring directly at me
since I was on the second row behind the daily newspaper’s reporter; Baptists try to avoid first rows if we can.
“And that’s for the record,” he said.
Several laughed. Parker laughed and responded with some “hoodoo” sounds mixed haphazardly in with her laughter.
There was talk of Parker planning an official unveiling; even I had begun to crack up.
Throughout the experience, I couldn’t help but notice, as I was watching the members of the school
board during this fun exchange, an equal number of them were watching me.
The observer became the observed.
It was still an amusing, legitimately funny incident.
Patsy Boyd Parker making voodoo noises may be one of the most delightful things I’ve ever had the
pleasure of seeing; then again, Ms. Patsy is always a delight.
But,it happened because they knew if they brought this up I might take the bait and write about it
again … and I did.
Observing a phenomenon always changes a phenomenon. And this time, we all got observed.