Sometimes when I’ve been driving for long stretches on high-speed roads I’ll slip into a zone-out realm that gradually starts to feel like I’m watching television. I “forget,” in a sense, that I’m driving a car or a motorcycle in a real-time, real-world, don’t-go-too-fast-or-you’ll-get-a-ticket sense. I’m in a realm that’s partly visual-aural-sensual but is half imaginative-meditative. And then the mind-trip side starts to grow and expand and before you know it you’ve gone into this head-pocket rabbit hole and you’re not really paying attention. And suddenly you go “whoa!” and say to yourself, “Wake the hell up! I’m here now…this is real!”

This doesn’t just happen on highways. It happens when I’m writing (which is good, of course — a process that I don’t want to shake myself out of) and at boring parties or panel discussions, and sometimes when I’m especially tired or distracted (or both) and listening to someone explain something to me at length. I’ll be listening and then half-listening and before I know it the plug is out of the socket and I’m out the door and into the realm, and I’ll suddenly realize I’m standing next to a person and they’re saying something that I’ve completely lost the thread of.

I don’t want to be rude and say “Wait…I’m sorry but I started zoning out a couple of minutes ago…what are we talking about again?” What I’ll do is snap out of it enough to say to myself “wake up!” while saying to the person “uh-huh” or “I see” or “yeah, yeah.” And then I’ll ask them to rephrase something they’ve just said — “So you’re telling me that so-and-so or such-and-such…?” And when they do this I’ll re-realize or remember what we were talking about and then things are okay.