On Sunday, July 22, 2007, Dave Wallings, social scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, was scanning over some research. He noticed a thing. It appeared to be almost identical to many things he had seen in the past, but this thing he noticed was slightly – but in at least one way, profoundly – different.
Wallings told me about the thing in the fall of 2014, in his four-bedroom, suburban Philadelphia home. Tedious landscape paintings lined his living room walls, and he was gleefully snacking on pistachios throughout our conversation. His disarming charm and self-composed demeanor was not unlike that of a Point Break-era Patrick Swayze. And while those details may seem tangential and unnecessary, I believe they offer some important insight into inner-working of this very important person, and by extension, this very amazing (if, at first-glance, quite ordinary) thing.
Thinking that the thing he saw might have just been an anomaly, Wallings attempted to replicate the data, and was shocked by what he found.
“We got the same results over and over. The thing was undeniable,” said the once-again-quite-Swayze-like Wallings. ” And then I started to see it everywhere. I saw it at Starbucks. I saw it while watching reruns of The Bob Newhart Show. Everywhere I looked, I saw the thing.”
It seemed to be in every place you’d expect it to be – and many you wouldn’t. On the surface, the thing seems quite surprising, but is it really? If you think hard about the thing then it’s not so hard to imagine it – counter-intuitively but also quite intuitively – staring up at you from the breakfast table, or popping up at your company softball outing.
So what can we take away from the thing? Well, pretty much everything, according to Wallings.”Despite the the fact that the thing appears only to apply to one thing, I believe we should probably just go ahead and apply it to all things,” he said. “That will make for a much more interesting article.”
Adam D’Arpino is a comedy writer and video producer living in Brooklyn, because of course he is. He tweets jokes for his dad @AdamDArpino.