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Schrodinger's Other Cat

by Vicky Chapman, NSW, Australia


For the one person that doesn't already know, there was a scientist called Schrodinger. This character performed a "thought experiment" in which he put a cat in a sealed box with enough poison so that the cat had a bout a 50% survival rate. He claimed that since he did not know what the outcome before he looked in the box for himself that he could claim that the cat was both alive and dead at the same time and (and this was the big conclusion) that the observer effected the outcome of the experiment - because as soon as the interior of the box was examined, the cat would stop being both alive and dead, and instead by either one or the other.

At this point, Schrodinger's cat probably ran away in sheer terror that his or her owner could even consider the possible murder of a cat just to prove some useless bit of philosophy. However, this bit of scientific and philosophical history has been passed from cat owner to cat owner in a feeble attempt to explain how and why cats seem to be able to appear, disappear and re-appear again with amazing, if somewhat disconcerting ability.

Now the story of Schrodinger and his cat was not on my mind when I went to sleep last night. I've got better things to ponder than an experiment which is probably just an urban legend anyway. If I want to lie awake and ponder, I'll do it over the good stuff, like why the gas, electricity and phone bills always appear and need payment in the same week, and why Joel is capable of snoring that loudly without waking himself up. Although a scientist by trade, I don't generally ponder anything more philosophical than how the weather always knows when I'm about to put my laundry out or if my socks and earrings run away together because I can only find one of each pair when I need them. I don't ponder the meaning of life, the existence of Dog, or how many quarks are in a proton. Generally, I just fall asleep.

So Schrodinger wasn't what I was thinking about when I woke either, thinking in panicky terms "Where's the cat?". Note that this is also not my usual thought when I awake in the middle of the night - my usual thoughts fall into one of two types - the ponderance of fullness vs comfortableness of bed, or alternatively the thoughts about exactly what I want to do with the cat because it woke me up. Exactly why I was suddenly terribly concerned about Shmoggleberry's location is still beyond me, and I have a very strong suspicion he inflicted another "Bastard Cat" act in revenge of me continually trying to touch his furry little belly earlier that evening. The last time he did a "Bastard Cat" trick on me was to get back at me for doing the "moving cat while he's sleeping" trick, and I've been very very good ever since. But I guess I've been taught another lesson for "displeasing his majesty"

So there I am terribly worried that Shmoggleberry's wandered off. I can't see him on any one of his 3 favourite pizza boxes, nor can I spot him lounging on the sofa, or stretched out in the kitchen. My eyes can't detect him curled up on what was my smart business jacket before it collected that discarded grey cat-fluff look, and I can't see him wandering around the flat. I always leave the light on in the toilet so I don't trip up if I have to go in the middle of the night, so I should be able to see something through dimness.

I call the cat gently, not wishing to wake the person who could snore through WW3 (and snore so loudly I probably wouldn't notice it either). No sign of him. Now I'm really worried. I know he doesn't always come when called, well not straight away, but he always looks around. I get up and start looking for him.

There's no sign of course. I try to wake up Joel. "The cat's gone" I say through tears. "I can't find the cat" I whimper. He mutters something and rolls over. Gosh, thanks, my big hero.

Now its hardly likely that the cat got out. I disturbed His Highness when I got up to go to bed so he was there just before I retired. It wasn't a hot night, so the front door wasn't open, and we never open the windows because I'm very very allergic to mosquito bites. Not that one thinks of these things at some ungodly hour of the night. In fact, at that time some of the most bizarre and unreasonable thoughts you'll ever have almost normal. At this point, I was prepared to believe pretty much anything. Now, where that cat have gotten to?

At this point I remember Schrodinger's cat as applied to cat owners. A cat can be at two or more places at once, and can seemingly pass through solid objects such as walls, doors and windows with apparent ease. "Bugger," my sleep addled brain thought, "he's gone outside again." Shmoggleberry is always begging to be let outside, and if he does manage to escape he goes straight under the house and gets up to Secret Kitty Business, I'm sure.

I grabbed the torch and the keys and realised I'd better cover up my pink bits. I severely doubt that any other resident of the block of flats I live in would be crawling around the underneath of the house at 2:30am on a cool autumn evening, but I figure I shouldn't be responsible for their death from shock by allowing them to see me naked. I struggled to find something easy to slip on, rejecting numerous pants & top sets to find a one-piece item of clothing that would cover most of my "interesting" areas. Of course, I spent more time in the gloom trying to find Joel's over-sized t-shirt than it would have taken to put on an 18th century formal dining gown, let alone a pair of track suit pants and a t-shirt, but my brain wasn't fully functioning at the time.

So, about 15 minutes later, I'm crawling under the house, my irrational fear of spiders having been overcome by my irrational fear of losing Shmoggleberry, in a long t-shirt and nothing else. I was in bare feet as my brain hadn't registered that it would be wiser to wear shoes in a spider-infested dungeon, and was pointing the rapidly dimming torch's beam in places that had not seen daylight in decades. Pathetically, I was calling "here Puss Puss", and bashing the can of cat food in a frantic, almost hysterical way. I would not have liked to explain the situation to any of my neighbours. Although their garb and taste in music makes them weirdo's in my book, I'm sure me hunting for an elusive cat under the house at 2am with a may-as-well-be-a-small-rodent-for-all-the-light- it-produced torch, banging away on a can of slop with keys, wearing nothing but a t-shirt, cobwebs and mud, and sniveling about the loss of a cat would have convinced my "goth" neighbours, that it was I that was in need of serious psychological intervention, not they.

I returned to the flat mortified and very very puzzled. I washed my feet in the shower, and crawled back into bed with a very defeated, sad, and ultimately pitiful air. My poor Shmoggleberry. Why have you forsaken me? I want you back. Please, please let me find you in the morning. In desperation, I started praying "Dear God, I know I don't speak to you often enough, but I love my cat, and I would really appreciate if I could just find him and he is safe and......YAAARGH"

Shmoggleberry had chomped very very hard on the back of my leg as I had tried to get myself more comfortable, and no doubt I had woken those weirdo neighbours as well, and no doubt they now think that I'm as weird as I think they are.

"Where the hell did he come from?", I asked a very surprised Joel. "Oh, he's been on the bed most of the night. I wondered what you were doing when you went outside"

I swear to you, I'll swear on whatever Holy book you wish to nominate, that Shmoggleberry was NOT there when I woke up, looking for him. For goodness sakes, he usually jumps onto me and trots around all over me before he finds a comfy place to sleep on the bed, and even then he only sleeps on the bed when one of us is sick. I'm not worried about my physical health- but mental health? Perhaps my dear cat has detected that distinct sickness that "special" people get and have to go to nice happy institutions to get well again. Wouldn't surprise me either if I was slightly sick in the head, after all, I still think I love that Bastard Cat.

Cat 2, Human 0


Editor's note:

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