Russ Batenhorst

Russ Batenhorst

The human brain is an amazing thing. Some are more amazing than others, of course, but amazing just the same.

Hopefully, the amazingness scale is judged on the curve, so mine might fall somewhere in the “passing grade” area — a larger percentage will be above me on the scale, but I try to hang in there.

Among its many other attributes, the brain can process a lot of different bits of information at the same time and even in an instant.

We all know the expression “my life flashed before me.”

It’s the fabled phenomenon of seeing all that has happened in our lives flash before us if we are having a dramatic, near-death experience.

I have an old friend who would say, “My life flashed before me. I had to ask for a replay.”

I think he was always hoping for more.

This is hardly an educational forum on the capacity of the human brain, I’m just scratching the surface.

But the idea struck me in an unusual, roundabout way.

I was in my comfy chair, reading the newspaper this week.

The TV was on in the background but I was only giving it a glancing interest now and then.

That’s when the sound of the program that was on suddenly changed to music that had a certain sound of urgency to it, music that I recognized from my broadcasting days to know was meant to grab our attention — and right now.

It was a network news “special report.”

Something was going on in the world that the overlords of the network news world deemed to be important enough that it had to be broadcast out right away.

Viewers would have to go to the website later on to catch the rest of the “fresh autumn cooking with vegetables” recipe the morning crew was in the process of delivering.

The intro music, and the serious sounding voice saying “This is an NBC News Special Report” and introducing whatever reporter was standing by with the breaking news, probably took around five to seven seconds, maybe 10, to be delivered.

Just enough time for my brain to go through heaven-only-knows how many different scenarios.

Unusually so, I had not stuck my nose in the Twitter world yet that morning, so I wasn’t really in tuned to anything big that might be happening, so I had to start mass speculating.

A sense of dread was the first to hit. “Oh no, what happened now.”

It must be human nature to first think the worst. We thing bad news is coming.

Names, mostly politician names, popped into mind.

Presidents, prime ministers, senators, diplomats — surely something happened to someone. Or they did something stupid (oh wait, that might not be breaking news).

Former politicians jump into mind, and that opens a huge list of possibilities.

Natural disasters, foreign attacks, stock market crashes, plane crashes.

Come on! What is it? Stop with the seven seconds of music already and let us know.

On this particular day, it was benign enough.

They were breaking into programming so we could watch Star Trek Captain Kirk — a.k.a. actor William Shatner — launched to the edge of space in a 10-minute flight.

Thank goodness it wasn’t disastrous news.

It would be fun to get a printout of what I thought, though.

You know, like a computer readout of all the processes it has just gone through.

I’d love to have my brain wired to the printer, producing a readout of every possible scenario that passed through my mind in those 10 seconds before the facts came out.

Of course, I realize the possibility exists it could be an embarrassingly small list, less than what I’m giving myself credit for.

Plus, I’m sure somewhere in the middle there would be, “Wonder what I’ll have for lunch today,” or “How fast can I check to see if there are any Seinfeld re-runs on so I don’t have to watch this special report.”

And naturally, for the rest of the day I would want that “brain-to-computer-to-printer” connection taken away.

I may have produced 100’s of quick thoughts for the special report, but probably just a dozen or so for the rest of the day.