It was my favorite moment of yesterday's Salem City Club lunch event, "Marijuana: It's Legal, Now What?" And not just because I was the centerpiece of it.
The moment pointed to something profound -- yet not easily understood -- about how memory, intuition, and that well-worn adage Trust Yourself tie together.
Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore was one of the speakers, along with Margo Lucas, owner of West Salem Cannabis, a medical marijuana dispensary that after October 1 will be selling recreational (a.k.a. "adult") marijuana.
Moore said he had done some Googling about Colorado's experience with legalized recreational marijuana. After discussing some facts about this and that, he had an audience participation quiz.
I can't remember the exact numbers, but he said something like this:
In Colorado there are 300 McDonald stores and 400 Starbucks stores. Does anyone know how many marijuana stores there are in the state?
Immediately "800" flashed silently in my mind.
This wasn't a fact that I thought I knew, like the speed of light or when World War II ended. But along with that "800" I also had an intuition that sometime, somewhere, somehow I'd read a story about how many marijuana stores there were in Colorado.
This, along with a feeling of rightness about the "800," caused me to yell out that number after a few seconds, having noted that silence was the response of everybody else in the audience (maybe 75 people or so).
Chief Moore looked down at his notes. Paused briefly. Then said, as best I recall:
Well, Brian is on top of these sorts of things. The actual number is 827.
Or maybe it was 833, which some Googling of my own just now turned up. Anyway it was in the low 800s.
My snap reaction was to say loudly enough for everyone to hear, "I'm kind of ashamed that I know this." Moore replied with a smile and "We'll have to talk about this later."
Afterwards, of course, I came up with some wittier rejoinders that, sadly, didn't pop into my mind at the salient moment. Such as...
This shows that pot use is good for the memory.
My drug cartel requires me to know facts like that.
What's interesting to me is how this was a good example of knowing something without knowing that you know it. If I'd been asked on a quiz show, "How many marijuana stores are there in Colorado?", I would have struggled to come up with an answer.
Now, Moore's mention of the number of McDonalds and Starbucks stores offered me a bit of a clue, since my rational conscious mind was pretty sure that the number of cannabis outlets was going to be higher. Otherwise, the audience participation question wouldn't have had as much impact.
Still, I was impressed that my subconscious mind knew the correct answer, within about 5%, and delivered it up to my conscious self in what seemed to be a fraction of a second.
Of course, I could have been wrong. That feeling, 800 is the right number, might have been way off. Yet I trusted it enough to yell out "800."
If I hadn't done that, if I'd sat silent in my chair, then heard Chief Moore say "The number is 827," I would have been mad at myself for not trusting my intuition. Even, I'm pretty sure, if I'd been way wrong.
By and large, I'm a believer in the wisdom of the subconscious mind.
It's best to check out what pops into conscious awareness when this is possible, or if the stakes are high (like whether a stock should be bought, or a lengthy trip taken).
However, in everyday situations like the one I was in, why not trust a feeling of this is right?