Liz Ray has Mad Throttle

Getting rear-ended and other misadventures...

Schrödinger’s Scooter

sch-equationToday I share how I — at my mother’s request — existed in a state of quantum paradox, simultaneously both going and not going to Lowes (and then to Target, and then to Home Depot) to buy my mother an outdoor thermometer (which she wanted for inside her house).  Since today was Mother’s Day (and I’m not actually a horrible person), I took my mother to brunch and gave her a Mother’s Day gift.  I thought the fleur-de-lis door stop that I found in a shop on Pine Street would be nice, because she has numerous doors in her home that need propping open.

I was wrong.

Turns out, what my mom really wanted was something else:

“Liz, can you get me a big, ugly, outdoor thermometer to put in my kitchen?”

“Why do you want a big, ugly, outdoor thermometer to put in your kitchen?”

“Because my kitchen is cold.  And I want something to put on the ugly beige wall.”

“Why is your kitchen cold?”

“Because I am too cheap to turn on the heat.  I want the thermometer to see how cold it gets in there.”

“Will you turn on the heat then?

“No.  I just want to know the temperature.”

“Um, OK.  I’ll ride down to Lowes and get you one.”

“Oh, I don’t want you to ride there.”

“You want me to walk?  It’s miles away.”

“Well, don’t go today.”

“It’s finally sunny out.  You want me to wait until it’s raining?”

“I want you to go, but I don’t want you to go.”

“I can’t simultaneously go and not go to the Lowes…”

But then I realized, I actually could.  All I needed to do was ride Schrodinger’s scooter.  That’s the way to simultaneously both ride and not ride somewhere, assuming that my mother would not be present to observe me, and through observing me, categorize me into a fixed state.

So, I told my mom that I had the matter well in hand, that I had a plan for both going and not going to the Lowes, and that she should head back to her place (so that I could be unobserved and get started on paradoxical existence in quantum superposition).

Before she left, she made me write down her specifications for the thermometer.  The note consisted of the words: “Big, Ugly, No Clock.”  (I am beginning to think that my mother secretly believes I’m a moron…)

big ugly no clock

So, I hopped on my bike and set off to go/not go to Lowes.  Once I arrived/didn’t arrive, the greeter assured me that he believed the outdoor thermometers would be somewhere in the outdoor section.  When I found them, it looked like I had stumbled into Dali’s Persistence of Memory.  Clocks.  Everywhere.  With itty bitty thermometers stuck onto them:

lowes clocks

Clocks clearly ran afoul of the no-clock directive.  Then I saw it, beyond the sea of clock faces: one, single outdoor thermometer (the round kind, with the arrow).  And I asked myself the question that every daughter asks, “Is this thing big enough and ugly enough to make my mother happy?”  Who the hell knew.  But it was the only one, so I bought it.

But then I was plagued by self-doubt.  What if this only-one-in-the-store weren’t big enough and ugly enough?  What if there were an even bigger and uglier thermometer out there?  So, I paid for the item, bungeed it to the bike, and started to go/not go to Target.

The greeter at Target believed that outdoor thermometers, if they had them, would be in the “Home Improvement” section.  (Not the deceptively named “Outdoor” section of Target, where I foolishly might have journeyed, had I not sought guidance.)  As I scoured the Home Improvement section at Target, I came across many interesting things.  Things that made me wonder, “What type of home do people live in that something like *that* would be an improvement?”  Examples include the “Weeds For Sale” sign that I came across

weeds for sale

and the giant, plastic Boba Fett decorative lantern:

boba fett

When all hope seemed lost, I came across one outdoor thermometer (hidden among clocks).  Different than the one I had purchased at Lowes.  Was it bigger-er?  Was it uglier-er?  Again, who could guess — as hideousness is in the eye of the beholder.  So, I bought/didn’t buy the second thermometer and continued on in quantum paradox.

I had to ride passed Home Depot to get back to my mom’s house, so, well, what the hell, I went/didn’t go there as well.  Despite being assured that outdoor thermometers were “somewhere in Aisle 37” all that I could find in Aisle 37 was fluorescent bulbs, thermostats, ceiling fans, MORE CLOCKS, and matching his and hers miniature Polynesian wood sculptures.  (Apparently, Philadelphia has a larger market for replicas of the Hawaiian goddess of the sea than for outdoor thermometers.)


So, I got back on Schrodinger’s bike and went/didn’t go to my mom’s house.  Once she observed me with the two thermometers, my state of quantum paradox ended.  (Phew.)

In case you’re wondering which thermometer she kept to hang on the kitchen wall, I will leave that as your thought experiment (while I go check on my cat, who I haven’t seen in a while).






  1. Does knowing the temperature, change it?

    • Yes, and you can’t know the temperature’s velocity and position with equal precision. (Temperature Uncertainty Principle.)

  2. I hope that when you checked on your cat it wasn’t dead.

    As for the thermometer your mom chose, my best guess, based on her criteria, was that she chose to keep both. Should that be the case, the likelihood that the thermometers will ever agree is, without intervention like heating one with a hair dryer or cooling the other with a freezer pack, zero. That may drive you mother (more?) nuts.

    Good luck!

    • I must say that I’m impressed. You are correct that she decided to keep both. I’m sure that I will be called upon to head over to my mom’s kitchen with a hair dryer and ice pack in order to synchronize the two thermometers… Stay tuned for my blog post on Liz Ray vs. The Second Law of Thermodynamics…

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