Caught in the Twilight Zone

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. What’s that signpost up ahead? Your next stop, the Twilight Zone!”

Have you ever experienced a Twilight Zone moment? I would say that a Twilight Zone experience is considerably different than a déjà vu experience. It is much more intense – more real.

Everyone has probably experienced déjà vu at some point in their lives. It’s one of those, “I’ve been here before” feelings. Déjà vu is a phrase we adopted from the French. It literally translates to English as “already seen.”

I had a huge feeling of déjà vu a few years ago. While driving north through the Monument Valley area of Utah, I glanced into the rearview mirror. Immediately, I was overwhelmed with a sense of having already been in that exact spot. The feeling was so intense that I pulled over.

Debbie asked, “What’s going on? Why are we stopping?” I told her, “I’ve been here before. I know this place.”

Debbie knew that I had never set foot in Utah in my life. Despite that, I had an overwhelming feeling that I had been at that exact spot before.

There was no traffic coming from either direction. You could see for miles as the barren, brown desert landscape stretched to every horizon. In the distance were the unique mesas and tall buttes that give Monument Valley its name. It looked like one of the most desolate places in the world.

I stood in the middle of State Route 163 in southern Utah. The Arizona border was a little over 10 miles further south.

As I stood in the middle of that road, in the middle of nowhere, it suddenly dawned on me.

This was exactly where Forrest Gump had stopped running.

If you remember that classic movie, Forrest had been running nonstop, from coast to coast, for several years. A group of hardcore runners had started following him. At the exact spot where I stood, in the desert of southern Utah, Forrest stopped running.

He turned around. He looked at the people behind him and said, “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.”

The feeling of déjà vu I had was so strong that I took a picture of the road. When I got home, I compared that picture to the scene in the movie. It was a perfect match. It capped a perfect déjà vu moment.

About 12 years earlier, in 1993, I took a little side-trip to the Twilight Zone. Several physicians went with me. That Twilight Zone experience happened right here in downtown Wilmington.

One of the many functions of my job at the hospital was to oversee the services of our cardiovascular lab. As our services expanded and became more sophisticated, we grew from simple ultrasound imaging of the heart to Doppler ultrasound of the heart, arteries and veins.

With Doppler ultrasound, you not only see the physical structures of the heart, arteries and veins, you also visualize the ctual flow of blood within those structures. In 1993, this was all next-generation, very cutting-edge medicine. It was new to most of our medical staff.

I arranged an in-service training program in the dining room of the General Denver Hotel. The training was being provided by a company from Cincinnati. Their expert medical directors were going to use PowerPoint with high-tech, high-definition imaging to demonstrate the capabilities of Doppler ultrasound. It was going to be an amazing, high-tech show.

Just as everyone finished eating and the program was about to begin, I looked out the window and saw an even more amazing show. It was a trip back in time; a Twilight Zone experience.

Hollywood was in town to film the movie “Lost in Yonkers.” Just as the high-tech, futuristic training started inside the 100-year-old hotel, we were distracted as physician after physician glanced out the window onto Main Street.

It was not the Main Street we had just left. It was Main Street of 1943. With each glance, we were transported back 50 years in time. Men and women in their 1940s finery were strolling down Main Street. Old cars and even old garbage trucks were cruising through town.

It was as if the General Denver Hotel had gotten sucked into a time-warp. Everything outside the building had changed. The stark difference between our high-tech training inside the dining room and the scene from yesteryear that was playing out before our eyes was almost mind-numbing.

That was an in-service training experience our medical staff will never forget. It was the strangest training I ever coordinated.

It was as if the training had not come from the professionals from Cincinnati. It came directly from a fifth dimension — that dimension which is not known to man. Tt came from The Twilight Zone.

If only there had been a signpost on Main Street with the warning … “You’re about to enter the Twilight Zone.”

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist