The Ping

The Ping is hard to explain. It's the kind of concept that you either understand instantly or don't get at all, and no amount of explaining will change this for you.

The Ping is that feeling you sometimes get when you meet someone. You can't quite put your finger on it, but there's something about the person that makes you uncomfortable. It's as if they're broadcasting a warning on a frequency just at the edge of your range. You don't consciously hear it, but something about them just makes you uneasy.

Sometimes you can figure out why a person pings. Perhaps she won't meet your gaze. He might stand too close, not noticing your subtle efforts to escape. Or possibly her inflections convey meanings that don't match what she's saying.

These are some of the more obvious warning signs. Yet there are people who ping loudly for no apparent reason. I've even gotten the ping second hand, upon hearing a friend describe someone he just met. I don't know the guy, I've never met him, but by golly the man pinged.

For me, whether a person pings is discovered at our first meeting. I cannot recall a case where I've met someone, considered them normal, and then later got the Ping. It seems to be something that I can judge within a few minutes of first contact. And once someone has pinged, that's it. I can't ever relate to her or him normally. All I see is the Ping.

The Ping has nothing to do with being unusual. Plenty of people have odd interests, offbeat hobbies, and striking passions without pinging. People who look as normal as can be can ping. It cuts across all economic and social classes. Some people are jerks, some people are saints, some are boring, some interesting. And some people ping.

What is it that makes someone ping? I suspect that it's a combination of verbal and/or physical cues that a person gives, but I haven't found a rhyme or reason to it. Is it simply a matter of not conforming to subconscious cultural norms, or is there something more? I've met people with neurological impairments, and they haven't pinged. So what causes this strange phenomenon?

Do you have any ideas?

Last updated 3 June 2000
All contents ©1999-2002 Mark L. Irons