Friday, April 14, 2006

shut up!

I was in class last night. Dog tired. Bones tired.

And then something remarkable happened. While slouching in my seat, corpselike, I became aware the woman next to me had started talking and just wouldn't shut up.

This wasn't just an endless single topic kind of talking. It was, I would later gather, an ADD-induced stream of consciousness.

Every single thing the instructor said triggered some comment, annecdote, inspired personal example, innovation, analysis and synthesis....

Each thought would eventually burn itself out, and in a moment of dawning horror the speaker would peter out with a mumbled mantra, "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!..." At the same time furiously scribbling on her notepad the very same phrase, writ large. bordered. red inked. traced over and over furiously. Shut up!

I watched this go on several times, feeling empathy and wanting to soothe the tortured soul with an, "It's all right, you don't need to be so hard on yourself. Just contribute on every 3rd question instead of every time."

At the same time it was fascinating. car wreck, flashing ambulance lights fascinating.

Over the course of the evening it started to drain on my empathy. This nice woman was enthusiastic. She was chatty. She was a pretty good neighbor at the table. She was probably reaching the end of her meds for the day and having a hard time focusing. And it was fraying my nerves.

Reminded me of something that happened in college...


I'd seen something like this before. My roomie in college, second year. Good guy. Looked like Jackson Browne. Was easy going like Jackson Browne. But not early in the morning before his meds and late at night after his meds wore off.

At those times he became a quietly insistent paranoiac.

Didn't discover this until I invited him to join a game of "assassin" and his sub-surface tendencies erupted. Our room felt like a guarded fortress as he sought to avoid his own hunter. I was berated for minor lapses in security protocol which could let the barbarians in-- things like letting the door open more than a crack as I entered and left the room.

Finally, in an act of total frustration, total betrayal and I guess total validation of Ken's paranoia, I worked a deal with the guy who was hunting him (I was pretty sharp at this game and worked out all the hunters/hunted pretty fast). Joe, the comic book collecting, Hawaiian, pitiless killer popped through a thoughtlessly-left-open door I had egressed a few moments earlier and collected his contract on Ken.

Ken was a good guy. I said that, didn't I? Didn't even yell at me. Just wearily explained how I'd once more failed to close the door behind me and this time the unthinkable had happened. But at least he didn't have to worry anymore.

We consoled eachother.

So I am back in my class realizing what is going on. How do you help someone whose meds are wearing off to hold it together for another two hours?

I'll have a quiet conversation with the instructor and see if we can come up with some relaying techniques (i.e. talking stick) to support my neighbor.

It really pained me to see her attacking her own self-worth with those "Shut ups!"


At 2:25 PM, Anonymous nondescript motorist said...

Wow, that's showing some compassion, and all this time I though you were just a pretty face...

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Jeremy said...

That is a disturbing thing to say. ha ha

BTW - Go see V for Vendetta. Very good. Most entertaining.


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