Dancing with Earthquakes
LOS ANGELES—Elephant tranquilizers and shock therapy are the best measures towards handling stress in today’s modern world. However, if you are lucky enough to land a really great psychologist, then you’ll have it going on. First, the doc will provide an intake session, in which he will ask you very important, relevant, and pertinent questions. The purpose of this session is for him to get a good idea of who you are and where you are in life so that he will get a good idea of how to help you. To provide an example of what this session is like, here is a sample of one of my favorite ones:
“I see it must have been very difficult when your father put you inside that laundry bag, and then hung you from a tree branch in the front yard.”
“Yes. And it wasn’t too fun when my little brother was standing a few feet away and pointing at me and laughing either.”
“And your dad even let you hang there overnight?”
“Yes. While he sat drinking a six-pack of Miller Genuine Draft and yelling at the Pittsburg Steelers on TV. All of my sibs spent most of the night throwing rocks at me from their rooms overhead.”
“And I supposed it didn’t help very much that all of the neighborhood dogs bit you in the butt repeatedly, and all the neighborhood kids threw rocks at you repeatedly as well.”
“No, it didn’t. Nor did it help that all the neighborhood adults, and their mothers, and everybody and their grandmother’s mothers threw rocks at me, and all their dogs and their mothers bit my behind repeatedly. In fact, everybody and their dead relatives and their dogs' dead relatives still throws rocks at me and bite my butt to this day, but I am the doctor here, and I am supposed to be the one who is supposed to be asking all the questions, so why don’t we look through your intake forms and get started?” Dr. Snyder asks, collecting all of my forms and looking through the first few pages.
“So”¦what is your name?”
He gives me an odd stare, as if knowing that I know that Grace is my mother’s first name, as I had written on the form in the space where I was to write her name, and not before crossing it out several times, along with the names of several of my favorite female icons, such as Julia Roberts and Whoopie Goldberg. "Who, by the way, I think are very cool," I say, "in fact, I had a chance to see Whoopie at a foster youth shelter in Hollywood called the Covenant House some years back, and even though I was too shy to speak to her and shake her hand, it was pretty cool to have this close proximity to such an amazing celebrity and —"
"What does this have to do with anything?" he asks.
"Sorry, went off on another mindless tangent. Are you married?"
"For the seventeenth time, I'm the one who is supposed to ask you that."
"Oh, sorry. Yes. I am married."
“And”¦this is whom you are married to?” he asks, holding up a colored pencil sketch of Lion-O from the ThunderCats, which has been drawn all over the entire insurance form. (My signature is on the bottom right-hand corner.)
“That is my husband, yes,” I state proudly, puffing out my chest. “And we have been married since 1985.”
He squints at me. “Since”¦you were a child.”
I squint back at him. “Since...I was a child.”
He frowns at the sketch, which is of Lion-O flexing his muscles in front of a full-length mirror, with Panthro and Tygra standing behind him and frowning at him with their arms crossed. (I was thinking about including Panthro reaching for his nunchucks and Tygra his bolo whip, but sometimes less is more.)
“Do you realize you're not in an art class here?” Dr. Synder asks.
My eyes goggle at him. “We’re not?”
He takes more notes, his pencil practically smoking. “So”¦where were you born?”
“Where is here?”
“Here. This state.”
“I know, but which state is that?”
“Why, the state I was born in.”
“But what is the name of the state?”
“You don't know what state we're in?”
“Of course I know, but —”
“Then why are you asking me?”
He blinks at me, and then scribbles again. I assume that he is writing, “Planet Earth.”
“Now tell me,” he continues, “do you hear voices?”
“Yes. Mine and yours.”
He writes several more long paragraphs. He scribbles for a very, verrrrrry long time, and then coughs, mops his sweating forward, half-faints, coughs and then scribbles again. I sit listening to the clock ticking and the cat, his, I guess, purring on the nearby sofa. The doc hasn’t introduced me to her, but I have privately given her a name to compensate for his rudeness. Since she reminds me of the Cheshire cat in "Alice in Wonderland," I have named her Tweedle-dum-dee, not only because I forgot the cat’s name, but because she also somehow reminds me of Alice’s two new friends, whose names are also much easier to remember.
So Tweedle-dum-dee sits on the edge of a chair and licks her calico fur, staring at me and looking as if she would rather be at the pet dentist than this dump as Dr. Synder continues writing, and I stand slightly to peer over and take a peek at his notepad. He frowns at me and pulls away, covering the notepad as if offended. I don’t see why, being that all I am doing is making sure he isn’t doodling embarrassing caricatures of me.
“Now put these blocks together while I time you,” he says, placing them before me.
I look at the colorful array of blocks with a variety of patterns and other very distinct and interesting features that I guess are supposed to be interlinked.
After a moment, I begin to believe that this is intended to be a very interesting, ground-breaking and profound mental exercise that is meant to accurately measure I.Q., equilibrium and other outstanding abilities that would cause the average individual to wonder why these marvelous, gorgeous blocks are not being exhibited in a museum rather than being hidden in a doctor’s office from the eyes of a deprived, disillusioned world to see. This could be a breakthrough! I think.
Then I change my mind and throw the blocks across the desk at him. “You put ’em together.”
He calmly blinks at me, and then takes more notes. After a moment, he reaches into his desk again, and brings out several inkblot pictures, one of which he then presents to me.
“What do you see in this picture?” he asks.
I shrug. “A pair of monkeys.”
“What are these monkeys doing?”
“Doin’ whatever monkeys do.”
“But what do you see them doing?”
“Well”¦” I look at Tweedle-dum-dee, as if begging for her help, but she has already wandered to the corner of the room and abandoned me. She hides behind a wicker chair, where I suspect her kitty litter box might be located.
“Uh”¦" I turn back to the doctor, "With all due respect, sir, I don’t think I would want to know what these monkeys are doing, and frankly, I don't think they appreciate you asking me what they are doing either.” I stick my tongue out at him.
He writes several more paragraphs. After a short eternity, he brings out a colossal medical textbook and flips through several pages. He shuts the book, runs his fingers through his hair and flips through it again. I suspect that he has never come across a problem of this particular kind.
Tweedle-dum-dee returns, jumps on the arm of the sofa nearby, and lies there, flipping her tail, looking very content, and I know for sure that my presumed location of her litter box was correct, (the traitor).
“Do you like computers?” Doctor Snyder asks.
“Well, no, but —”
“Perfect, then you will love the next part of our evaluation, the written exam,” he says, grabbing me by the collar and dragging me to a nearby desk, where he plops me down in an office swivel chair in front of his Toshiba laptop.
“Now this test is very self-explanatory,” he says pleasantly, as I struggle to keep from falling out of the chair. “Finish this test, take your time, it won’t take more than 15 minutes to complete, and please do not steal my laptop,” he says, racing into an office at the rear of the room.
“Will do,” I say, saluting him as he shuts the door.
Tweedle-dum-dee jumps off the arm of the sofa and grins at me, looking very much like Alice’s Chessy cat now, and I wonder if Tweedle-dum-dee is somehow aware of, and slyly mocking, the fact, that I am not very good at tests. Not that I blame her. I usually can’t even get past the second question in online quizzes to find out what flavor of soda I am.
When Doc. Snyder returns from his rear office to examine my test results 10 hours later, he realizes that I haven’t even yet gotten started, in fact I had spent the entire while drawing a picture of him being strangled by "Mumm-ra," and other "ThunderCats" villians, (every now and then spinning in the swivel chair), and so he returns to the office and comes back after another 10 hours, smelling mildly of whiskey, and shoves me out of the chair to take a seat and begin his assessment.
I casually brush myself off and sit back at his desk while he prints up the test results. He looks over them as he sits back across his desk from me.
“The results of this analysis indicates that you are homicidal and suicidal,” he says.
“HOMICIDAL AND SUICIDAL?" I shout indignantly. "How dare you be so brazen!” I slam my fist on the table, causing a paperweight to jump off and fall on top of Tweedle-dum-dee's head. “I agree with the homicidal part, definitely, but the rest of your findings are ridiculously unfounded!” I state, as Tweedle-dum-dee screeches back to her litter box in retreat. (Go, Tweedle-dum-dee! I think. "I myself might just go, too!" I shout, and then chuckle sheepishly at the doctor, realizing I had said that part out loud.)
Dr. Snyder writes several more paragraphs on his notepad, then turns the page. He sighs.
“Did you draw this?” he asks, showing me the new colored sketch of a half-Lioness me leaning against Lion-O’s shoulder in front of Cat’s Lair, with one of Lion-O’s buff arms around me and the other holding Snarf, and Cheetara and Pumyra standing behind us, looking as if they want to rake their claws into my eyes.
“Uh”¦how did that get there?’’ I grab the notepad, tear off two sheets, crumple the non-sketch one and attempt to tuck the real one behind my shirt in a pathetic simulation of sleight of hand, not before Tweedle-dum-dee jumps on my back and grabs the drawing, tearing it to bits in front of him. (I am certain by now that she is Dr. Synder’s sworn follower.)
“You know what?” Dr. Synder says, smiling, tearing up all of his notes. “I like you. I really, really like you.”
I grin, flattered. “You do?”
“Absolutely. You are very self-actualized, and seem to really know what you want in life.”
He goes back into the rear office, and this time he remains for 45 minutes. I hear his muffled, “Eeerrrrrrrugggggghhhhhhh!” and I am on the verge of fearing that he might have an additional kitty litter box in the additional office when he suddenly comes back out, hefting an gargantuan container filled with what seem to be prescription pills.
“Take these,” he groans, placing the container on the desk, “”¦.and come back in the next six months for a refill.”
“Sure. This is great. Wow. Thanks!” I stare at the bottle, caressing its smooth clear, orange-brown plastic surface admiringly. “So when is our next appointment, Doctor”¦Snyder?”
I turn to see him standing on the window sill with Tweedle-dum-dee on his shoulder.
“Doctor Snyder! Wait!”
He jumps, and I race for the window to catch him, but he is already too far out of reach. “Doctor Synder!” I shout, as he drops the six-story fall down towards the armies of traffic below. “Poor guy,” I say, shaking my head. “He had so much to live for.”
Then, some 50 feet above ground level, Dr. Snyder’s backpack opens and a parachute billows out, while music from the Mission Impossible’s theme song starts playing from apparently out of nowhere.
I suddenly burst into ecstacy. “He has a parachute! He’s gonna be okay! Yippeeeeeee!” I jump around, turn a cartwheel, and then turn the TV on a scene with James Bond preparing to jump from a plane with a parachute has come on.
As I heft the 10-pound container of pills out the door with me and into the hall, people giving me odd stares from all directions, I go into the elevator, saying, “I don’t know what’s with him, he doesn’t realize that I won’t need to see him for months, as I will be too busy taking all of these pills! What a sucker!”
“Yes, a shame indeed,” says the leprechaun on my shoulder, sneaking my wallet out of my pocket.
I smack his hand. “Just for that you’re not getting any Lucky Charms tonight,” I say, and he gives me his hangdog expression. “All right. But just be good from now on.” He grins with glee.
When we go outside, I see a person who resembles a frazzled psychologist running and jumping and somersaulting through traffic, dabbling with his lower lip and murmuring past it with his eyes crossed, shouting, “That head case is gonna realize that these pills are duds and then come back for more, which will be carefully designed to make clients worse, and she will keep coming back for more then I will make more and more and more every time so I will be rich, rich, rich, BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA!” he shouts, as Tweedle-dum-dee jumps from his shoulder and onto mine, getting acquainted with my leprechaun sidekick.
As cops look at us before shaking their heads and walking away, (not before one news reporter snaps a picture), I join in Dr. Snyder’s maniacal laughter. So does Tweedle-dum-dee and the leprechaun and everyone else all around me. After all, even though not a single one of us quite gets the joke, we still want to be good sports.
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