The Trouble with the World Explained

The trouble with the world today (in case you want to know) is that you can’t tell the crazies from the passably sane. You’ve noticed this if you spend any time in a grocery store. It used to be that a prowler among the produce who talked to himself, debated invisible adversaries, or professed love in the direction of the cauliflower was immediately understood to be off his rocker. You pretended not to notice; you casually left that person’s vicinity. All was well with the world.  

Nowadays, however, you step closer. You look twice, three times. Is he talking on a mobile phone? Look again, around his ears; he may be wearing a hands-free device. Like Alice, you don’t want to go among mad people, but you want to know what you’re dealing with.  Just a little reassurance. Nothing on the left ear; check the other. He certainly seems to feel strongly about something or other, doesn’t he? But, ah! There it is, see! That thingy curled up on top of his right ear. What a relief. -Excuse me? No, no problem at all, mister. No – that won’t be necessary. Have a nice day!

The effect of technology on society is to proliferate symptoms of schizophrenia. Even non-adopters breathe it in like second-hand smoke. I remember the first time I saw someone talking on a cell phone with a hands-free device in a grocery store. Not badly dressed for a crazy, I thought. When I realized what he was doing, I could hardly believe it. I stood laughing in the dairy section, like a crazy person, for a full five minutes. What a clown, I said to myself. Doesn’t he know everyone will take him for a lunatic? That’ll never catch on!

It’s worth observing that despite the broad use of such technologies today, the average number of grocery store soliloquists encountered in any given week hasn’t much changed. One might have expected otherwise. What’s the meaning of it, I wonder? Could it be that there are fewer crazy people around than there used to be? That seems unlikely. Maybe they’re getting better drugs. Or maybe, since insanity is traditionally expressed by behavior counter to social norms, the crazies these days are the ones going quietly about their business.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The Trouble with the World Explained

  1. melxiopp

    A floormate of mine in college, a painter best described as a pothead and a magic mushroom afficianado, once commented that he never went to the Theatre floor because they’re all crazy. Knowing his penchant for psychedelia, I asked what they hell he meant (for I was a theatre major). He said they all walk around talking to themselves, yelling at themselves, talking and yelling at each other about all sorts of crazy things. What?! Oh, you mean people just going over their lines, working on scenes together? Yeah. Well, that’s not crazy, they’re not actually talking to themselves. I know, but you all freak me out.

  2. Pingback: This Side of the Pulpit | This Side of the Pulpit

  3. Have you noticed that pregnant women don’t look pregnant these days? (Paraphrase of a line heard in an Italian movie this evening.)

  4. Happens to me on the bus a lot. When I worked in the mental hospital the litmus test was that they got off at the same stop as me but, you know, most of the really worrying sounding ones didn’t. Or perhaps it just wasn’t their clinic appointment that day.

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