Archive for January, 2014

No One Cares

Posted: January 26, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Life, Me & Mine, You & Yours
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Really, no one is listening to The Conversation you're having.

Really, no one is listening to The Conversation you’re having.

We probably wouldn’t worry about what other people think of us if we could know how seldom they do- Olin Miller

A few years ago while I was being tested in college for Attention Deficit Disorder and other learning disabilities, my mother sent me a book with the above quote in it. The book was called The Most Brilliant Thoughts Of All Time ( In two lines or less ) The reason she sent the book was because I think she started to recall my attention level as a child and teen, and the many difficulties it caused she and I. Being a romantic I like to think that she felt a little bad about the years of fights and dramedy that were a result of my inability to focus, pay attention or…Oh there’s my remote control…. Oooooo… a Happy Days marathon…that sounds promising…. That Fonzie is such a card…Now ,where were we?

This quote stuck out as I had been pondering a piece titled “No One Cares”, which coincidentally is remarkably similar to the essay I’m typing up at this very moment. I became inspired to write this as a result of my anger and frustration toward a couple of regulars who drink in the bar where I am employed. When people frustrate us, yet we are unable to confront them for various reasons; (we work with them, we work for them, they are bigger than we are,they’re attractive and might sleep with us, they have a badge and gun, they are elderly, they are small children…the list goes on and on) we often spend a great deal of time thinking about what we’d like to say to them if the dynamic of the situation were somehow different. As a bartender,like anyone who’s job it is to deal with a rude and disrespectful general public, I have to contend with a fair number of assholes regularly. In the interest of building and maintaining customers and keeping my job, I have to find ways to hold my tongue, paste a smile on my face and interact with these people. I must find a way to do so in a reasonably pleasant and professional manner. So, I find myself rehearsing in my mind various cutting remarks that would make them flee from the watering hole in shame, or apologize to me and hand me hundreds or thousands of dollars in retroactive tips, or commit suicide. Keep in mind, I can’t really utter these well rehearsed and justly deserved dressing downs. Chances are it wouldn’t do any good. People don’t change after a stern talking to like in TV shows and movies…regardless of how clever, true and deserving the dressing down might be. Plus, I’d probably get in trouble and possibly lose my job. To put it bluntly and succinctly, we all have to take bites of the shit sandwich that is life.

One of the aforementioned customers is a rather dour man who never tips. Tips are my livelihood, and are therefore extremely important to me. They are yet another reason why I try to refrain from having verbal meltdowns with customers. Adding to the frustration of this customer’s stiffing me daily is his personal and socio-political philosophy, He is a self described Marxist. This is a man who goes on and on ( and on) about the plight of the working man. He obviously fancies himself some kind of working class hero. Now it has been a while since I have read Marx and Engels The Communist Manifesto, but I don’t recall the chapter on gratuities and the running dog capitalist waiters and bartenders who suppress the proletariat and keep them down. Like most tipped workers, I am also taxed on my gratuities…This means if and when I am not tipped, I am essentially paying to serve people drinks.

NoTip

In addition to being stiffed daily by this man as I pour pint after pint of Guinness for him, I resent his slight air of smugness about his never tipping me. It’s almost as if he believes that he is doing something noble and virtuous by screwing me. Furthermore, he probably feels superior to me and more enlightened that I simply can’t grasp his strict policy of not tipping for services rendered. Of course, this is the general attitude of tipped workers whenever they encounter cheap, petty and trifling customers. We have a long memory of who doesn’t tip us.

The particular telling off of this man that I go over and over again in my mind would be to point out that no one, repeat, No one gives a shit about his political theories. No one, repeat No one discusses at great length, or any length for that matter what a working class hero he is. Despite what he may think, No One Cares.

Now these sorts of statements could potentially cut a person to the bone. It also made me realize something . 99% of us have strong perceptions and beliefs that are immensely important..but only to us. Again, No One Cares.

Just like Trotsky-Tipless, I have strong perceptions of myself that are varying degrees of truth, fiction and everything in-between. However, with very few exceptions, No one really gives a damn. Now this is not a pity trip. It’s simple reality. I’m just as guilty of this apathy. Hell, as a former punk rocker, a current New Yorker and lifelong cynic…I’m probably more apathetic than the average bear. If ‘No One Cares” can be said about most people, then I would somehow manage to care less. It’s a warped point of pride with me. Probably similar to the point of pride I imagine Mr Persona- Non- Gratuity has about being a cheap bastard.

Perhaps this inane little observation goes much further than I ever could have imagined. Maybe, just maybe it’s a huge part in the very meaning of life. Is it possible that getting others to care about us or issues is the key to happiness, health, wealth and self actualization? It is also interesting to note that even people who are deemed interesting or important to care about by the media often fall victim to the curse of “No One Cares”. Isn’t it safe to say that many of us roll our eyes at the daily and hourly reportings on Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Professional Athletes, The Kardasians and their ilk? And what is our first and most primal reaction to them? That’s right. “Who Cares?”

Just eat your food. There is no need to Instagram it first.

Just eat your food. There is no need to Instagram it first.

Other people’s favorite hobby seems to involve a shift in focus from “No One Cares” to a “You shouldn’t care about that, but rather focus on this”. Often these people are well meaning and trying to garner interest and awareness in worthy causes…. or perhaps more accurately, causes they feel strongly about. We’ve all met these people. You’ll be cheerfully discussing something or someone, and they will tut tut and inform you of something infinitely more important.

In my refraining from going off on the working class zero who never tips me, I have started to focus on things that are important to or about me that fall securely into the “No One Cares” file. I’m a writer, or at least that’s what I tell women I’m trying to impress. The fact of the matter is that. A: I have never been published. B: I have a blog that approximately 4 people read with any regularity and C: Being a writer isn’t all that impressive, unique or interesting. You can’t swing a dead wino in NYC and not hit someone who thinks they’re a writer. So, just as my never-tipping regular feels that he is somehow a noble and fascinating warrior of the proletariat…nobody gives a shit about my literary observations of cell phone etiquette or how people who try to get 12 items through a 10 items or less line at the supermarket should be tried and executed for crimes against humanity.

“No One Cares” for all it’s apathy can be a very powerful thing. People take medications and go to therapy because of “No One Cares”. People go on shooting rampages, and even commit or attempt suicide because of those three, single syllable words. What is a major cause of suicide? The very perception that no one cares. There are even “Cry for help” suicides which is the tragic, yet desperate attempt to get others to give a flying fuck, if only for a little while.

Technology has been driven by “No One Cares” predating recorded history. I’d be willing to bet that it took all of 30 seconds for some Neanderthal hipster to roll their eyes and say “Whatev’s” after a fellow caveman drew some stick men and stick animals in the Lascaux caves in France. Haters gonna hate.

Twitter. The ultimate (currently) in “Pay Attention To Me” narcissism. But can’t we safely say that 99.7% of tweets fall under that “Who cares” category. I know on a very personal level that I only pay attention to ” I plan to have sex with Scott Swenson” tweets from Dolly Parton. Interestingly, while researching Ms Dolly’s twitter account for this piece I found out thatshe had a fender bender on Oct 21st of last year, she was fine and was resting comfortably at home when she tweeted this. I’m guessing she was spared serious injury by “airbags” Nyuk Nyuk.

The genius or geniuses who created Twitter were very aware of human nature and how so many of us are under the misconception that we have something of note to say that the rest of the world gives a damn about.

nobody-cares

Twitter was invented because so many are think others care about what we’re thinking or doing… unaware of how few really give a damn. I don’t tweet. I’m not part of the Twitterverse ( even that term makes me want to vomit), but I can safely say that if I was, there are very few bits of info from others that I’d stop and pay attention to….alien abduction, Armageddon and the aforementioned Ms Parton wanting a booty call from yours truly.

So, although I am fairly certain that very few people care about what I say, even fewer care about what I write, and no one cares about what I think…I just want to say, that the world would be a much better place if we’d put a little more effort into caring…and we can start by caring more about MY writing, getting my contact info to Dolly Parton and leaving me better tips.

Hearing Voices

Posted: January 2, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in Me & Mine
Tags: , , , , , , ,
High Ang . . . ZIETY

High Ang . . . ZIETY

Years ago, I went to see my first psychiatrist regarding an unacceptable level of anxiety in my life. I had been having panic attacks with more and more frequency, and it was starting to affect the overall quality of my life. “Panic Attack” or “Anxiety Attack” are the common parlance, although I prefer the terminology from my grandmother’s time, “Having fits or spells”. One simply can’t go to a modern MD with a case of “The Fits” anymore. It does sound better when I’m in the midst of having one and someone asks what’s wrong, why am I hyperventilating and twitching…I just stammer. “Don’t mind me; I’m just having one of my spells.”

My path to psychiatry began with a tiny boo-boo under my index fingers nail. I didn’t think it was a big deal. It was painful and being located on a very popular digit, it made life awkward…but it wasn’t oozing puss or smelling of eau de gangrene.  Upon seeing the boo-boo, my co-worker and friend Matthew told me I should see a doctor. He’d experienced a similar injury before, and it had turned septic and nasty. Plus going to the doctor was a good way for me to skip out of an uneventful day at work. At the time, I actually had a real job with medical insurance and paid time off, so I left work early and went to see a very nice doctor about said boo boo. He gave me a couple of owchie shots in the finger which wasn’t one of life’s great treats, clipped the nail, drained the wound and bandaged me up. Then he wrote me a prescription for enough pain killers to keep the Mexican Coast guard high for a month. As I said, I liked this doctor, which is rare for me. I don’t generally like doctors, nurses, hospitals and medical procedures regardless of how minor they might be. I read an article once which stated simply and beautifully …”Why don’t people like doctors?” “Well, in addition to keeping you waiting around for hours in waiting rooms and in your underwear on butcher paper, they can be smug, do painful things to you, and finally they have a unique ability to deliver VERY bad news.” Like many patients, I pulled a “While I’m here doc…” as our visit was coming to an end and I confided in him that I was having panic attacks. He listened to me, asked me a few questions and then he prescribed a medication instructing me to follow up in a couple weeks and let him know if it had helped.

The medication worked on the panic attacks, but gave me vivid and disturbing dreams. I was getting cranky at work after waking up suddenly from dreams of being chased by lobsters dressed like Liberace singing “Who’s making love you your old lady?” So, when I followed up with the nice GP, he suggested I see a psychiatrist that he knew who would be better suited for medications and problems of my sort. So I made an appointment with Dr. Yakov Greenstein (How cliché is that name? Was Dr. Inkblot McFreud already taken?)

Dr. G was a nice enough man, albeit a caricature of a psychiatrist….Tweed Jacket, beard, glasses, yarmulke, mandatory Van Gogh prints adorning his office walls…

Now, it is S.O.P for a psychiatrist to ask new patients a series of questions; A psychiatric evaluation of sorts.

“Have you thought about hurting other people?”
You mean besides telemarketers and people selling religion door to door? No.

“Have you thought about hurting yourself?”
Um, does a chest waxing and a Brazilian count?

And finally..:

“Are you hearing voices?”

I thought I had given the correct answers on questions one and two, but on question three, I couldn’t help myself. Poor impulse control and trying to be funny have gotten me in trouble before. I smiled my best Cheshire-Cat grin and replied… “Yes, I hear voices, but they only tell me to do ‘good things’.” Dr. G looked at me with a totally blank expression before making a small note in my file. One would think that psychiatrists and proctologists would have better senses of humor. Guess not.

Because of changing insurance companies and networks, I have had to see 3 different psychiatrists over the years, and have luckily found a medication that helps with my anxiety. Every single Shrinky-Dink has asked me the same line of questions, and fortunately I have learned to curb my wise-assery until they got to know me, and my ummm unique sense of humor first. But today while walking around Midtown Manhattan, something dawned on me.

We all hear voices. At least I’m hoping we all do, and that I’m not all alone here. According to my best friend I am a “Special Little Snowflake”, but I certainly don’t want to be the only person not living in a puzzle factory who hears voices.

How many times have we heard the expression “I can just hear so-and-so-saying such-and-such?” Well, friends…that’s hearing voices. Ever stopped someone short from lecturing or bawling you out with a raised hand of capitulation and an “I know..I know…” That’s because we know what they’re thinking and what they’re going to say. We already heard their voice. My mother died a year and a half ago, and I have cried a million tears and know there are a million more to come…but I can still hear her voice…clear as day saying “Nice boy” when I do something, well… nice…and I can still hear her disapproving of me, lecturing me, her laughter and what she’d say to our many private little jokes. I hope I never stop hearing my mother’s voice. Besides some photographs, her extensive Rubber Ducky collection and my memories, it’s all I have left.

Before you tear up at this picture of poignancy…I also have far too many Norman Bates moments.

Mom’s Voice: “Well it’s no wonder you can’t find your keys in that pig sty you’re living in.”
Me: “Not now Ma…”

Mom’s Voice: “I’m just saying that you feel better when you clean your room, now you’re going to be late for work.”
Me: “Ma, seriously…not helping.”

Mom’s Voice: “Just look at this place, socks everywhere…underwear…I hope you don’t have any girls over with your apartment looking like that. Did I raise you to be such a slob?”
Me: “Shut Up, Shut Up SHUT UP!!!!”

Now I may be a fool, but I am not such a fool as to ignore the fact that there are people out there who hear voices that plague them with very bad and destructive advice. I once met an outpatient schizophrenic while walking on the beach in Florida. She was a young black girl who came up to me while I was out for my walk, and just started a conversation. I think she was a little lonely. She almost immediately confided in me that she was taking medication because she had been hearing voices. I talked with her for a little while. I wasn’t scared of her, even though schizophrenics can be dangerous. She seemed more sad than anything, and lonely too as I have said.

I still think about that girl from time to time. I hope she’s OK. OK, like me…hearing voices that only tell her to do good things.

I was glad the girl was on a medication that was helping her. The quality of mental health care isn’t always up to snuff here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Whopper. I wonder if anyone has ever said: “The meds seem to be working doctor. I still hear voices, but now they speak Spanish and I only understand every third word.”

My dear friend Pamela J is a psych nurse. I’m blessed with lots of close friends who have interesting jobs. Pam the psych nurse, Fred the Marine to name two, and I enjoy talking to them about their jobs. For further research I decided to call and ask Pamela J about hearing voices and how serious, common and or benign it was. “Well, do you argue with the voices and more importantly, how often do they win the arguments?” One of the Pamela’s duties is to do “intakes” for psych patients who are similar to a psychiatrist’s evaluation without the tweed jacket and Van Gogh prints. She’s an incredibly patient and kind-hearted person, while at the same time having an extremely astute BS meter and low BS threshold. The first part of this equation would explain our lengthy friendship. As for the BS, my only guess is that my particular variety of BS doesn’t step on her dress as much as others. I can imagine she’s quite good at her job, although she has confided in me on a few occasions that she felt the psych gig has diminished the skill set she learned in nursing school. She’d rather be working with Doctors Without Borders or such agencies as she’s quite adventurous. Instead, she has to tell drug addicts 5 or 6 times an hour “No, you get your methadone at 6pm…not 5:35” followed by “No, you get your methadone at 6pm…not 5:40. No, blah, blah blah 5:45, blah blah 5:50, and blah 5:55”. You get the idea. I often tease Pamela that I plan to take a vacation at one of the facilities where she is employed. She counters with gleefully administering Thorazine as well as shock treatments, and that a cruise to the Bahamas might be a better choice for me.

Pamela has given me some great first hand insight into various psychiatric conditions. “The only ones I don’t like are the borderlines.” (Borderline Personality Disorder) Pamela, like many in her profession has developed a healthy detachment. She works hard, tries to help, but doesn’t beat herself up over those she can’t. She once told me something interesting that I never knew about paranoid schizophrenics…that they often naturally get in touch or perhaps more accurately, come back in touch with reality after a certain amount of time has passed. Maybe the voices they hear stop, or they realize the voices are self-manufactured. I hope my voices don’t abandon me completely.

I’d get lonely.