Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Here we go again...

I've posted before about my very real condition of FFS, Friendly Face Syndrome. Yesterday was another seminar from the Institute for Brain Potential and another attack.

Now here are some things that are my own personal opinion and do not reflect the opinion of the management of this blog. Oh wait, yeah, they do. Okay, whatever, they are my opinions. Something I have discovered through the years is that there seems to be certain career choices that attract a percentage of freaks and I think the social sciences and healing arts are in that group. I think there are people who get into psychology because they are nuts and want to figure out why. I think there are people that are drawn to things like massage therapy because it speaks to their Woo Woo side and they are a little "off" from the rest of us. I also think that the people that tend to sit in the front and center of a room can tend to be a little off as well.

All that being said, I am a former massage therapist who has always been interested in the social sciences and I almost always sit in the front row. Now, I'm not crazy. I just am easily distracted and learned a long time ago that if I sit up front I can focus on the speaker more easily and not find my mind wandering as much to the hair cut of the person in front of me or if the sweater of the guy in the third row is itchy because it looks itchy and how often do they have to clean the carpets in a room like this I wonder....Okay, maybe I am a little crazy. But I manage.

So when I am in a group that I know will have a large percentage of people in these career areas I know that there will be a small percentage of them that are just off. And I know in that percentage of people I will end up sitting next to and interacting with at least one of them, if not more. Yesterday was Peter's turn.

Now I have to admit the first couple of minutes I interacted with Peter I was thrown. I thought, hmmm...maybe I have lucked out this time and it will be fine. But then it shifted, and shifted quickly and went down hill from there. I was reading the course materials when he came to sit next to me. He asked if the seat was free since I was on the end and there was a woman on the other side of the empty seat, that's where he threw me, he asked. Most crazy people don't ask, they swoop. So then he sat down and asked if I had ever seen the presenter that day, Peter had seen him before and that's why he was back. He said he was so good in his first lecture that he swore if he saw him come through again he would take the class.  Well this is nice information to have.

And then the shift....I am going to give you all of this in one long paragraph with no breaks because it's how it came to me. Though I've already organized the information in my head it actually came to me in random bits a bobs but I will give it to you a little more orderly. But still as a rush. Ready?

First Peter scopes out the table and sees that there are little cups with hard candy in them and he takes the one that was in front of the woman on his left and moves it in front of him. Then he reaches to the table behind us and grabs a cup from that table and takes it as well. Well, okay then. And then he starts to talk. He's a sociologist, but not the kind I think. What do I do? (aside: when he found out I used to be in advertising he tried to see if I knew anyone at Wieden + Kennedy I could introduce him to) Peter is 71 years old. He didn't get married until he was 39. He hadn't been really successful with women so even though his friends told him she wasn't a good idea he didn't believe them. He hadn't been really sexual active as a younger man but he embraced the times in his 30s (aside: eeeeewwww!)  He has three children 25, 29 and 32. (aside: he had to stop and really think about how old his kids were) His wife left when the oldest was 12. See, when she was growing up her mother decided when she was 12 to abdicate the raising of her siblings to her so she just thought when they turned 12 she would be done as well. Her mother was a real battle axe, but Peter had tamed her. In fact he knew there were some odd issues going on when his wife's sister told him that their mother thought that SHE should be married to Peter. After his wife left him he moved from Minnesota to Portland and moved in with his parents. He raised his kids as a single father and then for the past 10 years he took care of his aging parents who were incontinent  He now lives with his brother who he thinks has asperger's syndrome, though he is almost 80 so trying to get someone to diagnose him would be tricky. But he has these odd social habits that seem to line up with it (aside: like not noticing the social cues someone is giving you that they don't want to be having this conversation?)Anyway...his wife had never felt the need to embrace the Mexican stuff while they were married but then got in to it later, see when she came here as a child people would ask her if she was Australian or from the UK and then when she would say Argentina they labeled her a spic and the whites wanted nothing to do with her....

Did you hear the needle scratch the record or was that just me? Yes, he did in fact tell me that. I call this "feeling out your audience" he's just used an incredibly offensive racial slur and he is waiting to see my reaction. He has left the door open, see, HE didn't say it, other people said it about her, but he wants to see how I will react. Let me tell you two things, first off it's probably the first time I have heard that particular racial epitaph here in Portland. Secondly it's a pretty common one where I grew up and so I was probably more insulted than someone who had never heard it. Politely I say, "That's a horrible thing to say and it's awful she had to deal with something like that."  I also thought, "who confused Australian and Argentinian?"

Okay, so then he starts again. See, she has never embraced the Mexican stuff...I point out that Argentinian isn't the same as Mexican. He says, "yeah." then goes on that when she left when the oldest was 12 he had no clue it was coming (aside: 5 minutes in with this guy and I could have told him she was a saint for staying that long) but it turns out she was having an affair. She had started to get more in to the whole Mexica....Hispanic type stuff so she ran off with a Puerto Rican so he guesses she really decided to embrace the Mexican stuff a lot. I smile politely and point out that Puerto Ricans aren't Mexicans either. (the woman sitting behind us laughed at this).

So then he changes tactics. He had asked me earlier if I was married and had kids as the opening gambit to his story. So he starts to tell me that the reason my marriage works is because with couples who go to church together only 2% end up divorced, and couples who stay married only 2% end up in poverty and so that's why my marriage has worked. He couldn't get his wife to go to church with him and look how it ended up. I smiled again and told him he should probably double check his percentages because as we all know 80% of statistics are made up on the spot.  He didn't get it.

Okay so let me give you the rest of the "before the lecture started" run down. While he was talking to me he reached down and pulled up his zipper. Then told me an odd little joke about men and zippers. Three stages of men, first they pull it down to go, then they forget to pull it up after they go, then they stop pulling it down to go. Okay....And the point where I knew I was in trouble with a load of crazy coming my way. As he was telling me how much he enjoyed the speaker before the rest of the rant started he reached in to his little messenger bag, pulls out a yellow plastic case and removes his partial plate. WHILE HE IS TALKING TO ME.  What is it with people doing things like that in public? Go to the bathroom...ick!

Okay, on to the first break. Now during the first section of lecture Dr. Hall talked about healthcare and that there would be a change for many in the audience in 2014 when all of the Affordable Care Act is enacted. He was speaking about preventative care and the lack of it in the US and that there will most likely be a large shift happening. And he mentions he will talk about that again later. So first break comes, Peter makes a bee line for the speaker, I duck out and get coffee and some water and knowing that Peter doesn't respond to "I'm reading the course materials leave me alone" cues I pull out my phone. "And how is Denise? What are you doing?" Oh great...he's back. "I'm catching up with a few people while we are on break." And I look back to the phone.

Nope, that's not going to work either. He starts in on health care. "I will be interested to hear what he says, because now that Obama's been elected it will keep going, if Romney had been elected it would have changed." Now because I am tired, because he called his mother in law a battle axe and said he tamed her, because he used the racial slur, because it wasn't an accident since he truly believes his Argentinian ex wife preferred her Puerto Rican lover over him because she was embracing all that Mexican stuff, Bad Denise is really starting to take over more and more. "Yes, it would have gone from being called Obamacare to Romenycare and he would have kept all of the pieces that the American public wants in a healthcare bill, but just not called it something different. Like Freedom in Health."

He looks at me, and we are off..."You know it establishes 54 different federal agencies which means 54 states agencies and then 54 local agencies. All companies are going to put their employees in to a part time pool let them go on government healthcare and that's what the Democrats wanted in the first place."

"Well that's a very interesting perspective. So what you are telling me is that it's a new thing for companies to put employees on as a part time status to avoid paying benefits?"

"Well, I've not seen it before."

"Then you are in the minority. Excuse me, I need to get a refill on my water."

So I get up and walk away and when I come back he is now engaging with the woman behind me telling her how it's always interesting at these sorts of things that the percentage of women is higher than men. But here is where he stepped wrong, see, she's already heard our conversation so she is primed and ready for Peter. And he doesn't take long to step right in it. See, he doesn't just mention that there are more women than men in the health care fields it's that women have been forcing men out. Yes, forcing men out. And that because now as more women succeed in the fields more and more women are in charge of the training program and so they only admit women now. Oh my....she had just started in on him about the "forcing men out" and that if he thought that then was it fair to say that for years men "kept" women out of the work force and school.  Poor Peter. He was having a hard time finding the right ears for his pontificating...

Okay lunch break. The most treacherous time at one of these events. How do you sneak out and get some lunch without being cornered and having to share your hour with someone you don't want to? Well I'm a genius. I find a seat at the bar in the restaurant between two other people so he can't find me or sit with me and I have a whole hour to myself and he's standing right in back of me isn't he? He actually reached over my shoulder and picked up the menu I had in front of me. Then he sees an "empty" seat a few seats away, except there is an iPad on the bar in front of the seat, he says to the woman next to it, "Is this a menu or is this someone's iPad?" She says "It's an iPad, that seat is taken." He walks back to stand behind me.  Waits a bit then goes and sits in the chair anyway! The woman tells him, "Excuse me, I said this seat was taken." "Oh, okay." He comes back to stand behind me. By this point the bar manager is filling drinks and taking orders and has watched some of this interaction. He made eye contact with me and I guess didn't like what he saw because he came around the bar and directed Peter to an empty seat at a table out in the restaurant. Like actually directed, hand on his arm. Whew....

Lunch eaten, duck back to the room. He did feel the need to comment on what I had for lunch and how much it cost. To which I replied, "I have always found it best to only worry about what you are eating and paying for." One last break to go. During this break he again made a direct line for the speaker to expound on what ever brilliant idea he felt he needed to share with him. Watching Dr. Hall's face go from warm opening smile to "What the hell??" was truly amusing. So the day is over, we are filling out our evaluation sheets and I actually made sure to hide my personal information from him as I was doing it. He was well in to the creepy vibe from the crazy. I get up to leave and he starts to ask for my help with the sheet, I act like I don't hear him tell him to have a nice day and duck out get in my car and am on the road! Except I'm not. They weren't ready for the onslaught of cars leaving and there is some sort of delay so there is a mini van parked right behind me and I can't pull out. By the time it moves the line of cars in the garage from the upper levels is incredibly long and nobody wants to wait and let me out. Fine, turn off the car and wait. No sense getting stressed out when I just spent all day learning about how awful stress is for you.

But then it happens. I hear singing and I think, who the hell would walk through a parking garage singing? Oh of course....I literally ducked down, turned my head and hid my face behind my hair hoping that the dark car, dark lot, shadow combination would keep him from seeing me! It was like a horror movie, just waiting for the knock on the window....

It didn't come. Thank goodness.

The seminar was very good. The speaker was engaging. The information was dense. And I got a great blog story. After winding up the day with a pedicure and an arugula pear salad I am calling it an over all brilliant day.

And I have to admit I sort of want to meet Peter's ex-wife.....

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