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Opinions Fri, 31 Oct 2008

Is Everyone a Bit Crazy?

Daniel Pryce’s Observations: Is Everyone a Bit Crazy?

Lately, I have been using public transportation from my townhouse to my place of work ? a mere two-and-a-quarter miles, essentially, which means that were I in some remote village in Ghana, I could choose to traverse such a pithy distance on foot without blinking an eye! ? and that means I rarely drive either my 8-passenger 2008 Honda Pilot sport utility vehicle (SUV) or my slightly older Nissan Sentra sedan to and from work, which is indeed my modest contribution to the riveting and monumental push for a cleaner environment in the U.S., the latter a principal objective of the younger generations ? which has afforded me the opportunity to study in great detail the nuances, idiosyncrasies, body language and verbal expressions of the covey of multifaceted characters who use these buses, some of whom, like this writer, are passengers by choice.

Thus, I was not too surprised by an encounter I had quite recently with a female passenger during my morning commute one chilly autumn day. One-half mile into our journey, we all noticed the rather sluggish traffic, but little did we know that a horrendous, three-vehicle crash had taken place about a mile up the road. When we finally got to the spot of the accident ? it is a T-junction, actually ? I noticed that two of the three cars involved in the crash were spun around so forcefully, they were facing the opposite direction! The third, a larger silver-colored SUV, had sustained less noticeable damage, but no one could miss the eclectic mix of torn metal, broken bumpers and smashed headlights strewn all over the intersection. A snakelike, undulating thread of coolant inundated the road, indicating that one or two radiators had also been smashed during this vicious, multi-vehicular impact. It was a miracle no one had died, as we would later learn.

Sitting on the curb to our immediate left were two women, drivers of the two smaller vehicles, visibly shaken, their heads bowed. They were asking each other what had happened, but I guess amid such consternation, neither was able to say anything logical to the other, even while all three drivers (none had a passenger) waited for the police and several ambulances to arrive to fetch them to the hospital. It was at this point that a large lady, sitting to my left and directly by the nether window of the bus ? I had not paid any attention to her until now ? said to me, “What a horrible accident!” I replied, “They all seem to be okay though.” She retorted, “They may look okay now but I am telling you that they are hurting inside.” I then asked, “How would you know; are you a doctor or a nurse?” She hesitated a minute, and with an expressionless face ? no movement was observable in her cheeks ? responded, “I am neither a doctor nor a nurse.” With the embers of curiosity now patently stoked in me, I asked one more question, “Are you a chiropractor then?” She said she was not.

My questions may have evoked some sentiments in our protagonist because, soon after, I would receive a long lecture from her, what I quintessentially refer to as a philosophical gauntlet. In a conceited, superfluous manner, in my mind a sort of unadulterated eccentricity, this lady would go on to tell me how she was neither a doctor nor a chiropractor, not even a nurse, but that she was more skillful than members of the afore-named professions; how she had practiced “putting muscles and bones together” some thirty or so years; how her efforts had brought her pecuniary success somewhat, but she had gone unrecognized for her work because she did not have an official license to practice her craft! She then added that she had learned the craft of healing people on her own, and that she had her own patients who would attest to the efficacy of her methods! At that point, there was a ding in my head, and then it dawned on me that I had in days of yore read about certain medical conditions ? delirium, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, multiple personality disorder ? and her symptoms were not far from those!

I could not get off the bus quickly enough! Our protagonist may have experienced some trauma at some point in her life, leaving her in a state of befuddlement as to her real identity: she may be more qualified than a doctor or a nurse or a chiropractor this day, and she may just as well claim to be smarter or better qualified than an attorney the next! With her large frame and bulging biceps and a “loud” bandanna around her head, there was very little a one-hundred-and-fifty-pound, albeit fairly tall, guy like me could do to prevent an assault, if I did not wryly assent to her muddled self-glorification, should one of her other personalities command her to pounce, perhaps confusing me with the smorgasbord of personalities who had, in her warped senses, robbed her of, or denied her, a future in medical practice or any such comparable field of endeavor!


It is believed that 22% of adults in the U.S. (webmd.com, 2008), and perhaps elsewhere, suffer some type of mental disorder every year, which means that one simply does not know what is stirring in the mind of that new date one has just brought home, or that coworker who thrives on bedevilment, or even that neighbor who would love to have one in his or her bed! One simply does not know! All of these remind me of the words of a songwriter, which I have paraphrased here: When I was a child I was so trusting, but now that I am older, I have lost faith in people, for all men are tainted by some negative trait ? mendacity, psychosis, cheating, duplicity, greed, braggadocio, sexual addiction, infernal pride, et cetera.


What is it but a mental disorder when a purportedly loving wife absurdly severs her spouse’s love appendage under the pretext of his denying her conjugal “comfort?” Or what is it but a mental disorder when a woman bashes in a man’s head in a fit of jealous rage, and then makes a concoction of his cranium and cerebellum? Or what is it but delirium when a man, irrespective of his reckoning, shoots his devoted wife without any provocation, before taking his own life, leaving behind their progenies too young to fend for themselves? What is it but unspeakable savagery when a churchgoing son shoots his father, mother and younger siblings and then tells police he was unsure of his reasons for doing so? What is it but nauseating tragedy when a mother carries a fetus for nine months only to quietly and sinisterly dump the two-hour-old infant on a dunghill in 35-degree-Fahrenheit weather, resulting in the demise of the defenseless baby from hypothermia?

Folks, the preceding are the real stories of real people ? the folks one stands in line with at the grocery store, the neighbors one has a barbecue with on occasion, the brethren one praises the Lord with in church, the coworkers one must deal with in the avalanche of offices spread across Ghana, U.S.A., and elsewhere. So, beware! One simply does not know what is brewing in the next person’s convoluted brain! Perhaps, the next time one sees a horrific story on television or reads about a stomach-churning crime in a daily, please remember that over 20% of the population could very well be disposed to such unfathomable cruelty. Is it frightening? Yes and yes! But it leaves an individual better prepared than the person who assumes that every person is inherently saintly or celestial or angelic in nature. In fact, there may be just as many devils in the flesh as there are saintly people!


The writer invites you to share your experiences.

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.