It is important to understand and acknowledge our own idiosyncrasies. I mention this to illustrate that your environment shapes you in ways you that you may be unaware of.
As an only child, I had time. Time to fill my afternoons with lots of imaginative play. And through this play, I became my own storyteller. My adventures were directed by, written by, and acted by me. I was a seven-year-old Orson Welles, except Rosebud, was well played with Transformer. Along with the creative credits, I was also a mimic, so sound effects were a specialty, and were helpful when keeping myself entertained.
Post college, I was spending a Spring Saturday with one of my closest friends, Stephen. Where I was creative with the stories and visual medium, Stephen was athletic and was a steadfast musician. Teaching music became his career, but baseball was his Zen. We crossed Flowers Road to the field where hobbyists flew RC planes, as we prepared to play catch.
We started throwing the ball and took steps further away from each other until we could no longer carry on an easy conversation and became fixated on the motor mechanics of catch and release. It was a meditation of motion. Ten minutes in Stephen yelled out across the field.
- Do you know you do that?
- Do what?
- You’re making sound effects with your mouth every time you throw the ball.
I had no idea. My habits as an isolated youth had tapped me on the shoulder and said, hey, I bet no one knows you do this.
Friday night, my fried Jeff comes over like most Friday’s after work to visit with Regina and me. He left once Atlanta to chase a girl and I came back to Atlanta six months later because I missed a girl, Regina. Now we are all in the same place again, form Voltron, etc. It was great. Friday nights happened with ease. It was only a question of which food joint we’d eat at and which activity we’d pursue. So, will it be La Fonda and Hot Rod or Rusan’s and then Tower Records. We settle with Chinese take-out and watching As Good As It Gets. Jack Nicholson taps the floor on each side of his bedroom shoes several times before slipping them on.
- I used to do what Nicholson just did. I’d tap my shoes on either side of the floor before putting on my shoes.
- Yeah, I totally used to be OCD. I mean, I still am, but I don’t think anyone’s actually going to die now if I don’t flip the light switch a certain number of times.
Jeff’s look told me that he was not aware of my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and now suddenly he was. I realized in that instance that I should probably have given more context when dropping personal revelations concerning my mental well-being.
Now that Stephen had a secure job as a full-time band instructor, he bought a new car. He desperately needed an upgrade from the damp Chevy Lumina he had always driven. He picked Jeff and me up and we drove around downtown Atlanta before going to dinner. Stephen was driving and Jeff was naturally given shotgun as he was four inches taller than me. I sort of straddled the middle area in the back and leaned forward so that I could still be a part of the conversation, but Atlanta was and still is a very crowded and busy place and there is very little breathing room or negative space is the visual landscape. Advertisements bombard you at every view. And as Jeff and Stephen were talking sports, I felt fine letting them continue while I got lost looking around. What caught my eye in that moment was a billboard for Rémy Martin. Rémy Martin is a variety of brandy and their billboard left little to the imagination. No one was scantily clad, but the ad implied with little leeway that the man in the middle was about to have sex later with both of the women in the ad at the same time. As Rémy Martin is French we’ll use the appropriate term, a ménage a trois. By no means am I a prude, but in the early 2000s, my rural mind was still a bit bowled over by what was being insinuated on a giant billboard in the middle of the day for all to see. Country mouse meets city mouse advertising. The ad even stated in all caps, THINGS ARE GETTING INTERESTING. Indeed, they were. To point out the boldness of what I was seeing I reached out my hands and put one hand on each of my friends’ shoulders. My left hand on Stephen’s right shoulder. Stephen, the friend who sat a seat between us during Good Will Hunting because it was an empty theater and how would that look. And my right hand on Jeff’s left shoulder. Jeff, who we all teased was a “real man” because he was the physical embodiment of Mr. Clean with his broad stature and shaved head. Remember, my two friends were talking sports and I was having this billboard conversation in my head. I touch them both at the same time to pause their conversation, motion upwards with my head to see a billboard that is already out of view and in an eerie, falsetto voice I say, THREEWAY.
To reiterate my point, try to understand and acknowledge your own idiosyncrasies. Leave the sound effects for playing with your transformers, and when you’re explaining your mental illness, give a little context and by all means, before you deliver your punchline, tell the joke.