Thursday, February 07, 2008

People You Meet on Transit #4

The Raving Lunatic
I've known someone who suffered from mental illness. It's not very pretty, poetic or a sign of artistic merit. It's painful and awkward and just shitty all around. Maybe that's why the Raving Lunatic is always troubling to me. Not that I'm sure he doesn't disturb other passengers, but I have a personal connection with that sort of disease, and well, it helps to have a reason to tell yourself why you are the only person leaving the bus because of the wild-eyed looking person talking to his Texas Instruments calculator and raving about the coming Dark Underprince and his many wing'ed minions, black with pitch and the tell-tale soot of burn'ed souls.

I remember sitting behind two teens, they might have been girls, or two effeminate boys, I'm not quite sure. But one of them comments that "Oh yeah, he has bipolar", and they go on about it like it's a trendy thing to have, like ironic 80's shirts or a passably real-looking fake Fendi bag. No, he's probably not bi-polar, he's probably really moody and wants to pin a name on the endless torment and pain he feels that compels him to wear black and listen to Black Sabbath in hopes of finding messages from the Dark Prince. Real mental disease isn't cool or pretty and certainly not something that sensitive people gather around and attribute to that really cute yet volatile guy with the messed-up-on-purpose hair and well worn but unread copy of Kerouac.

And every so once in a while there is the fellow in the terribly cramped subway compartment, raving. Full-on raving, and not with glowsticks and computerized musak, no, I mean, full on, diatribing about this that or the other. I can see why ipods sell so well. The entire trainful of commuters try to avert their gaze or continue their conversation about Sally and her poor choice of top for yesterday's meeting, but the big bloody elephant is in the room, so to speak.

There are several ways to approach this. One, really hone in on that iPod you have blasting overpriced music into your ears, try for the twenty third time to finish that particularly tricky sentence in the novel you are holding, or just get up and leave, and take the 5-10 minute ding in your commute.

I dunno, I'm a softy or a wuss or some other affable term for someone who can't quite 'take the heat', but I take the ding every single time.


Monkfish said...

It is interesting how bipolar has almost become a trendy word to throw about. It does sound so much nicer than manic-depressive illness though.

I'm supposed to buy the iPod and the music?

Niteowl said...

Yes, although, manic-depressive sounds so much cooler. I don't know why the term has fallen out of vogue.

And yes, the theory goes, one is supposed to buy music, and not just download podcasts covering the latest trends in succulent plant hobby gardening.

andrea said...

manic-depression invokes the crazies big disorder is it's more apprehensible counterpart..but for anyone who's had first hand experience with persons suffering from the illness...if it walks like a duck...

Niteowl said...

Yeah, I'm not sure if labels help, giving a name to Thing That's Quite Unpleasant, or only minimizes the hurricane that a person suffering from the illness inadvertently creates.