are you looking at me?

For the past week or so I’ve been reading “Schizophrenia and Related Syndromes” (PJ McKenna, Psychology Press, 1997). Now it has struck me that this might not be a very wise thing to do. Learning about deranged minds is an intrinsically interesting and worthwhile activity, but i still feel it is a dangerous book to read. Not because of the ideas it might put in my head, but what it might do to others..

I’ve been reading it on the Tube or ‘London’s mobile outpatients ward’ as mental-health professionals tend to call it. Anyone who has travelled on the tube knows it has far more than it’s fair share of headcases, especially late at night or early in the morning when the capitals lending-libraries are not open. And the last thing you want to do is antagonise these troubled souls.

It has dawned on me that reading a luridly coloured book about schizophrenia is precisely the wrong thing to do (though one can make it a good deal worse by occasionally looking up from the text and quizzically regarding one’s fellow travellers. For as the book says:

Paranoid Schizophrenia:
In this form, delusions & hallucinations are to the forefront of the clinical picture…
Sooner or later general behavioural disturbances, squalid living conditions or a violent act based on delusions precipitates admission to hospital
(p.38 McKenna)

The last point is of most concern.

To the best of my knowledge I am not a coward and usually take risks where i find them but even to me this could be asking for trouble. Especially given the way I normally deal with the care in the comuterie. Rather than following the recommended operating procedure:
1. Avoid all eye-contact
2. Maintain a blank expression
3. Above all, do not engage in conversation
I seem always fated to break all three golden rules and my sheepish grins and awkward jokey comments can only be made worse by having to explain my reading material to an unkempt homical maniac who thinks he is Bismark’s hunting stallion and i am an agent of Tsar Nicolas sent to eavesdrop on his thoughts, or at the very least sent by the hospital becuase they know he hasn’t been taking his tranquility pills and let’s face it, he hasn’t.
Although I am a student of tai chi i missed the weeks where we learned to defend ourselves in transit (deep & surface lines!) Buses are a whole nother level of conflict complexity & are best left to Sippu. Besides, tai-chiists seek to avoid conflict (usually by running away.) So from now on, when i travel by tube, i will not be reading “Yes, I am looking at you and what’s more I’m stealing your thoughts!” (McKenna, 1997)

I’m going to play my accordion instead.