Today's essay is a rerun from 2014. See you with a fresh (or at least new) essay next week.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s essay is a bit like an amusement park ride, but not one of those cool, shiny new thrill rides they advertise on the billboards along the highway that look so fun and exciting and that you’re willing to wait in line for because that 90 seconds of fun and excitement is so worth it. It’s more like the old, creaky deathtrap (called something like the Hurricane or Twister or Tempest) that you don’t really want to ride, but since it’s right inside the entrance and there’s no line, you say “What the hell?” And then, against your better judgment, you jump on, only to immediately regret your decision because it was loud and spun way too fast and smelled like something died in the gears, and it went on way too long and ultimately, gave you a major ride headache (probably a concussion but who knows, since these places don’t have people to diagnose you) and pretty much ruined the rest of your day.
If I had to guess, I’d say I speak less than 10 percent of everything I’m thinking, feeling, hearing, reading, smelling, observing or generally experiencing at any waking moment. And even that’s probably conservative. But I’m not alone, am I? That goes for everyone, right? I mean, we all hold our tongues, or generally keep thoughts (especially the nasty and hurtful ones, hopefully anyway) where they belong, in our heads, where they remain thoughts and ideas, rather than stupid comments, or clever (or so we think) comebacks, retorts, remarks, or opinions that may (and often do) go unappreciated by our audience. (I know the “unappreciated” part from experience.)
The problem is (maybe you’re different … or maybe I’m the one who’s different), I seem to have a comment for just about everything. I’m not bragging, and again, I’m sure I’m not alone. It’s just how it goes. Sometimes, it’s fun.
It’s fun to have a comeback for everything, if you’re the person delivering it. But I’ve realized over the years – and hopefully not too late in life – that my witty, pointed and “spot-on” (and by “spot on” I’m referring to that split second they’re in my head before they come out my cake hole, at which time it’s a crap shoot as to whether they’re “spot on” at all) aren’t always welcome by those around me, especially if they hadn’t askedfor my opinion, or a clever analogy to explain a situation (I love to come up with analogies), or a random (or is it?) song lyric associated to the subject at hand. Let me explain that last one.
Something I like to do as an adjunct to saying what’s on my mind is singing song lyrics – often subconsciously – as a response to what someone has just said.
In other words, I relate whatever they’ve just said to a song I know, and just sing it, unsolicited, regardless of where I am or the makeup of the crowd around me. And even though I usually do it under my breath, people notice it and comment on it, not always in a positive way (but sometimes). I’m guessing few – if any – are mildly entertained by it.
EXAMPLE: Penelope (not her real name, because her real name is Jo, short for JoAnne ... with an "e") says, “I’m sorry I’m late, but the traffic downtown was awful.” I might respond by singing a lyric from the 1965 smash hit by Petula Clark:
“When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can alWAYS go …
When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry seems to help, I know …
I can’t help it. Just like I can’t help counting stairs as I climb them (and making sure to hit the top step on my right foot), or clicking my teeth, or checking and re-checking the oven to make sure I turned it off before leaving the house.
It’s a habit, or maybe a compulsion. Like talking a lot. Which I used to do. OK, which I still do. But not as much as I used to.
And that’s probably why I actually say less than 10 percent of what’s on my mind at any given moment. It’s like I live one big stream of consciousness, one big crappy, loud, smelly, spinning amusement park ride (you’re starting to understand now, aren’t you?), with random thoughts and ideas and numbers and song lyrics constantly rattling around my brain, some of them sneaking out of my mouth – some intentional, others accidental, some neither … or both (if that’s possible) – while others, many others, many, MANY others, remain tucked away, never to be emoted or communicated or blurted or even whispered to the general population.
I guess I’m not sure why I’m telling you all of this. Maybe it’s to illustrate how hectic things are in my brain. Notice I didn’t say “productive” or “cerebral” or “analytical” or “organized.” Just hectic.
And loud. It’s really loud up there.
It’s grocery lists and phone numbers and appointments, but it’s also “Who sang United We Stand, Divided We Fall(Brotherhood Of Man)?” and “What was the name of Quint’s boat in Jaws(Orca)?” and it’s “How many steps are there leading up to the main entrance of the Humanities Building at the University of Wisconsin (21)?” and “Did I turn off the basement TV? (Yes)” and “Where the HELL are my glasses? (I have no idea.)”
Maybe this is why I talk to myself, a habit I’ve had since I can remember, and one that sticks with me, like a birthmark, or a Kool-Aid stain on my favorite shirt after I’ve stupidly put it through the wash without treating it with a stain stick. (And I thought washing WAS the treatment … go figure.) Anyway, maybe, just maybe, my habit of “self-talk” is a release, allowing me to empty out some of my brain every once in while so it doesn’t shut down.
But before you give me credit for being a “thinker” (you probably weren’t anyway), let me be perfectly clear (for the first time in this essay): When I say my days are packed with brain activity, that’s not to say I’m like a physicist or doctor or engineer who puts their brain to good use solving problems or coming up with brilliant quotes (though some of my analogies are pretty neat). No, my brain would be the cerebral equivalent of a hamster running on a wheel, or maybe a politician in the middle of a 20-hour filibuster.
What’s weird is that, as a child, I was quiet, especially around adults and people I had just met. I’m not sure when that changed, but I think it was around age 12 or 13. Back then, I think it was called “coming out of your shell.” Today, someone might just ask about how many concussions I’ve had, or maybe I’d be diagnosed (probably quite accurately) with something.
Anyway, I think it’s time to let you disembark from this hellacious ride to nowhere and get on with your day of fun and frolic in this amusement park we call Monday. I apologize for the jostling and the smell and the headache, but you can’t say you weren’t warned.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not complaining about my brain or the way it works, or even for how much I talk or sing (either to others or myself). I just have one question: Is there something wrong with me?
Oh, and good luck getting the song Downtown out of your head today. (If you're lucky, you're not familiar with it, and it'll just go away.)
© 2014 David R. Haznaw