When I was a little kid my mom would take me shopping in a big department store downtown. I looked forward to eating lunch in their ritzy restaurant, inhaling deeply as we swept by the perfume counter, and most of all: Seeing the Crazy Lady. She wore a fur stole regardless of the season, a floppy black hat, and rode the escalators up and down all day, jabbering to herself.
For awhile I thought it was an incredible coincidence that she happened to be there every time we were, and then I realized she was probably there every day. And kudos to the management for letting her do this. After all, she wasn’t harming anyone, and why not indulge her whims if it made her happy?
Years ago you’d see folks like this, sitting on park benches, wandering through stores, just being part of our landscape. For whatever reason they’d lost their grip on reality and were conversing—often in very animated tones—with invisible associates. I liked the idea that we didn’t hide these people away, but accepted their right to be part of the community, part of our big family.
Only today you can’t tell who they are. Everyone seems to be a crazy person. It’s been approximately 800 degrees outside lately, so last night St. Bob and I went to get an ice cream.
And there was an older gentleman shuffling along, his hands in his pockets, muttering, “Yep. Yep. Yep.” Years ago I would have figured him for the hat lady’s brother. But today, he’s just another guy on his cell phone.
In the supermarket last week, another man was scolding someone as he marched along, throwing things in his cart. “That is not what I told you,” he snapped. “That is not what I said.” Was he talking to an employee? A family member? A space alien zombie of his imagination?
“Oh, I know, it’s absolutely exhausting,” a woman said into the air as she passed by me at the shopping mall. Was she musing to herself? Comforting an invisible friend? Or on the phone with an actual person? Snippets of conversation float all around us, and we never know if these are evidence of psychosis or of Verizon’s Friends and Family Plan.
And I miss the old days. I miss smiling at the lost individuals to assure them all was well, and I was glad they were there. Now if I smile at some muttering soul I appear to be eavesdropping or intruding into their Bluetooth conversation.
Either that, or the entire population has lost its mind, something not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Yep, yep, yep.
Tell your friends—invisible or real ones—to visit my youtube channel, where I dispense essential life skills three times a week, as the YouTube Mom. Might even keep you sane, who knows?