Shortcomings

#Life

Tue, Aug 23rd, 2005 03:00 by Curtis M. Carlson ARTICLE

I have always been a big guy. I was a big youth, a big kid, a big baby. Some may say I am still a big baby; crying about things should be forgotten.

For those who have never seen me, I am 6 foot 4 inches, almost two meters; I weigh in at about 260 lbs. or 118 kilograms. I am not the biggest fellow on the block but big enough to be considered larger than the average. When I was young I was strong like a workhorse, and worked myself like a workhorse too. Often chopping wood for the welfare moms, moving furniture and pianos for friends, bouncing at bars and wrestling retards for the community. Now in my middle age and a couple of auto accidents later and a lot of employer abuse, I am still large, but am fragile. With neck and back injuries which could leave me paralyzed if I fall wrong, so an Orthopaedic Surgeon explained to me, at one time.

Never much of a fighter though, never had to be, never like it, never saw the need. I was a gentle soul placed in a huge strong body. As far as hurting people and fighting, it was just never in my nature. I would like to say it was because I was such an enlightened soul, but more likely it was because of the constant severe beatings I received as a youth.

I guess when you beat a child enough one of two things happen to him. He either becomes an abuser himself; learning that the terror reigned down on him is just to easy to perpetuate. or something else happens to the abused; they decide to make the effort and become someone who does something to stop the violence, to keep from perpetuating the pain and intimidation.

I chose the second path. This path was a long hard road and with the help of many people I learned to use my wits and words to avoid violence. I have always known what it was like to be the little guy being picked on by the big guy. I have often wondered though, what it would have been like to remain small, short, puny. How would this have affected my personality, my psyche? How different would I have been if I would never have gotten huge? Would I live in constant fear of the 'big guy'? Would I have to continually assert my 'man-ness' in deeds and conversation to compensate for my tiny-ness?

I guess it is one of those personal struggles similar to the struggles that everyone faces. The fat guy has the thin issues; the ugly, beauty issues; the bald, hair issues; and the short have size issues. I have heard people talk about the 'short man mentality' claiming that all short people, especially men, try to compensate for being small, in a world where tall is looked up to: if you will allow me the pun.

Napoleon was short and I have heard that his compensation was to conquer the known world. It reminds me of a scene in the movie "Time Bandits." The story is about a group of little people (midgets or dwarves, if you please. Though I am told that little people do not prefer these terms). These little people and one small boy travel through time stealing the great treasures of antiquity. These 'time bandits' travel to the time of Napoleon. Napoleon loves them and their smallness, and has a great discussion on how all the great conquerors of history were short or at least shorter than average. It is quite humorous; if you get the chance, watch it.

Solomon, the first king of Israel in the Old Testament of the Bible, was said to have stood 'head and shoulders' above the rest of the people and this is why they thought he would be a good leader. I am told that you are most likely to be shot in battle if you are taller than average; bigger target I presume. Abraham Lincoln, America's great working class president and the emancipator of the slaves also stood head and shoulders above his peers. Wilt Chamberlain the great basketball player who claimed to have sex with over 10,000 women also stood head and shoulders above the general population. Maybe these extra tall people were compensating for being freakishly tall.

I do not think that this 'compensation' is strictly limited to the short and tall people of the world. Perhaps we all compensate in one way or another for our shortcomings (perhaps another bad pun) or what we perceive as being that which puts us at a disadvantage. Heck, for all I know that is why I write, to compensate for a childhood speech impediment.

Terry Grey was a short person I met while working a hot dog stand in front of a nightclub in Louisville Kentucky. Terry and his girlfriend Terri both did valet parking at the nightclub. Mind you being slightly taller than the average, I am accustomed to people being shorter than me and do not often pay much attention to the precise height of a person unless it is brought to my attention. Terry always brought it to my attention, but in such amusing and embarrassing ways. It was difficult to ignore that he and his gal were so very small.

Now Terry was in pretty good shape, thin and muscular. Yet he constantly wanted me to squeeze his biceps or touch his hardened abdomen. I felt this to be not only weird, but a bit gay. Why me? Why did he insist that I touch his muscles, why not ask the ladies to do this instead of me and other men? Was it because I was the biggest guy around and he just felt compelled to show off his physique to me? I always thought the effort he put into flexing and asking me to squeeze and touch would have been much better spent on the ladies. I just was not interested.

It was not just the constant flexing and posing. There were other little things that just made me wonder about his constant need to compensate. When he would come over and talk to me would always stand on the steps next to me. Two steps up so that he could be at eye level. If a conversation ever occurred away from the steps he would migrate back toward the steps or something on which he could stand so that he would not appear so much shorter that I. If we were seated he would squat on the chair so that he would appear as tall as me

I did not say anything to him about it, though it was obvious what he was doing. I just enjoyed his company and conversation. He was a very bright and educated young man with some very interesting points of view, most of the time. I did what I could to let him feel comfortable. Though a person can only feel as comfortable as he feels with himself. He obviously did not feel too terribly comfortable in his own body, so very insecure was he about how his tiny-ness.

Often when I was talking to a woman he would trot up and say something like "My testicles are the size of Grapefruit" or "My penis is as fat as a large sausage." I know, I know, it was pretty funny, but in a very embarrassing way. I am a big fan of self-deprecating humor, but these comments came too often to be considered appropriate. Everything for Terry was bigger, faster, larger, better. He could lift more weight, run faster, eat more, drink more, smoke more marijuana, his car was faster with more horsepower, he was better educated, more philosophical than any one who he was happening to talk to at the time. It was rather sad, rather pathetic.

He seemed like a good boy though. He acted like he meant well, he talked a good game. He would often talk about how he wanted to 'do good' and 'do right' for people, friends, for society for the community. Noble aspirations to be sure, but a very difficult task for anyone, let alone someone suffering from such insecurity.

Terry was betrothed or more accurately, dating Terri. Terri was a cute young lady equally as short as Terry. Terri was also a pretty bright and well-educated young person, did quite well in college and was quickly working her way through her programs. Terri, though had some sort of social anxiety disorder, she suffered from severe shyness. She could be friendly and polite for about 4 or 5 minutes and then her social disability would rear its' ugly head and she would just stop, often in mid sentence. When this happened, her face would go blank and she would just turn around and walk off. During the slow hours of her shift she would often hide in the valet shack and read and study. Head down in the books. Night after night she would sit with her nose in the books. I started wondering one night just how much she read during a shift. When I came in one night I made an excuse to enter the valet shack and took note of what page the book that she was reading was open to. That night was particularly slow so all night from Terry, it was talk of his fruit and sausage and from Terri it was nothing, just her sitting there with her nose in her textbook.

So there was Terry standing on the top step, flexing his muscles, asking men to touch his hardened mid section, talking of fruit and sausages and going into detailed monologues of how he wanted to "do right" or "do good" to "maintain social justice" and similar topics. The whole time people, friends, and customers coming and going and Terri with her nose in her text book, occasionally glancing up only speaking when Terry would start talking to females and then only to call Terry away to ask him a question or have him fetch her a bottle of water.

The night came to an end and I made the excuse to re-enter the little shack where Terri sat and I took note of the page that the text book was open to; it was the same page that she had started on at the beginning of the night. This is when I started to realize that perhaps Terri was not only a great student but more likely also suffered from some sort of social anxiety.

Here you had it: two young people. A man with a girl's name and a girl with a boys name and both vertically challenged. One with a social anxiety disorder that forced her to pretend that she didn't have time to socialize because she had to study. The other very social but who could not stop asking men to touch his muscles or stop talking about his allegedly massive private parts. It was certainly quite peculiar.

Terry smoked a good amount of marijuana. Illegal, for sure, but it seemed to do Terry well. He would become more and more hyper, exceedingly spastic, as the night would go on. The more he interacted in public, the more he lacked concentration; walking away in mid sentence to ask someone to squeeze his muscles or to mention his fruit and sausage to a passer-by.

About half way through the night someone would take him back or he would go on his own, around the back of the building, smoke some of the weed and come back high and calm. After smoking the weed, Terry could carry on a conversation, from beginning to end, he could philosophize, he could abstract, he could carry on debates and discussions without once mentioning fruit or sausages. One could always tell when the effects of the herb was wearing off: his sentences would become disjointed and the requests for muscle squeezing would start and comments about his genitals would creep into conversation.

For years Terry would and had smoked the weed, unbeknownst to Terri. He would sneak off, smoke marijuana and normalize a bit. For years Terri would sit in the Valet shack staring at that same page in that book. That is until one day Terry convinced Terri to try smoking some marijuana. The transformation that Terri underwent when she imbibed in the herb was just as dramatic as Terry's transformations. As much as the herb made Terry forget about his genitals and longing to have his muscles squeezed and calmed him down, this is also the extent or degree to which the herb brought Terri out of her shell.

When Terri first started smoking marijuana the change was almost scary. It was as if the real Terri would walk around to the back of the building and then ten minutes later, Terri's extraverted, charming twin sister would return in her stead. Terri would smoke and return a charming, relaxed and social person. She could joke, tease and take teasing appropriately. She would strike up conversations, she actually would finish conversations. She would venture away from hiding behind her books to seek out social interaction.

For both Terry and Terri, the transformations were astounding, and the apparent side effects were nominal if not completely unnoticeable. Though they smoked weed they still seemed to be doing quite well. From the discussions I had with them, they did not seem to suffer any physical problems and their school work certainly did not suffer, their marks were high and they continued to advance from their Bachelors into their Masters and were well on their way to their Doctoral programs. I worked with these two for about 7 years and saw them go from socially inept to socially comfortable, socially confident.

Eventually these two moved away from home to go to school elsewhere. They would show back up often to work and make a little extra money. When they showed up I noticed the same patters that were evident before. Severe social ineptitude, marijuana consumption then social ease.

I stayed in occasional contact with Terry via the phone and Internet, when we did not have the occasion to work together. I noticed as they progressed in their work and schooling that they started to flounder. They were out of town, out of their element and away from their social network.

One day I got a call from Terry. He talked about this program that he could sign up for where both he and Terri could earn an easy $75 each. This program consisted of the both of them taking vaccines with Thimoserol; a mercury based preservative. I strongly advised against this, suggesting that nobody needed money so bad that they should take part in such a risky experiment. Terry said that it was supported by the government and that there were very low risks. I balked at this idea.

Both ignored my advice and allowed the government to inject mercury into them. They began to suffer symptoms; decreased mental performance, neurological and mood disorders and specifically chronic fatigue. The combination of these symptoms slowed their personal and educational progress.

Terry started stopping by work more often, I could tell by how he talked, the tone of his voice and the subjects which he choose to discuss that things were beginning to fall apart for him. His heavy work and school schedule and his and Terri's chronic fatigue had prompted both of them to start doing something to keep them going. They started using amphetamines. Just enough to keep up with the schedules. Just a little, just enough to make it through finals. As I talked to Terry he explained that this was a stop gap measure. I had my doubts. He complained that Terri was getting a little paranoid and that it was getting more difficult to get her to leave the house or to go to social events.

I recognized that these were classic symptoms of amphetamine use. I suggested quitting the speed all together and doing a herbal clean-up, rest good food and to perhaps seek professional help. I got assurances that the short-term use was not affecting them adversely; yet I noticed a return of their social disorders. Terri's social anxiety and aversions were heightened on the rare occasions that she did work at the club, she stayed in the Valet Shack, no books now, just staring down at the floor. Often she would sit in her car, just sit and stare.

Terry talked even more about his fruit and sausages and had even less of an attention span. Eventually both decided to stop spending so much on the amphetamines and start spending that disposable income on marijuana again. As the amphetamines left their system and the marijuana replaced that addiction they started to seem a little more normal. It was not the best option but at least they were acting normal again and the herb did so much less damage to the body and brain.

It was too late though. The amphetamine use and mercury poisoning had already done significant damage to their fragile psyches. Their insecurities had been magnified and their social anxieties and behaviors increased. Terri could hardly be in public and Terry could not concentrate in conversation for more that 2 or 3 minutes at a time. During our frequent conversations Terry admitted that he was recognizing that things were going awry. I tried to let him know what I thought it was. He at first seemed open to the idea but was a bit resistant to think that just a few months of drug use and a minute amount of mercury could have such severe effects. He took it poorly, his insecurities kept him from believing that he could be susceptible to the psychological and the neurological effects of these drugs and the mercury.

He kept asking what I thought he should do. I suggested the herbal clean-ups, good food, rest and professional help, perhaps a NA (Narcotics Anonymous) program. On top of these suggestions I thought that perhaps a chelating supplement like selenium or a full fledged chelating therapy to remove the toxins and mercury from their systems. He mocked the need for this kind of help and told me that he would find his own way of dealing with these problems.

I didn't hear from him for several months and when I did, he was a different person, slower mentally, very confused, paranoid. He explained that he read some literature on experimental Psychedelic Therapies and decided to try them without any professional supervision. He admitted that he had started experimenting with psychedelics. When I found out about this experimentation I could do nothing but sternly reprimand him for considering such a foolish choice of dealing with his already sketchy situation. He explained in a very disjointed fashion that he had taken several different psychedelics: LSD, DMT and Ecstasy. I do not intend to enter into a diatribe of the safety or dangers of these differing psychedelics, just know this, if used inappropriately or without proper supervision, these chemicals can do incredible, no, devastating damage to the brain's physiology not to mention the near irreversible damage that can occur to one's psyche, especially the fragile psyche of one who may already be psychologically weak or infirmed.

His social interaction worsened, the few calls and emails I got from him were virtually incomprehensible. His paranoia worsened, and he began having reoccurring hallucinations, visual and auditory; even when not under the influence of these chemicals. Terry told me that he would often see dragons flying around and these dragons would talk to him and tell him what to do. At one point the dragons told him to steal computers from the college campus where he attended. He was caught on review of the security tapes. Fortunately the campus security allowed him to return the equipment instead of pressing charges. As a condition he and Terri were not allowed to return to the campus under any circumstances, lest they be arrested and charged for the thefts. This of course ended not only their college career at that institution, but also left them without employment. This ended them back at the job parking cars and forcing them to make up stories about why they were no longer in college.

As far as Terri was concerned, her social anxiety increased greatly, she became increasingly paranoid and volatile. When she did interact, she was very accusative, often reading into a person's comments or conversation meanings that just were not accurate. She would often come charging out of the Valet Shack pointing, yelling and accusing people of saying things about her. Almost all of the time this happened, Terri and her behavior had nothing to do with these people's conversations. All these psychological manifestations that I mentioned and the fact that this once quite chubby young lady had become skinny and gaunt, led me to believe that perhaps she was still using amphetamines. As they worked the next few weeks, their behaviors and symptoms worsened. They were forced to move back in with their parents and were left scrambling to find a University where they could start over on their master's program. I finally sat them down one evening after work and seriously suggested that they seek professional help.

They took my advice this time, or more accurately their families had an intervention and forced their hands. They were sent to a Psychiatrist. Terri was placed on antidepressants and mood stabilizing medications and Terry was put on heavy duty psychotropic medications in an attempt to get his hallucinations under control.

I am not sure if either ever got back to school. I do know that when talking to Terry he would sometimes say he was applying to graduate programs and then a few minutes later he would claim that he was in a graduate program and then he would tell people that he only had a year to go until he had his PhD. When I asked Terri about their educational progress, she would just stare unblinkingly and tell me to talk to Terry. Never a straight answer from either of them. I suspected that they were in more trouble then they let on, but did not press the issue, they were still friends and I did not want them to loose face. Instead I would encourage them to stay on their "program" and get plenty of clean water, healthy food and rest. What else could I do?

Both were having big problems. Both were suffering social disorders, both had stalled in their education, both were on the verge of legal problems, both had to take pharmaceuticals and both were telling a lot of lies. One of the last time I saw them in person, I was still working the same place, they were just there for the weekend. Both had bleached their hair to an almost white and they were both really skinny, emaciated. Both of them had dark circles under their eyes and blank stares and slack jaws. They looked like a couple of giant human zombie cotton swabs.

That last night we all worked together was a really rough night for all three of us, but mostly for me. Terry and Terri both seemed extremely burned out, physically tired, mentally tired and both were very agitated. Not the two bright, intelligent youth that I used to know. There was nothing especially different about that night except it was the first full weekend with new management. With the new management came new security protocols. By the end of this otherwise typical night, a gang of men rushed me and tackled and started beating me. Fortunately for me some of my customers and Terry jumped into the fray and started pulling these men off of me. Of all the men who perpetrated this assault, three were caught by the police. Terry and Terri were there for the whole ordeal, they had seen the whole thing. I ended up spending 8 hours in the emergency room and when I got home from the hospital, there was a phone message from Terry. He was enraged at what had happened and encouraged me to file charges against these drunken hooligans, vowing that he would do everything in his power to be available as a witness so that justice could be served.

I went to the courthouse, filed charges and over the next few months went to court three times until the justice authorities decided that the case was going to trial. The prosecutor and I were confident, since I had both Terry and Terri as witness'. The court date had been set and over the next six months I received and made several calls and emails to and from Terry and Terri who restating their commitment as a witness to the case. I was happy to know that my years of friendship and support of these two young friends were going to pay off. The assault and the subsequent $3,000 medical bill and the loss of my job because of this incident had created a great hardship on me. The attorneys had explained to me that with credible witness, especially since they were employees, I would not only be sure to win the criminal case but winning the criminal case would assure me of winning a civil case. A civil case would allow me to recoup not only the cost of my losses from medical bills and loss of sales from that night but also damages from my loss of job and payment for my pain and suffering.

With the court date set and six months to plan for that date, and the promise of witness' I felt confident that justice would be mine. As I mentioned I interacted with Terry and his partner many times with them both expressing the same level of commitment to my court case. I did notice though, that Terry's mood would fluctuate, even during a 30 or 45 minute conversation. He would be fairly animated and then his mood would shift to being depressed, almost desperate. As his moods fluctuated, he would often just stop talking, stop responding for several minutes at a time or even more worrying he would sporadically change the subject to something completely inappropriate. He admitted that though his visual hallucinations were gone the dragons they still spoke to him and he to them. In the background of every call I could hear Terri calling out angrily, accusing Terry of saying things about her and generally being angry and paranoid.
Despite these ominous indicators I felt confident that they could hold it together long enough to show up to court and give their testimony. I spoke to Terry one month before the court date. In this conversation, he seemed fairly stable and I could hear Terri in the background laughing and carrying on. This was quite reassuring for me. They explained that they had blocked off the date on their calendar and were planning to make the hour and a half trip into town to visit their family that week and would be in town anyway. Again I rested assured.

The count down to the court date had started Three weeks prior, I sent a reminder via email, no response. Two weeks prior I sent a reminder via email. No response. The week prior I call and leave a message and send an email. Still no response. Three days prior I again call and send emails, no response. This was not typical for even my hallucinating friend; always had he returned my calls within 24 hours. Two days prior I again call and email, then at 10:30 p.m. the night before the court date, I got an email that briefly stated that Terry and Terri had gone on vacation and would not be able to make the court date. He also suggested that I find some one else who was at the bar who saw the incident to act as a witness. An incident that happened seven months prior. He then stated his disbelief that I was not able to call anyone to be a witness. At 10:30 the night before? When he knew that they were the only ones present who saw the whole incident from start to finish.

I went to court. One of the assailants pleaded not guilty and paid a small compensation, a portion of the medical bill. The second plead not guilty and was let off on all charges. The third plead not guilty and was let of on those charges but was charge with public drunkenness or something similar requiring him to do 60 days in jail.

A witness I was assured by both sides of the litigation would have secured the charges thus cementing my chances of winning a civil case, and recouping my losses. A shame to be sure; assaulted, a loss of job, income and dignity and the loss of two very insecure, mentally ill friends.

So the moral of this story? If you have a good thing going in life, be careful how you experiment, or don't trust witnesses who talk to dragons.

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