Thursday, July 29, 2010

turn of the odometer

I am not a car person. I frequently confuse makes and models of cars. I understand nothing of engines. I can drive a stick shift. Also on occasion, when no one is there to see, I can parallel park. And so I would consider my ignorance about cars unacceptable.
Typically, when I was in college and grad school, I would find multiple summer jobs. The criterion for said job was simple: something that was of interest to me and that it wasn't Taco Bell (because I wanted to continue eating there).
So for one summer I applied at Valvoline Instant Oil Change. I thought I would be hired, learn about cars, be able to change my own oil, save money on oil changes in the future, and live a rich and full life as a girl with a grease monkey past. They never called. I might have applied more than once but I don't remember if I did.
All that to say, when I go to get my oil changed, I take notice.

This week I went to my Lube place. Rodney is still there, but he didn't help me this time. It was Paul. I've never met Paul before. And my new car hasn't been there, so we exchanged introductions: me with Paul, Paul with my car, my car with Jiffy Lube, etc.
And very quickly Paul asked what sort of oil I wanted, wanted some particulars on the car engine(which I did not know), and then read off my oil choices.
I was looking at him and the screen not knowing where to look. I like to look at people when they speak to me, but he was avoiding my eyes, so I turned to the screen.
Then Paul inverted the numbers he was reading to me. Switched the second and the first and got the third correct. Then he corrected himself. He seemed a little flustered.

So I said, "Oh I do that too. A lot." It was true. I don't just say things like that.

He labeled himself as severely dyslexic at this point. I took it as fact, though oddly placed in the conversation. I okayed the new oil, told Paul where I was headed, and went back outside to read on the sidewalk.

I waited awhile. My car was done quickly enough and driven out of the building, but neither Rodney or Paul was in a position to check me out. I stood reading at the counter to remind them I was still there. In the course of paying Paul started talking again. This time about a screw in the bottom of one of the waiting room chairs.

"I'm dyslexic and OCD" he said, "run your card through the machine when the screen goes blue." Here was a new fact put forward and not asking for comment.

"Oh." I said.

"Yeah. That screw is driving me crazy. It gets caught on the mop each night. And I have to mop every night. I have to have everything clean. Here and at home."

He then asked Rodney to take out the screw because it was bothering him.

"Well, it's sticking out because there is a missing pad there," I said.
Because it was missing. It was the only chair missing a part. Paul told me it had arrived missing the piece, and still was missing the piece, so he asked Rodney get a screw driver to fix it. And by fix it, he meant take said screw out and call it fixed. He continued to talk about the screw and the orderliness he needed to keep as he had me sign the bill.

Far be it from me to say the screw didn't bother Paul. Nor would I say he doesn't have OCD tendencies or have dyslexia. As he stated, he had both.

But really?

The chairs at Jiffy Lube have been there for about a year, if not longer. I know because I noticed how cushy and pleathery they were on my first visit. It was warm and the backs of my legs had gotten stuck to them. And from what I understand of OCD and it's many expressions, being bothered by a screw day after day as it catches on a mop (as I'm sure it did) doesn't fall into that category. To quote Dan J. Stein, OCD is "characterized by intrusive thoughts or images (obsessions) which increase anxiety and by repetitive or ritualistic actions (compulsions) which decrease anxiety." (The Lancet volume 360 Aug. 2002, Seminar). Paul probably would have removed the screw promptly had he had OCD. I would think he'd have done it himself to ease the anxiety.

I looked up a full description after coming home because it made me wonder about our (Paul's, my, mankind's) tendency to label ourselves with maladies and syndromes. How we bill ourselves and make ourselves known to others.

Certainly over-medication is occurring today. But also we as a people are becoming more medically savvy and, I am beginning to believe, we are over-labeling ourselves and others in medical terms.

Can't finish a thought? Flippantly explain that you have ADD. Feel compelled to do things? Obviously it's OCD.

How often do I write off a behavior using a medical term, when I am under qualified and uninformed? And how does that shape my thoughts and actions? Is it a cop-out, blaming nature and not owning responsibility for my actions and tendencies, when that could just be what it is, and not a disordered thought process.

OCD, ADD, PDD. These are not passive things. They can be crippling. And I'm certainly not calling out Paul on this issue after I rack up another 3,000 miles. But he brought it to mind. Like the protruding screw that bothered him, his matter-of-fact labels for himself, stuck out, drew my attention, and kept it.

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