Friday, October 15, 2010

Case Study #34

Dear Dr. Brian,

What is pea salad?

Thank you,


Dearest Soara,

What a pleasant surprise it was to open my emails this morning and find one written by your fine and knowledgeable hand. It was a thrilling moment for me, more than compensating for the tasteless, stale bagel that my assistant, Lanae, apparently dug out of the trash and then slapped on a tray with my coffee. (I really don’t know why she actually believes that she can get away with such deception. My taste buds are far too finely-tuned to tolerate nefarious plots of a gastronomical nature.)

But back to my joy, which is where all things should eventually go. My eyes lit up when I noticed your submission in my inbox. My teeth shone brightly as I smiled with euphoria while clicking to open your missive. I asked Lanae, that miscreant tasked with providing me with bits of nourishment and failing miserably in her duties, to find something classical to play over the office sound system so that I could fully revel in the literary delights to be found in your correspondence.

Then my ancient computer stopped whirring and your words were displayed.

Are you serious with this? “What is pea salad?” How could someone of your stature even ask such a thing?

Now, if anyone of lesser mental capabilities had posed such a query, I would have politely explained a few things, fully aware that there are a few unfortunate souls out there, running about in the primordial ooze without any knowledge that this delicacy exists. Pea salad, when created in a professional and expert fashion, is one of the finer things in life, far more satisfying and fulfilling that 9 out of any 10 positions recommended in the Kama Sutra. I am no longer on speaking terms with certain prior acquaintances who failed to understand the importance of a well-made pea salad.

Of course, on the reverse side, it is possible to create a pea salad of such hellish awfulness that one taste of said wickedness can cause a person to snap irretrievably, thus spending the rest of their life in a state-run facility where the staff is never allowed to bring anything green into your padded room. It’s my understanding that until just recently, in some of the more far-flung British colonies, it was perfectly legal to stone a person to death for creating an unsavory pea salad. I can’t say that I entirely disagree with this edict. Some punishments truly do fit the crime.

But let’s shove all that aside, shall we? Because it’s quite clear to me that you don’t care one whit about pea salad minutiae. Despite my surprise that you would bow to doing such, you are actually exhibiting signs of literary avoidance, wherein you mask what you really wish to express in unrelated gibberish, and then you expect me to surmise what it is you are actually trying to convey. It’s almost as if we were married, speaking this language of bait and switch. Last I checked, however, we were not betrothed, despite having spent that very platonic vacation in the south of France where we made our own wine and sunbathed topless.

So let’s get at the heart of the matter. There is something troubling your psyche, but, for whatever reason, you are unable to actually type out your dilemma. This is mid-range avoidance behavior, and we should treat that eventually, but let’s deal with one neurological disaster at a time. If we fix all of you in one or two settings, then I don’t make as much money. We don’t want that, because it makes me cranky when I can’t buy whatever I want, and then everybody suffers. So I’m going to stretch out your treatments until at least the new hot tub is paid for. I’m sure you understand.

Now, as we both are fully recognized by several major intellectual societies, it doesn’t seem possible that you could live with yourself if you didn’t try to give me sly clues to your actual psychotic infarction, burying the hints in your otherwise benign query. Perhaps an anagram or two? Let’s look at this afresh.

“What is pea salad?”

Well, then, anagrams we apparently have. The first is obvious, with “pea” actually being “ape”. (That was almost too simple, since any psychotherapist worth his Mercedes will tell you that most people generalize things in a primate-based fashion.) And following the theorems of the very popular “shared memory” conception of evolution, everything always goes back to the apes. Unless you’re a Fundamentalist Christian. Those folks don’t want anything to do with apes and will change textbooks to ensure there is no association, despite group photos of their family reunions which clearly indicate that somebody in the not-so-distant past swung from a tree or two.

The next word, “salad”, stumped me a bit. I couldn’t rearrange the letters to my satisfaction, until Lanae wandered into my office, wearing a horrid poncho, complete with tassels, for some absurd reason. (Probably as vengeance, hoping to offend me after I snapped at her for serving bread products that had seen better days.) The ugly, dangling tassels triggered a buried experience of my own, and I remembered that I could speak ancient Tibetan. (Long story. Suffice it to say that there was a very extended layover at a small Himalayan airport, and I found a discarded pamphlet in an otherwise dull public restroom, with the leaflet advertising a special society that dressed as Yeti’s and drank locally-distilled vodka. It went from there.)

In any case, the ancient Tibetan word for “fear” is “lada”. Salad = “lada” + “s” = fears.

Soara, my dear, you have Ape Fears.

This is really not all that uncommon of an ailment, although we no longer have near as many cases as we did back in the day, before cable TV, when people just naturally assumed that apes could be found around every corner, along with witches, Communists and divorce lawyers. It was understandable that people at that time would wake up in the middle of the night, screaming about one or more of those creatures, irritating everyone else in the house who had the decency to be emotionally stable.

Now we know, of course, that there is little to fear. Outside of public zoos, strip clubs, and frat houses, your chance of wandering upon an actual ape is very minimal. For the most part, you should be fine, as long as you are wise about not making destination choices whilst under the influence of alcohol. Besides, the apes really don’t want anything to do with humans. They think we smell too clean and over-processed. But the apes are a very tolerant people, and are happy to leave the humans to themselves, with their cell phones and anxiety medication.

However, if it will help you sleep better, we should arrange for more intensive therapy, in case you do happen to find yourself in a strip club with fraternity brothers. It just so happens that the Fort Worth Zoo is hosting their annual Halloween “Boo at the Zoo” event, wherein youngsters run about and try to entice the bored creatures in their secure cages. I can arrange for some quality time in the Primate Hut interior, specifically with a gentle soul know as Vlad. You’ll be fine. But a word of caution: Please don’t compare Rush Limbaugh to a raging ape whilst in the Hut. They really don’t care for that.

Oh, and you’ll need to wear a costume to gain admission. Based on your deceptive email, you seem quite adept at disguises, so this shouldn’t be a problem. Please speak with Lanae at the front desk for ticket-procuring and bill-paying arrangements.

Enjoy your day,

Dr. Brian