Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fascinating people

Today, I had another occasion (my last, I expect) to interact with a rather fascinating individual.

He isn't fascinating because of his wit or intellect or knowledge or anything that he has. Rather, he's fascinating for all the things that he lacks.

For example, this person (let me call him "Rainman" for reasons that I think will become obvious) and I share a mutual acquantance (Claudia [not her real name]) - someone who's company I generally enjoy. At Claudia's urging, I was called in to help Rainman learn how to use a computer that was given to him as a present. Rainman is an Artiste - he writes poetry, plays guitar and piano, does the odd bit of Art, and so forth - so I didn't expect that he had a lot of computer knowledge. What I did expect, however, was that Rainman would demonstrate some interest in learning; after all, he was given the computer just so he could use it to write his poetry. However, over the course of the dozen hours (spanning several visits) I spent going over things with him, he never seemed to be able to retain any of the information I presented to him. Even using the graphic metaphors displayed on the computer, he was unable (and still is, judging from what I heard today) to grasp the idea that one of his poems was a document inside a folder on the computer. During my visit today, Rainman (again) asked how he could store his poems in such a way that he could find them again. Fortunately, Claudia jumped in and asked me to show HER so that she could show HIM. When Claudia and I went to where Rainman's computer was, he followed us - and as I started demonstrating how to do different things (giving Claudia plenty of time to take notes, which Rainman NEVER wanted to do despite my suggestions), Rainman began banging around on the upright piano in the same room. I quietly asked Claudia if Rainman was really that indifferent to what he was doing, or if he was actually that socially oblivious; all she could offer in reply was a weak smile...

In another example, the three of us have gotten into discussions (which Rainman professes to enjoy for the 'stimulation') on various subjects; each and every time we've done so, Rainman has demonstrated a stubbornness and obtuseness that is, well, fascinating to witness. He simply refuses to use the same words in the same way as those he is having the discussion with - when we got onto the subject of "Entrapment" (don't ask), Claudia and I were using the legal definition in a legal context for all the examples we used; Rainman was determined - despite my, and Claudia's, explicit explanation of how WE were using it - to use the dictionary definition in a legal context. Needless to say, we went around in circles for quite some time before I realized where the problem lay.

Today's incident (which is what convinces me that I'm better off not visiting Rainman) came about because Rainman stubbornly refused to accept that someone else might have an opinion that differed from his own. The context was that IF the government continued to inject itself into the private lives of citizens AND continued to implement policies that progressively opressed the public AND removed other alternatives (such as legal or civil actions), that some of the American people might consider themselves obliged to implement a forcible change in government (a second Revolution, if you will). Rainman is (apparently) so totally anti-violence that he simply couldn't accept anything like that happening, and refused to concede even the possibility: he didn't LIKE it, and so ignored it - except that he kept trying to argue the subject by insisting that there were other ways - the very ones that were premised to have been eliminated BEFORE violent action would be taken.

Now, I come from an engineering/technical background, and I freely admit that I'm sometimes more literal and fixed in my thinking than is necessarily appropriate. However, I don't think that I'm being unreasonable to expect people to be rational, coherent, at least a little consistent, and willing to consider how new information impacts what they already know/believe. If they're able to demonstrate some measure of courtesy, consideration for others, and the like, so much the better.

Sadly, Rainman doesn't seem able/willing to do any of that; knowing how he is, I choose not to put myself into a position where I have to deal with his "excentricities"...

1 comment:

Erica said...

God love him, I know JUST the type of guy you are dealing with, as it has been my duty at the workplace to attempt to fortify a gentleman I know with similar remedial computer skills, such as saving or printing a document.

I had written a post about him ages ago...specifically because, in addition to his lack of computer knowhow, he had gotten a dab of blue pen ink on his ear, and instead of going to the men's room to wash it off with a soapy piece of paper towel, he announved than he was going to have the doctor take a look at it.


I think the best we can do is show compassion to these kinds of peeps. They are very trying to deal with, but I know that they are not bad I just put on a smile, and treat them like I would anyone else. Even if I have to repeat myself 100 times.