Re: Re-evaluating Tactics For Dealing With Crazy People

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Unfortunately a few of them are assholes who like to play it up and enjoy fucking with people a bit. Often they magically regain some of their sanity if they think they're going to get bounced off the sidewalk.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 6:27 AM
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The vast majority of schizophrenics (like the vast majority of people) aren't violent. Your strategy seems perfectly fine to me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 6:29 AM
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1: Not really an impression I'm easily qualified to convey.

But certainly, I can't diagnose someone's mental health from watching them shout obscenities; I figure anyone who's doing that sort of thing probably has something going on, but I suppose this guy could have been no crazier than necessary to think that scaring people sounded like fun.

2: Well, yeah, it's worked just fine for several decades now. It was just a weird feeling being past the point where I thought "I should have switched tactics to active avoidance, regardless of what it looked like, about a minute ago."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 6:31 AM
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I just felt a bit like one of those endangered parrots whose defense mechanism is to remain absolutely motionless when a predator is in sight, to the point that they stand there while housecats eat them.

Well, there was the time a guy came up to me and punched me in the face a few times, and I just stood there thinking, "Why is this person punching me?" I was lucky there was a cop around who ran over and took the guy down.

On the other hand, I think this story looked good in my Application for the Papacy.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 6:34 AM
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You know, the framing in 1 (which I'm sure is meant relatively lightheartedly) bugs me a little bit. It could, I suppose, be that they are "assholes who like to play it up", or it could be that it takes a real effort of will to turn down the cacaphony that's making you lose it; something that you can do for ten minutes or something if the stakes are high, but not something you're going to be able to keep up all day. Surely everybody has the experience of forcing themselves to act reasonably sober for a few minutes when actually seven kinds of altered? It's not like you can just shape up and be sober, but you can maybe fake it for a few minutes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 6:38 AM
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I don't have any magic solution. I tend to do the "ignore them and go about your business" thing as well.

I definitely don't recommend letting housecats eat you, however.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 6:47 AM
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The LB strategy seems the normal sensible strategy, I think. Sometimes avoidance is good, but it's not always immediately obvious when that is. I tend to err slightly more on the side of caution than some, possibly, but it's not like you can cross the road every single time someone acting a bit odd is around.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 6:49 AM
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Huh. Down here the preferred strategy is never to leave the insular protection of your SUV. Also, try to live and plan your commute and life so that you never see anyone suffering from poverty, mental illness, or some combination of the two. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 6:53 AM
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The vast majority of schizophrenics (like the vast majority of people) aren't violent.

But they are more likely to be violent than the general population, particularly if they're on the streets self medicating with crack or other drugs. Avoidance is a perfectly good idea when you see that type pacing around shouting like that.

or it could be that it takes a real effort of will to turn down the cacaphony that's making you lose it;

Sure. It's just that IME that type often just happen to be able to focus their freak outs on women or someone who they won't think will do anything to them. If you're that aware when you're freaking out then go shout at a pigeon or a tree or something.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 6:53 AM
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5

... something that you can do for ten minutes or something if the stakes are high, but not something you're going to be able to keep up all day. ...

Well then maybe you shouldn't be allowed to run around loose.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 7:02 AM
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and saw a guy walking fast in a sort of back and forth erratic kind of way and shouting about his lack of interest in participating in homosexual relations

This is what happens, Larry, when you find a stranger in the Alps.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 7:09 AM
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maybe you shouldn't be allowed to run around loose

I'm not surprised that JBS seems to favor permanently imprisoning the mentally ill. I just can't figure out how he'd pay for it.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 7:16 AM
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If you're that aware when you're freaking out then go shout at a pigeon or a tree or something.

That'd be great. A lot of those pigeons have it coming. Fucking pigeons.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 7:17 AM
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12: not imprisoning them, Stanley, just chaining them to things.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 7:20 AM
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When I shift into "active avoidance" mode, I will act out a little beat change--scritching up my nose and frowning while crossing the street hurriedly directly towards something that I appear to be interested in, for example. The idea is to convey total absorption in my own affairs, rather than specific avoidance of the crazy person (or band of bored teenagers, to take another category of persons-to-avoid-attracting-the-attention-of).


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 7:33 AM
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My ex's approach to this (and the band of teenagers thing) was to pull out the pepper spray on her key ring, clutch it in her fist, and keep walking while avoiding eye contact. There's no doubt in my mind that in the OP scenario the guy would have gotten a face full of pepper for his troubles.

My approach is pretty much LB's including paralysis in the face of aggression directed at me. The only time I had serious violent aggression aimed at me I attempted to engage my antagonist* in a conversation about exactly what was bothering him, which turned out to be that I had greeted someone near him and he thought that I had said something to him which warranted an attempt to kick me in the face.

* Should really be agonist, since there was next to zero agon-ing on my part.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 7:50 AM
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Sweep the leg.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 7:55 AM
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I guess what threw me about the event wasn't so much that I should have done anything particular different, but that it seems as if I should have gotten actively um, nervous, ready to run? at some point, rather than just continuing on autopilot. I figure regardless of the rate of violence among schizophrenics generally, someone who's shouting at you from a range of less than a foot probably does pose an increased risk of violence, but I failed to have any kind of useful reaction to that even internally.

I mean, usually, walking around not being scared of people suits me just fine -- I can't think of another encounter where I'm thinking in retrospect that I should have been scared -- but this feels as if I may have my unflappability set a little too high.

(Idiotically, I'm ridiculously easy to startle. Under circumstances where there's no actual threat but I'm concentrating on something else, anyone comes up from behind or even from the side, and I'll shy like a horse.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 8:01 AM
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The Gift of Fear approach is probably the best for dealing with crazy people as well as persons of bad intent. Listen to your gut regarding the actual situation and person in front of you instead of attempting to apply arbitrary rules that might not match the situation.

You made the right call this time in terms of your physical safety, but you still had to endure a verbal assault. If you felt a desire to avoid the person more and squelched it because it was inconvenient, you have learned to pay attention to that urge next time if you want to avoid that kind of contact again. If you didn't feel that desire, your gut just got more information to use next time.


Posted by: Sheila | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 8:01 AM
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People are shouting at me all the time. Either I give them bits of bread or shout right back or take them out on dates for valentines.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 8:06 AM
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The one time I totally transgressed my comfort level was the very first time I took Hawaiian Punch out of the house. My second day home alone with her. She was like 8 days old. We walked down to the park. Some homeless people came over (no problem), cooed over her (no problem), blessed her (no problem), bent down and kissed her on each cheek (OKAY THIS IS MY NEW BABY AND I'M STILL TRYING NOT TO BREAK HER AND I DON'T UNDERSTAND BABIES YET AND TOO MUCH AUUUUUGH!!!) and so I went home.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 8:06 AM
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Oh sure, shun the homeless just because they coughed a little TB on your new baby.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 8:12 AM
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Either I give them bits of bread

Wrong! That is what you do if they quack at you.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 8:12 AM
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if they quack at you

then I look around in there for my duck commander.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 8:20 AM
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My strategy is mostly like LB's, but my wife's is to dodge to the other side of the street ASAP, even if it's obvious that she's dodging the person. She has surprised me a couple of times by suddenly dashing off, avoiding someone who I had not even really noticed yet.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 10:21 AM
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25: Right, you don't have to be faster than the bear, just faster than more aware than your companion.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 10:25 AM
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I could use this thread in the context of work. Probably have to fire someone. But also shouldn't post enough detail to make this an interesting conversation.


Posted by: James Monroe | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 10:27 AM
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You could shout obscene things at them from a distance of four inches or so, and see if that makes them quit before you have to fire them?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 10:36 AM
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This thread has been making me think of the State sketch "Barney McMacken's School of Self Defense" (or whatever it was called), with possible methods of self defense including singing Kumbaya real loud and the "Volatile Cave Man technique".

So think about trying one of those next time, LB.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 10:57 AM
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Twenty inches from my nose
The frontier of my person goes,
And all the empty space between
Is private pagus or demesne.
Stranger, unless with bedroom eyes
I beckon you to fraternize,
I warn you against crossing it;
I have no gun, but I can spit.

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 10:59 AM
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Ooh, and from memory, because you got the distance wrong. (assuming my memory's right.) I love Auden.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 11:01 AM
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(on googling, we were both wrong. I remembered thirteen, but it's thirty.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 11:04 AM
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And it starts "Some thirty," right? I love those little Auden poems.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 11:38 AM
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Oh that was obnoxious. Anyway, nice poem!


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 11:38 AM
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So that's how you pronounce it. Huh.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 11:40 AM
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You could shout obscene things at them from a distance of four inches or so, and see if that makes them quit before you have to fire them?

Hmmm... Does NW's state recognise constructive dismissal?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 11:44 AM
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So, presidentially speaking of crazy people, my daughter's been bitching about her algebra teacher all year: he can't control the class, he rarely collects and never returns the homework, they're not covering the material, she's worried about the statewide test at the end of the year because they're not covering the material, everyone in the class thinks he's literally stoned or something. I didn't meet him at the fall parent teacher conferences, but just talked to him at the parent teacher conference yesterday, and boy, while I'm concerned about her math education, I retain my faith in her interpersonal judgment.

We get the report cards immediately before conferences, and she's got a 100 in his class. Not wildly out of line with the rest of her grades, but high. I walk in to the conference, and ask "So, how's she doing, is there anything I should know?" "She's really overconfident. She's in that group of kids, they take the geometry elective together, and they all think they know all the material."

Now, this is deeply fucked up. Dude, you're the math teacher. You just gave her a grade indicating that you had never seen her make a mistake. Calling her overconfident in some way that's problematically related to what you're teaching her makes literally no sense at all unless there's something very wrong with your grading behavior (I suspect that this is the case. Not that she's overconfident, but that her algebra skills as they are now wouldn't pull a perfect grade in a properly taught class). On top of that, talking about the kids who are voluntarily taking an extra math class after school so that they'll be able to take calculus at a local college a year early as if that makes them a problem? Not literally impossible, you could have a bunch of advanced students who were also a discipline problem, but (a) he didn't actually say they were a discipline problem and (b) I know them and they're not.

So I smiled, and said we'd work on it, and said that she was actually kind of worried about how she was going to do on the end of year statewide test. And then I got five minutes of agitated waving papers in my face while he incoherently explained how extensive the list of standards he has to teach for the statewide test is. I wouldn't have said he was stoned, but if you told me he was chemically altered on something I don't have previous firsthand experience of I wouldn't have found it difficult at all to believe.

Oy. I went home and told her to be scrupulously polite and obedient in class, minimize unnecessary interactions with him, and I'd keep working with her at home to cover the necessary material. Definitely a spooky dude.


Posted by: Dilma Rousseff | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 12:46 PM
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Luckily, the geometry teacher seems sensible and on the ball, and the school has been made aware that there are issues with the algebra class -- if anything screwy happens to her grades or anything, I don't think there's much likelihood of it affecting how future teachers at the school evaluate her.


Posted by: Dilma Rousseff | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 12:49 PM
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if you told me he was chemically altered on something I don't have previous firsthand experience of I hope you weren't speaking to him wearing only a towel.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 1:23 PM
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Inverted close tag, let's try again:
if you told me he was chemically altered on something I don't have previous firsthand experience of
I hope you weren't speaking to him wearing only a towel.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 1:24 PM
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The school makes all the parents shower before parent teacher conferences. I suppose I could have put my clothes back on, but it seemed ostentatious.


Posted by: Dilma Rousseff | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 1:25 PM
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That all sounds totally annoying, Dilly.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 2:20 PM
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It's not important; anything she misses in this year's class she'll be able to catch up next year, and I think the work she's doing outside of school is probably enough to keep her on track.

The guy was impressively weird and defensive, though; I'm kind of braced for some sort of blowup relating to him. Not particularly with my daughter, but I wouldn't be half surprised if something happens.


Posted by: Dilma Rousseff | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 2:28 PM
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Sifu and gswift's exchange is hilariously professionally triggering for me just now. There's a program that attorneys always want to get their mentally ill clients into, and I always try to talk them out of it because they are like the Phillips Andover of intensive case management or something. They are too good for all the crazy people. And I think this makes attorneys assume they're a really good program, though for all I know they actually are.

An attorney was hell-bent on getting her client in. I've worked with her a million times and I like her so I didn't resist all that much even though I knew he'd be turned down. Not for any reason, just because I knew. And the intake guy interviewed the client and finally got back to us and said he thought the client was malingering and could I please get 4,000,000 boxes of medical records from hospitals staffed by incompetent, obstructionist petty bureaucrats so we could have something documenting his mental illness that wasn't self-report.

And I was all "mental illness is always self report." Because GUHHHHH. And then I got 4,000,000 boxes of records and they once again rejected him because they thought he was malingering despite many, many conferred diagnoses.

The end. Of my interest in my field.

I guess this doesn't have much to do with anything but I wanted to kvetch about it.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 3:27 PM
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IMX in L.A. ignoring crazies or a slight shake of the head works if they start approaching. In almost twenty years (sheesh!!) out here I've only had that fail once, at Hollywood & Vine, and ended up screaming threats at some nut who wouldn't go away otherwise. That cleared a fairly large area near us and he figured I was crazier than he was so he left too.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 3:33 PM
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they once again rejected him because they thought he was malingering despite many, many conferred diagnoses.

Nice.

I had a fun one on Tuesday. Imagine a large woman (like 5'7, 220 lbs) with a big neck tattoo and short purple hair. She loses her shit and decides to start throwing rocks and running into traffic on a five lane road at 3:30 in the afternoon. A guy driving by just happens to have a few issues himself but is doing well on his meds and program and even now volunteers on the university neuropsychiatric institute's crisis line. He stops to help/confront her after a rock hits his car. She responds by shouting "I hate men and I hate you" and chucks a rock at him. He tries to pepper spray her but does so into a headwind and gets a facefull of his own pepper spray. She then charges him like an angry purple bull and he tries to run away around his vehicle and trips and skins his knee. She then tries to kill herself by running into traffic but the vehicles avoid her and a couple bystanders pin her down and we get there shortly after. He was having a hard time dealing with the skinned knee. After I had her committed I ended up twice getting messages to call him back and both times it was just so he could make sure I knew in detail the nature of his pain and the abrasion on his skinned knee. Sheesh.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 4:27 PM
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Yeah, but it sounds like he really skinned it. Did you have a band-aid?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 4:37 PM
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It was so minor he didn't even know it was skinned on scene. It was after he got home or whatever that he pulled his pant leg up and decided the cops better be updated on the fact that yes, his knee has an abrasion. And then the cops need to call him a second time to clarify that he does in fact have a condition that gives him some chronic pain in that leg but that is a totally separate pain from the pain he is experiencing in his skinned knee.

And I forgot to mention that while I'm trying not to laugh at his story on scene I'm also trying to avoid getting hit by flecks of something that looks like chewed up almonds that's all over his fucking teeth. WTF dude, rinse your mouth out or something because I'm going to lose my shit if you spray me with food.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 4:47 PM
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12

I'm not surprised that JBS seems to favor permanently imprisoning the mentally ill. I just can't figure out how he'd pay for it.

Same way as we pay for imprisoning criminals, taxes.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 5:57 PM
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I used to walk every morning from the west side of Providence to the east side, down deserted streets and through empty plazas. The very few people I typically encountered at the hour I was out had some sort of issue, generally not of any impact on me. One particularly quiet morning I found myself walking straight towards a guy who was making a lot of noise as he staggered along. We were far apart, but on a straight street with nothing else around, so I had a couple of hundred yards of him gradually increasing the volume, obscenity, and crazy, with me sticking to LB's strategy. I won't deny I was a little nervous. As we finally passed, he hit the crescendo, and then, as I walked by, he deflated; the last thing I heard was him muttering, "Ah, you don't want to hear it."


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 6:33 PM
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A few years ago I was walking along a sidewalk, looking for an opportunity to cross in the middle of the block instead of at the intersection, and so to keep my options open, I avoided a scaffolded section of the sidewalk up ahead by walking in the narrow bit of sidewalk between the edge of the scaffolding and the curb. It turned out that there was a guy sitting farther down in the scaffolded section and he started screaming at me that I had no humanity, no compassion and no decency because I was refusing to walk in front of him, thereby stripping him of his dignity. I'm paraphrasing but he really did use those terms. Apparently he had been watching my approach and thought I went outside the scaffolding specifically to avoid him.

I was taken aback a bit but I figured there was no point in arguing or trying to explain, "no, seriously, I was just going to jaywalk, I didn't see you* there", and it seemed like crossing the street probably would have made it worse even though at that point the road was clear, so I just walked straight ahead and ignored him while he yelled all the way.

*Arguably a greater affront to his dignity, but seriously, the guy was like 50 ft away and partially in a shadow, under scaffolding, when he started yelling at me.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-14-13 8:45 PM
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