What Does Normal Mean?

Posted on February 20, 2015

I went in to the Co-Op this morning to pick up a bottle of milk, when out of nowhere a lady at the back of the store caught my attention.

“Ooh I’ve got a present for you” she said.

Feeling rather perplexed, I followed her to the counter where she ducked under the shelving and emerged with a bag containing a packet of four toilet rolls and a tube of toothpaste.

Apparently, I had purchased these products on Tuesday and walked off without bothering to take them with me, adding further substance to the theory that my mind has a terrible habit of moving on to the next subject before completing the one in hand.

I thanked her and resisting my penchant for pedantic behaviour, I even managed to stop myself from informing her that because I had actually paid for the products, they were not technically a present. I then went on my way reflecting on the spirit of human kindness…she could have kept that toilet paper and toothpaste and I would be none the wiser.

Of course, when I got back in my flat, I realised I had forgotten the milk but as a consolation, a glance in to the bathroom featuring a toilet roll that was one sheet away from the cardboard and a rather skeletal looking toothpaste tube, confirmed that the items were probably mine and not some other bald bloke with the mind of a geriatric goldfish.

As I sat sipping black coffee on my balcony, enjoying a dubious hint of early spring warmth, I wondered whether, at 47, I was old enough to pay my GP sixty quid to ask me some memory based questions that would undoubtedly have me soiling myself enough to use up all four rolls of the toilet paper I had just been reacquainted with.

I decided against it because, in truth, the fact is that ever since I was a child my memory or attention span, has been pretty hopeless. As a child I could be sat in the maths classroom privately celebrating the thought of telling my father that I had mastered logarithms or algebra when, out of nowhere, a millisecond snapshot of Mrs Love’s frilly bra would ruin everything.

Mrs Love (yes that was her name) wasn’t even that attractive, she was just a classic case of over familiarisation that can lead to attraction, a catastrophic lesson that I learnt in the Civil Service a few years later. A story for another day perhaps.

By the time I was home from school, there would be a vacuum in my brain where the algebra had once sat and my father, a decent man but a hopeless teacher, could be seen eating his tea, mulling over how many times that evening he would be saying “LOOK AT IT AGAIN….IT’S BLOODY OBVIOUS!!”

If counting in letters taught me one thing, it was how to cry with rage at how my brain would deliberately digest something to the point of enlightenment, then, just for fun, scramble back down to ground zero.


Algebra: The Stuff of Childhood Nightmares

The finest example I can give you are those pictures that were all the rage in the back of Sunday supplements a couple of decades ago. You know the ones I mean, when you put your face up to them and gradually move the magazine away to reveal a pack of lions or something.

I would get to the point where I started seeing it…”Yep, yep…oh yes…I’m starting to see it now…AAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGGGGFUCKING THING…WHERE’S IT GONE?”

It would appear that this was a hereditary condition as I can clearly remember going to my parents’ house one day to discover my mother stomping around firing expletives at my father in what appeared to be a bitter argument.

It turned out that she was also incapable of seeing a herd of elephants amongst a kaleidoscope of colour despite my father (with a poignant touch of nostalgia from the golden days of algebra lessons at the dinner table) stating that it was bloody obvious.

I never did get one of those things to work and as far as I know, with great personal sadness, my mother passed away with a 100% failure record  in this department.

It is now my assumption that every one of us has conditions of the brain and that scientists or psychologists could go on forever diagnosing us with some sort of dysfunction in a bid to make us all the same as each other. It has already worked with our three main political leaders, just take a look at them.

I do wonder what would have happened to me if I had been a school pupil in modern times as I would have undoubtedly been diagnosed with an attention disorder of some sort. This would have probably resulted in getting up pumped up with Ritalin and being told to sit in the corner and prepare to be molested by Mrs Jonman, a fearsome creature who made Mrs Love look like a supermodel.

Fortunately, before Ritalin, despite being useless at algebra, I was outstanding at doing just about enough to keep me away from the idiot’s classes. This was through fear of getting dragged into the strange world of Mrs Jonman and Mrs Toma who were trained to teach thick kids how to be even thicker, a self-fulfilling prophecy that they would never emerge from.

“Good morning children, you are in this class as a reminder that you are as dense as the smog of 1950’s London, so don’t forget it.”

I look around at all my friends I have known and gained over the years and I realise that we could all be regarded as a bit insane in some form or another, carrying decades of good and bad experiences that have shaped the way we are and how we behave.

I do worry that the over-diagnosis and stigmatising of individuals crushes creativity and independence of thought, thus creating a population of people who carry aspirations of Daily Mail inspired conformity that’s strips them of the very characteristics that once made them interesting.

As long as no-one gets hurt, why not let people be weird, chaotic, funny, depressing, happy, sad, carefree, or worried. It’s not a disease to be a bit off the wall, although stealing quotes from Richard Branson and putting them on your Linkedin page might well be…especially if you are a sales rep for an American IT Company with the grandiose job title of Vice Chairman.

So, if you have an old friend who is a bit odd or thinks in different ways to the perceived norm, celebrate how lucky you are. Before you discard them, remember that you could be sat at a dinner table somewhere, having a detailed conversation about the pros and cons of the local conservatory suppliers and the miles per gallon achievable with the new Ford Galaxy.

Right, I’m off to get some milk.

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