Saturday, 11 July 2009

What makes other people tic?

Me. I do. Make other people tic, that is.

Not in the way that Inspector Clouseau caused his superior, Chief Inspector Dreyfus, to fall prey to all manner of stress-induced tics: though I'll allow for the possibility that I might well have that effect on some people (no, don't all rush to disagree at once).

I'm sure that many of us, at least to an extent, create caricatures in our minds of certain people we know, by focusing on - and perhaps exaggerating - particular traits that form part of our perception of that person. Such caricatures might, I guess, be affectionate or a little cruel, just as an impressionist (not of the Manet variety) will be able to elicit sympathy or scorn for a person - all to comic effect - depending on what elements of a person's character and being they choose to amplify.

Well I don't know about anyone else, but I've somehow managed to find myself doing something substantially different to that. Up there in the darkest recesses of my mind there exists a grotesquely absurd menagerie of people I know, onto whom I've transposed a whole repertoire of surreal and often nonsensical movements, actions and speech.

None of these traits that my brain has imposed onto them bear any discernible relation to their real-life idiosyncracies. No, they seem instead to have a life of their own, and through this rather strange filter in my mind, each person is haplessly subject to these involuntary aberrations.

For example, we had a new colleague at work. For some reason, that person seemed out of place for a while, in my perception: there was something just not quite right. I assumed, as one reasonably might, that it was precisely because they were new: hence, they were still very much in the process of adjusting to their change in circumstances, just as me and my colleagues were making our own adjustments and accommodations accordingly (do excuse the alliteration).

But no, that wasn't it. At a certain juncture, I remember hearing a certain piece of music, and then in my mind's eye I pictured our new colleague doing a rather odd and frankly bizarre dance to it, all disconnected limbs, uncoordinated and quietly chaotic yet still in time to the music. The expression on their face was that of sheer concentration, interspersed with the occasional look of frantic bewilderment.

My first reaction was to laugh at this rather strange image that I'd conjured up, but this was followed by no small amount of horror, since this was the point at which I realised that said colleague now fitted in: I'd found a tic for them, and now they could take their place amongst all the others up there in the gallery, so to speak. It then occured to me just how extensive and developed that gallery is: people have been up there for a long time, their repertoire of externally imposed oddities remaining constant or gaining novel variations.

If you've ever heard Tension by Orbital, with its frantic and comic cutting up of Papa Oom Mow Mow, well: there's someone up there in my head who, despite themselves, can't help but constantly recite that absurd vocalisation. They've been doing it for a while.

(I shall not furnish you with any further examples: you get the idea by now, perhaps.)

Thankfully, it's not incessant, but there are certain triggers which bring such characters and their attendant tics into the forefront.

I wonder why I do this. My first thought was that it was to develop and maintain a level of irreverence for certain people (they're mostly people connected with work, after all: so any bloggers I've met who are reading this, it's ok - you're not up in the gallery) - it's difficult to take someone quite so seriously when you've recourse to the absurd images I've hinted at.

I still think there's something in this, but the whole thing has taken on such a life of its own that it's way beyond that. Plus it is, of course, entirely a reflection of the vagaries of my own thought patterns and processes, rather than mirroring any idiosyncracies of the people in question.

Maybe it's just absurdity for its own sake: I remember reading Spike Milligan's war memoirs, and one thing which stuck with me - because I found it bloody hilarious - was how, when he was getting increasingly into the entertainment division, he rewrote a play that had been put on for the forces. It was transformed from a serious drama into a surreal and slapstick mixture of chaos and pathos, and he managed to get several of the original actors to walk on stage throughout: they would start to recite their lines then burst into tears and wander off again in apparent confusion. I wonder if there's an analogy there at some level.

I've been meaning to write about this for ages, and hinted at it here, but I wonder if I've held back because of what anyone might think.


Zhoen said...

You sound like a writer.

Does this help you remember their names?

Reading the Signs said...

This is fascinating, Trousers. I am interested to know whether you can do this at will or whether it just happens as part of whatever process it is that your mind employs. And does it help when dealing with difficult people?

Dave King said...

I agree with Zhoen: you do sound like a writer.

B said...

I'm so glad you said that about it mostly being work people. Until then I was reading this post with growing horror, wondering what crazy things I did in your head.

Now I think I can relax. I'm telling myself so, anyway.........

Fire Byrd said...

it's either.... or....
but either way it's a great way to deal with colleagues, especially authority figures.
uumm, the line about taking your meds might not be taken as a joke!!
Whatever.... I still love you even if you have a really curious mind set!

trousers said...

I've no problem remembering anyone's names zhoen - by and large I have a good memory in that respect.

Now without fishing for compliments, I have to ask, in answer to your first point: how so? I honestly didn't expect that (not that I'm complaining).

signs, I'd say it's mainly the latter, though I'm sure that there's an element of being able to do this at will somewhere in there. I think that it's gone beyond the point of helping me deal with difficult people, it's become a thing (perhaps, in itself, a kind of tic) for me in its own right.

Thanks to you too Dave, though see above!

b you can definitely relax. Although not totally confined to work people, they're the ones that endure: any non-work people who may be subject to this don't seem to remain in that particular part of my brain, not for long.

fb, thanks! Actually I think (and maybe this serves as a further reply to signs too) that all that I've described may be a symptom of the need to channel some of my mental energy a little more constructively... x

Zhoen said...

Writer's heads are inhabited by their characters, demanding that you tell their stories.

trousers said...

Ah - yes that makes sense.

But I suppose that these characters - and their treatment as described in the post - don't feel like they have stories to tell: it's more that they've had something (not least dignity) taken away from them.

With that in mind, it may explain why your comment came as a surprise to me.