Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Tourette's Trailer

Many years ago now, I lived in a Jesuit Community in which one of the Jesuits suffered from Tourette's Syndrome. At the time, I was still pretty young (I was once young, if you can believe it) and I'd never heard of it. When I moved in, no one thought to give me a heads-up such as, "When a certain guy walks past you in the hall, and starts swearing up a blue streak, it doesn't have anything to do with you."

So for months, after moving in, whenever I'd pass that guy in the hall, he'd break forth into some exquisitely 'flowery' language in a loud stage whisper. It was very disconcerting and confusing. I felt awful.

I was of course the youngest member of the Community at the time (something that had been true for many, many, many years until shortly after I moved into my present Community, when someone younger (by a couple of months) moved in). Having had no prior experience like this, I wasn't sure whether the guy didn't like younger Jesuits or simply didn't like ME. I didn't realize he had a medical condition.

Talk about an "elephant in the living room"! It was huge, making a big mess, and everybody had to sidle around it in order to go about daily activities, but nobody ever mentioned it. Fortunately in that city, as with most other places I've lived, I somehow managed to find myself surrounded by people (not Jesuits, however!) who were going to a lot of Al-Anon meetings, and I heard the word "Tourette's" for the first time. My friends helped me to detach with love. That helped a LOT!

These days I think I'm living in The Tourette's Trailer over here Down Range.

And to think that people have thought that *my* language could -- comment dit-on -- skirt the bounds of politeness!

I'd been told that when our new overlords (as I like to call them) arrived I would notice a big change in the general climate of the place, in how people approached problems, in the way these people look at the world versus how our old masters viewed things. Boy, was that an understatement.

For the past seven months, the neighbors to my right and to my left (my CHU, or 'upscale dumpster' as I like to refer to it, is divided into three living spaces; I occupy the center unit) were so quiet and demur, I only ever saw them perhaps a total of five times, and almost never heard them. Remember that the "walls" separating the units consist of two sheets of wood paneling apposed to one another.

The night that my new neighbors on the one side of me moved in, I arrived at my CHU at 2345 (quarter to midnight) to find that I could hear the music blaring from that unit while I was still down the way from home, and they didn't have their door or window open. I said to myself, "Self? I think this might be a portent of things to come...."

Soon thereafer, the night The Snorer moved in next to me (see an earlier blog post), it seemed as though he and his roommmate had a party at 0330 that lasted until The Snoring began.

What I hadn't mentioned in that earlier blog post, I don't believe, was the language that my new neighbors brought with them.

For a couple of weeks, right about the time my new neighbors arrived, my now-former boss moved into in my CHU with me, because that meant he'd not have to move over to Tent City and share a living space with nineteen other guys. The very first night he was here, we were 'treated' to some behemoth or other pounded on the doors to the units on either side of us. It felt as though I were back home during a 5.1 earthquake, the way the trailer was shaking. The pounding was accompanied by a flood of language such as I'd not even heard from Brother back in my Community years ago.

My boss has been in the Army a long time, and could have retired already but hasn't yet, and even HE was surprised by the creative use of a certain word -- as every part of speech imaginable, and then a few others I had thought only existed in Medieval Icelandic. This was all the more noticeable, because these incidents would happen in the middle of the night, or at the crack of dawn, or in the middle of the day -- pretty much whenever one of us was in the CHU.

Both of us, separately, spoke to the occupants on either side of us, concerning the decorum requisite for gracious communal living.

I guess we weren't speaking the correct language.

My boss has returned home to the States, so I now have my part of the CHU all to myself, but I'm still serenaded by The Snorer -- who seems to be able to snore (and does!) almost any hour of the day or night. I am beginning to wonder whether he even has a job over here, because seemingly no matter what time I show up at the CHU, he's snoring away. His alarm clock still goes off, every so often, at 0530 and then goes for ten or more minutes -- right next to my head -- when he's not even in the CHU (as I discovered one morning when I went over there, having had quite enough, thank you very much!; I'd gotten in at 0310 that morning).

His roommate, The Sleeper, evidently needs almost-daily help getting up after he's been sleeping. This accounts, I suspect, for a lot of the pounding on doors and the yelling of flowery epithets. Yesterday, when I was trying to sleep in for just a couple of extra hours, since I'd not gotten any time off this week, someone pounded on my neighbors' door SIX times trying to get that guy up and out. Each time I could hear him respond to the language in kind (though there's nothing kind about the language), and each time I guess he'd fall right back to sleep.

On the other side of the trailer, we have Tattoo, who has almost no epithelium other than his face that's not inked in some way or other. He may be one of the voices behind some of the f-bombs during the door-pounding, but that's only a hunch. (I know that the guys on both sides of me are friends with each other.) Tattoo's roommate, The Musician, likes to share his rather idiosyncratic (to my ears, anyway) taste in recordings with everyone in a 100-meter radius.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the new neighborhood I'm in, however, is that now when I come "home" at night (or in the middle of the night, if I've been outside the wire on a mission), my CHU smells of cigarette smoke. I used to smoke -- even cigarettes! But for the last thirty years, I have been allergic to cigarette smoke and *hate* it. Now, I'm not accusing any of those guys of smoking inside their rooms, but...

As I'm typing this, someone is swearing and pounding on The Sleeper's door on the one side, and The Musician on the other side is sharing "Bad Company" with me and all the CHUs down the row.... Seriously.

How ironic, eh?

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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1 comment:

John Korfmacher said...

Consider for a moment that your august neighbors have probably toned down their language considerably since they know they're living next to a chaplain...! My own experience was that soldiers use the F-bomb as a sort of verbal punctuation. Regrettably, soldier-speak is contagious.

Good luck and do be careful.

--John K., FOE (friend of Erica)

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