For I don’t know how many years, I have collected articles from the newspaper. I have them copied and in a notebook called “Your World.”
These aren’t your front-page features. They are your B or even C articles. They are about things that you couldn’t have made up in your wildest. In this way I have been documenting the human condition from the fringe, documenting behaviors which I have come to believe reveal deeper and more troubling truths about human beans.
Examples of articles in my collection are:
“3 students detained after urinal explodes”
“Visitors at meth bust give new meaning to ‘clueless’”
“Man hurts himself when shooting at lug nut”
“Armed bird kills man at cockfight”
“Monks brawl over right to clean Bethlehem church”
One I also like is about a guy who had his assault case declared a mistrial during jury selection when, during a disagreement, he slapped his lawyer.
I could go on and on. But one, which I often return to, is this one:
“Man relieves pain of severed hand by putting nails in head”
OK, this is a good one. The guy takes a pneumatic nail gun and starts firing nails into his head. He did this to either alleviate or distract himself from the pain he was feeling after cutting off a hand with a portable miter saw.
You can check one of these babies out on the Internet or at a local home-improvement store. It resembles a guillotine with a circular, spinning blade. You can easily imagine him pulling the saw down on his innocent left hand (talk about the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing).
He was doing some handiwork around the house and then cut off his hand. The article goes on to say that he then took this nail gun and fired as many as 30 rounds (er, nails) into his head.
You think, “What the heck?” Right? But the reporter interviewed an assistant professor of pain management to explain that, in extreme cases, this may actually reduce pain in the hand.
I think that sounds right; especially if you die from the nails in your head, the pain in your hand might be less.
But I return to this article periodically, because I actually get to hear of stories in my legal practice which sound like people in some sort of pain (usually emotional) have done something harmful to themselves. Their lives are under stress – from a relationship breakdown, being laid off or having some personal family loss. They too often then accelerate the problem by some sabotage.
Usually it isn’t as blunt a choice as nails in the head. More likely, it’s an alcohol binge, fight with a neighbor, illicit affair, shoplifting – all which might not really be necessary, but seem to be distraction efforts because they are in some other pain.
Yes, for the moment who cares about the lost job, as you’re drunk and being loaded into the back of a police vehicle? You have managed, in that moment, to have taken the original pain and completely masked it with greater pain. This is also a popular sport of teenagers.
And these self-inflicted insults lead to those great conversations which start with:
“What were you thinking when you __________?” Fill in the blank with anything from “had that extra tequila,” “drove the school bus” or “put your hand on Wanda’s knee” to “shot 30 nails into your head.”
Once you come out of it, you aren’t even able to answer that question for yourself. You then ask, “What was I thinking?”
Again, this is a common and frequently recurring phenomenon for teenagers and adult adolescents. I know that we all regress to adolescence and impulsivity when frustrated. In my job I deal with humans in conflict. This doesn’t necessarily bring out the best in everyone.
The frustration with the “system” can sometimes cause me to consider relieving the stress by going to a cockfight, blowing up a urinal or shooting at lug nuts with my nail gun.Scott Candoo, a Tacoma attorney, is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on these pages. He and his wife, Susan, live in the North End. Email him at Scottc51@ nventure.com.