Friday, June 09, 2006

When the government is watching you, the university is your ally

Crazy person craziness took up a good part of my afternoon today.

This random guy just turned up at my door wanting something unintelligible. At first I wondered if he was deaf, because he talked like a deaf friend of mine does -- like you talk when you can't hear yourself talking. After a few minutes of intense concentration, though, I got to the point where I could make sense of some of what he was saying and ask questions, and it became clear he wasn't deaf, just had some sort of speech defect.

But he was crazy.

Turned out he wanted an ID card. Because he is going to New Zealand and in New Zealand everyone has to wear an ID card (a round one, like a badge) pinned to their chest, otherwise they get arrested.* I tried to convince him he was mistaken, but no, that is really the way it is over there in those crazy foreign parts.

Anyway, he went to the police station here and they wanted to charge him for an ID card. Charge him money. And he doesn't have any money. And he went to the drivers' licence issuing place to get their non-drivers'-licence alternative ID card, but they wanted both money AND his address. And it can be dangerous to give your address to the wrong sort of person. So he thought if he came to the university, we could print him out an ID card and he could get it laminated.

At that point it crossed my mind that I could get rid of him by printing out a piece of paper with his name and address on it, and pointing him in the direction of the laminating machine, but I really didn't want to support him in his crazy person crazy fantasies.**

So instead I gave him the address of the New Zealand High Commission and suggested he go talk to them about whether or not he really needs this ID card.

So, NZ high commission -- if you are looking for someone to hate for ruining your Friday afternoon, here I am!


* However, as a benefit of wearing these little round badges that everyone has to have, he claims you can go door-to-door collecting and people will give you money. (I'm thinking someone has their paranoid delusions mixed up with their get-rich-quick schemes.)

**It strikes me that you might be preparing a comment to tell me that I am mean for making fun of people with mental health problems. But this post really isn't meant that way. I have a lot of sympathy for people with mental illness -- there has been plenty of it in my family and among my friends and friends of my family.

And I was nice to this guy -- I listened to him and gave him the benefit of the doubt (most of the time), and tried to come up with practical solutions. But in the end it seemed to me that he was actually not trying to solve a problem, so much as fixating on a topic that he was gathering information about. He had a little notebook where he had written down other things that presumably other people had told him, and while most of it was pretty illegible, there were sections for each "authority" (police, hospital, university) and notes about what they had told him with regard to ID cards. And a list of different types of ID cards people must have mentioned. It looks like he was compiling some sort of "research" notes on the subject, and the university was the next stop on his agenda. So what I said was probably as helpful as anything could have been. (And when I said, "It looks like you know more about ID cards than I do, so I don't think I can help you," he became extremely happy -- though he still wouldn't leave.)

Basically this post is an attempt to make sense of the weirdness that just happened, rather than an exhortation to all laugh at the guy with problems.


grace said...

It's a tough job living in the real world, StyleyGeek, but someone has to do it. :-)

StyleyGeek said...

Yeah, because academics are known for living in the real world, right?