Quodlibet

The Joys of the One-Can-Short

by S. M. Hutchens

Working with people who are obviously non compos mentis is far less stressful than working with those who are only a little insane—who are "functional" in the world and know what sanity looks like, but use it as a tool for self-aggrandizement and the torment of others.

The great difficulty in communicating with people like this is that if you knew from the start they weren't quite right, it would be easier to treat them with the deference one, for charity's sake, gives the impaired. As it is, their madness is often discovered only some time after they pull you into it—to a depth corresponding with that of the doubt's benefit you have already given them. All the while you were fooled into approaching them as entirely rational, but getting more and more heated at their amplifying outrages of rationality.

At a certain, often fairly advanced, point in the interchange, a mental switch flips and gives you the relief of moving the half-madman to a category in which he need no longer be taken seriously, as someone to be approached well, therapeutically—which would drive him to complete insanity if he knew it had happened, for the half-crazy are proud spirits who cannot abide patronization.

S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor.

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