XX: Daisy Monroe

{Disclaimer: The name Daisy Monroe is an arbitrary name I chose to conceal the identity of the subject of this profile. This piece is not about the Disney character or the adult film star, and any similarities to any persons, real or imagined, is coincidental. This piece is a work of creative nonfiction.}

Daisy Monroe seemed to be as happy as a person could be. She smiled a lot, and she appeared to love life in a manner that no fictional depiction of a loon would permit. She was polite, well-schooled in the social protocols of the day, and she did her best to remain topical on the issues of the day, so she could participate in the conversations at the lunchroom table. Daisy Monroe also had such a sweet disposition that she amassed a number of normal friends. I watched her engage in completely normal conversations with these friends, and I thought about how we all chose to overlook our friend’s eccentricities to maintain a friendship with them. I wondered If Daisy’s friends knew she was a little off, and they chose to ignore it in the same manner.

“Is that Smokey Robinson?” Daisy Monroe asked me one day at lunch.

My back was to the wall of television sets in our employee cafeteria. I had to twist and strain to see the TVs. I don’t know why I cared, but I turned to see what she was discussing. I scanned the TV’s and I was unable to find any evidence of the soul crooner. I assumed the segment was over by the time I turned. I turn back to her to see she was still looking at a specific location.

“Which TV?” I asked, turning back around. 

“TV number three,” she said. A nature program was on TV number three. An ape was on that nature program, on TV number three. I turned back to Daisy to see if I was audience to a sick, racist joke. She continued to peer at the TV, inquiry spread on her face. 

“Daisy,” I said. “That’s an ape.” I continue to read her face, searching for a sign that would break free to reveal this as a sick, racist joke. 

Her eyebrows arched quickly, in a manner that suggested she was a little shocked by her error. She said nothing and went back to her food. I stared at her for a couple of seconds, trying to figure out if this was a joke. The only thing I knew for sure, after this confusing exchange concluded, was that her observation was not intended to be racial in any way, and it was not a joke. I knew Daisy enough to  make this assessment with confidence. Coupled with this blanket assessment was the idea that I could see nothing in her face that would suggest that this was anything other than an inopportune observation.

The impulsive reaction to a situation like this, is Daisy Monroe has no filter, but that suggests she thinks such things, and she is not able to restrain herself from saying them. I might have thought the same thing at first, but I knew her. I knew that she doesn’t make connections well. Had I informed her that some people might misconstrue that comment as racist, Daisy would have fought me on the observation. She genuinely wouldn’t understand how anyone could make such a connection.

On another day in the cafeteria, Daisy told us about the ghost haunting our company. “Be wary of the sixth floor,” she said. That intro had a loose connection to a discussion we were having about home video shows. It wasn’t much of an intro, but Daisy had our attention. We were all looking at her while she ate. “Oh, you haven’t heard of the ghost?” she asked.

We all acknowledged that we hadn’t in one way or another, and that we didn’t know what she was discussing. She was excited. It was her time to shine. Her face was beaming. She had scoop. She was the center of attention, and she took a moment to soak it all in. She reeled out the bullet points of her story with a fine storyteller’s patience. She appeared to think that we were on the edge of our seats.

“I saw it once, in my periphery,” she said, “and when I turned to get a full view, it was gone.” She looked at me, “I know, I know that could’ve been anything. That’s why I didn’t say anything for weeks. Then, I saw him again, on the sixth floor. I’m surprised you guys haven’t heard of it,” she said. She paused for dramatic effect after saying that. She was attempting to use literary devices to keep us on the edge of our seats with her patient storytelling. “Anyway,” she said, when it was obvious she hadn’t laid the groundwork as well as she thought. “I caught him up there. Yes, I can verify, for you all, that it is a him. I was just finishing my work up there, preparing to go on the elevator, when I turned and saw him eating tortilla chips in a chair, watching television.”

If ghosts exists, we can only guess that the overlords of the afterlife allow their employees to eat tortilla chips, and we can also guess that they allow their ghosts to watch television during their downtime, but the whole scenario seems so implausible to me. If there is downtime, and we have to assume there is, as the overlords likely don’t  don’t need their consultants to tell them that their ghosts should act in short bursts to achieve maximum impact. As doing otherwise could lead to a host’s corresponding level of desensitization. Were a ghost caught eating tortilla chips while watching a Who’s The Boss rerun, would be subject to a one-on-one with a reprimand to follow.    

If I were to become a ghost, I would think about how much of my tangible existence I wasted watching television, and I would try to make up for that somehow by leading a more fruitful afterlife. Unless, the afterlife channels entertainment venues consisted of true reality shows. If the afterlife had a database of microfiche reels, or an internet website –if the afterlife is able to keep up with modern technology– that contains the answers to questions that plague mankind. I would be an afterlife television junkie, if I could pull up videos of various seminal moments of my life, or if one of the channels could provide us ghosts a real-time, multi-person perspective on incidents such as the November 22, 1963, JFK assassination, but I doubt that I would want to waste any more of my time watching Who’s the Boss reruns while eating a bag of tortilla chips. I could be wrong, or course, and anything is possible. If it’s true that a ghost was watching TV, however, there are some greater messages about the habits and routines of the modern man, and his modern ghost, we can make here … If they still feel the need to keep updated on their shows, and they’re so lazy and apathetic that they neglect their ghost duties in the same way they neglected their duties in a more substantial form. It just seems so unlikely to me though.

When Daisy later informed us that she used to a model, I almost laughed aloud. She revealed this in a version of a “get to know your teammates” game we were playing in which the participants were asked to determine which of the statements the subject was making about themselves was false. I understand that I should’ve suspected the most outrageous to be true, for who would subject themselves to probable ridicule by claiming they were a model if they weren’t? When she said that that one was true, the instinctive laugh that arises out of painful confusion almost escaped, and I struggled with it, but sense got the better of me. An instinctual laugh doesn’t yield for unintended consequences, nor would the, ‘You have got to be kidding me?’ I almost yelled. I was very grateful, in that moment, that my parents, teachers, and grandparents put such time and effort into to teaching me the social protocols and the ramifications of impulsively giving into voicing my opinion without consideration.

On one particular week, our boss thought it would be beneficial to those of us less tenured agents to have a refresher course on the mechanics of our job from those more tenured agents. The tenured agent my boss selected for my tutelage was Daisy Monroe. I met her before this exercise, but this was my true introduction to the woman.

Our boss’s goal in this exercise was to give us a different perspective of the job. We, less tenured agents, knew the job, but our boss told us that it wouldn’t hurt us to see more tenured agents use some of the tools at our disposal to see if we could find a way to use them in a manner that we may not have considered before. Our boss also hoped that the tenured agents would teach us some of the shortcuts in the system that they employed. Daisy Monroe tried to teach me that. She also taught me, in her near dizzying, circuitous fashion of getting from point A to point B, a definition of crazy I had never encountered before. She did also provided me some insight on how minds littered with maladies, not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), can execute high-level tasks.

A Dance in the Fire

I often play with the minds of those around me. I often take that which is rational and make it irrational. I then place that which is irrational in a rational sheath to see what these mental warriors around me will make of it, and I will ask these questions from a premise that suggests that my confusion is genuine. Some of the more rational minds will inform me that the premise of the question I ask is flawed. They will step back with me to inform me where I’ve made my mistake, and they will correct the premise before answering. Others will look at me with a confused look and attempt to answer my question without the subtle tweaks I’ve placed in my question. There are some, however, who I will not engage on this level. They are the insane, with DSM documented precedent. They are the scary ones.

No one would say that Daisy is insane, nor would anyone consider her scary, but she is not of a mathematical, scientific, or rational mind either. Daisy sits a couple clicks closer to crazy than most of us, but she is not so far gone that it is frightening to take her into the fire.

When I first introduced Daisy Monroe to this game, she didn’t understand it. She tried to make sense of it. She tried to place the subject matter back in the rational category with a quick rebuttal, but she wasn’t as successful as others were. It may have been due to the firm foundation that I laid out for her over the months prior to my test, but Daisy didn’t even consider the idea that I might be intending to toss her back and forth over the rational line just to watch her squirm.

Then she did.

I don’t know if someone clued her in, or if she figured it out, but she was “onto me” from that point forward. She had me so figured out, that she wanted it known she was “onto” everything I said, no matter how serious I was. She laughed at everything I said, no matter where I was in my story or joke. She wanted it known that she was onto me, on a day-to-day basis. Then she figured out I wasn’t always playing games, and that she fell into the sweet spot of all provocateurs’ dreams.

This fire is a place a couple clicks outside the normal, rational, and mathematical constructs of our world. This space forces the subject to question the rational ideas that they’ve learned, with theoretical ideas, that they accept as so true that it forms the foundation of their entire beliefs system. This place also tests the confidence they have of their standing in the normal world. Daisy Monroe’s struggles in this space suggested to me how often she accidentally exits the normal world, and how often she struggles to find her way back.

I’ve witnessed a cavalcade of reactions to these games I play, and each reaction defines the subject, and their position in the normal world, more than they know. After a couple dances outside the rational world, Daisy reached a point where she decided to avoid taking my hand, as I headed into the flames. At that point, in our friendship, she began to dislike the notions I posed to her. They didn’t make her angry, and she didn’t do anything to suggest she was struggling with it. She just decided one that she would pretend I said nothing. She appeared uncomfortable in that world I would take her to, and she began putting forth a great deal of effort to avoid “going there” with me.

She’s a Tough, Old Broad

Daisy Monroe has also developed an almost-undetectable defense mechanism to protect her from the perceptions people might have of her: she throws the first punch. Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a strategy, until they get hit in the mouth.” Daisy Monroe’s strategy was to hit first. Rather than employing the time-tested, age-old bobbing and weaving tactics to avoid perceptions, Daisy strikes.

“I’m a tough old broad,” she tells us.

Say what you want about this tactic, but few challenge self-imposed characterizations. Few people say, for example, “Is that true? Because you strike me as a weak individual.” Very few would even challenge such a self-imposed characterization internally. Most people operate from the premise that another offers them, and Daisy appears to know this. She also appears to know that most people might be relieved to have a premise established for them, so they don’t have to go through the messy, confusing, and inconsistent practice of analyzing another person’s character. Some people live their whole lives fearing what others will think of them. Daisy appears to have decided that the best way to avoid that messy exercise is to provide us a preemptive perception for our pleasure. Daisy gives us characterization, so we don’t have to characterize. She gives us the fiber of her being, so we don’t have to work through the elements of our experiences with her to arrive at a conclusion. Daisy’s not artful in her methods either. She’s so blunt and so forceful with this tactic that it’s an almost-undetectable defense mechanism.

Throughout the course of our lives, we develop little games to keep a layer of protection over our wounds. For Daisy, this means throwing an unprovoked blow. When she says that she would never let a man change her, those of us paying attention wonder if some part of her wants a strong man to come into her life and coerce her into changing … If for no other reason than to provide her some clarity, and mental stability. When she says she’s not a crier, those of us paying attention know that she knows she cries too easily, and that she might hate that over-emotive element of her being. When she portrays strength in any regard, the listener can’t help but think that she’s a scared, little girl that needs the protection those illusions can provide.

She is crazy though. If her observers can see through the proactive measures she employs to prevent others from analyzing her, they might be able to provide some independent analysis. If they can dismiss the definitions that mainstream messages provide on what crazy is, they might see her for who she is. If the observer can see past the smiles, the laughter, and all the happiness she displays while providing some intuitive thoughts about the topics of the day, they probably won’t say anything. Most people don’t. Most people have qualms about destroying another person by shattering the illusions others have about themselves. Yet, if we are able to determine that questions about Daisy Monroe’s mental stability are more than just an opinion, one question will remain, how many other, fully functional crazy people walk and talk among us completely under the radar?

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