2006-04-20 / Sam Bari

You can't beat a system you can't understand

The duck, the cow, and the anxious insomniac
By Sam Bari

Those who make a living writing fiction, editorial opinion, or columns about life and its many problems, have a common fear. That is - revealing too much of themselves. This is common knowledge within the trade.

I admit that I am sometimes guilty of venting frustrations and revealing my position on sensitive issues and controversial subjects in my writing. It might not always be detectable to readers, but, and I believe I can speak for my colleagues, when we do it, we usually know. However, sometimes we don't realize that we've done it until we see our work in print. Then, of course, it's too late, and our fear that everybody will eventually figure out what nut cases we are is realized. Being unbiased is not an easy task.

Today, I'm going to reveal quite a bit about myself in a story that I want you all to know is true. I am not imaginative enough to have made this up. To the best of my knowledge, this is the way it happened.

I was suffering from insomnia. Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night feeling anxious and couldn't go back to sleep. So, I went to the doctor. Instead of prescribing something to help me sleep, he gave me a phone number and a name. "I want you to make an appointment," he said. "Is this a psychiatrist?" I asked. "He's a therapist," the doc replied. "A little professional help never hurt anybody."

Of course, I think the doc believes he has a nut on his hands, but I didn't say anything and made an appointment. I went to the office and sat with the receptionist while I filled out compulsory paperwork. Then she ushered me into a well-appointed office where I sat in a comfortable leather chair and waited. After about 15 minutes, a stereotypical shrink soundlessly walked in and sat behind his desk. He spoke in calm, measured tones that made me suspect that he was taking his own prescriptions for the mood of the day. If he were any more relaxed, he would've been snoring.

At the first session, we quickly established that 45 minutes of the good doctor's time would cost me $150, and he thought coming to visit once a week was a fine idea. He also assured me that this kind of therapy was not an exacting science and that it was not possible to predict the precise amount of time before my "condition" would noticeably improve. This revelation brought my comfort level to an all-time low.

After a few sessions of nothing much happening because every time he asked if I had anything I wanted to talk about, I said "no," he finally decided to ask some real questions.

"Do you dream?" he asked. "Not much," I replied. "I'm an insomniac, remember?" That answer appeared to amuse him, and with a beatific smile on his face, he said: "Of course I remember. But sometimes you sleep, or you'd be dead. Do you ever have recurring dreams?" Now we're getting somewhere, I thought. He asked me to reveal a secret. So, I told him, "yes," and he asked if I'd tell him about it.

"I dream about sitting on a beach on a tropical island," began. "I don't see another soul in either direction. After a while, cow and a duck walk along the beach in front of me. As they get closer, I can hear them talking. However, the cow is quacking while the duck is nodding his head in agreement. Then the duck replies to whatever the cow said, but the duck moos. They're having a conversation, only the duck speaks cow and the cow speaks duck. I realize they can communicate and I think that is incredibly cool. Then the dream ends."

To this, the shrink said: "It's obvious you have issues with communication." Now I think: I just told shrink, who has $750 of my hardearned money, that I regularly dream about a duck and a cow having conversations in each other's language, and all he cantell me is that I have issues with communication? He's nuttier than I am. Of course I have issues with communication. That's my job. have to worry about communicating with readers every day.

Then I had an epiphany. It finally dawned on me why the only metric measurement that sticks in the average American memory is 9 millimeter. However, I remained calm and told the shrink I wouldn't be coming back.

That night I slept like a baby. And I haven't had any problems since.

I don't know if he cured me with his ridiculous analysis, or if just thought the entire experience was so absurd that it wasn't worth the money to keep putting myself through the pain. Whatever it was, I chalk it up to just being part of that system I can't understand. Nonetheless, once in a while I do stay up wondering what the duck and the cow were talking about.

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