May 19, 2009

Don't Take The Car You'll Kill Yourself

A mixed assortment of memories and thoughts:

If you grew up in Southern California and are of a certain age you might remember a commercial in which a wife screams Don't Take The Car You'll Kill Yourself! Not sure if it ever aired anywhere else, but I remember it well.

Or should I say that I remember how much of a joke it turned into. The sentiment was sincere and the idea behind it was/is not a joke, but not unlike so many other things it evolved. Kind of reminds me a bit of the commercial for Life Alert.
"I have fallen and I can't get up" became a huge joke. It was one of those things that we made fun of for a thousand years. If you tripped and fell it was a virtual guarantee that someone was going to say or think it.

My sophomore year of high school had a number of highlights. I remember one class in which we had this bitter old man teaching us, at least that is how I remember him.

Twenty-five years later I see a man in a worn cordoruy jacket sitting behind a desk. Sitting behind his desk, dark oily hair on his head, he'd lecture us about life. Tell us that it was his job to puncture our illusions of grandeur and make us face reality. We weren't as smart as we thought, or so he'd tell us.

"I am going to get you ready to take the the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test so that you can see what you are really good at it. Some of you will end up as janitors and plumbers. Only a few will do really well. Most of you will be lucky to get by. The ASVAB will help you understand what you are good at it so that you don't waste time.

One of my classmates would sit in the back of the class and sing Institutionalized to himself. He was a year older than me, had a beard and wore boots. At first I was a bit intimidated by him, but as time passed we developed something. Occasionally he'd grunt at me. I heard a while back that he was shot and killed during a gas station robbery, but I don't know if that is true.

At fifteen the lyrics to Institutionalized were pretty radical, or so I thought. I see them a bit differently now, but not really what I want my kids listening to.

Sometimes I try to do things and it just doesn't work out the way I wanted to.
I get real frustrated and I try hard to do it and I take my time and it doesn't work out the way I wanted to.
It's like I concentrate real hard and it doesn't work out.
Everything I do and everything I try never turns out.
It's like I need time to figure these things out.
But there's always someone there going.

Hey Mike:
You know we've been noticing you've been having a lot of problems lately.
You know, maybe you should get away and maybe you should talk about it, maybe you'll feel a lot better

And I go:
No it's okay, you know I'll figure it out, just leave me alone I'll figure it out.
You know I'll just work by myself.

And they go:
Well you know if you want to talk about it I'll be here you know and you'll probably feel a lot better if you talk about it.

And I go:
No I don't want to I'm okay, I'll figure it out myself and they just keep bugging me and they just keep bugging me and it builds up inside and it builds up inside.

So you're gonna be institutionalized
You'll come out brainwashed with bloodshot eyes
You won't have any say
They'll brainwash you until you see their way.

[Chorus:]
I'm not crazy - in an institution
You're the one who's crazy - in an institution
You're driving me crazy - in an institution
They stuck me in an institution
Said it was the only solution
To give me the needed professional help
To protect me from the enemy -- myself.

I was in my room and I was just like staring at the wall thinking about everything
But then again I was thinking about nothing
And then my mom came in and I didn't even know she was there she called my name
And I didn't even hear it, and then she started screaming: MIKE! MIKE!
And I go:
What, what's the matter?
And she goes:
What's the matter with you?
I go:
There's nothing wrong mom.
And she goes:
Don't tell me that, you're on drugs!
And I go:
No mom I'm not on drugs I'm okay, I was just thinking you know, why don't you get me a Pepsi.
And she goes:
NO you're on drugs!
I go:
Mom I'm okay, I'm just thinking.
She goes:
No you're not thinking, you're on drugs! Normal people don't act that way!
I go:
Mom just give me a Pepsi, please
All I want is a Pepsi, and she wouldn't give it to me
All I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi, and she wouldn't give it to me.
Just a Pepsi.

They give you a white shirt with long sleeves
Tied around you're back, you're treated like thieves
Drug you up because they're lazy
It's too much work to help a crazy

[Chorus]

I was sitting in my room and my mom and my dad came in and they pulled up a chair and they sat down, they go:
Mike, we need to talk to you
And I go:
Okay what's the matter
They go:
Me and your mom have been noticing lately that you've been having a lot of problems,
You've been going off for no reason and we're afraid you're gonna hurt somebody,
We're afraid you're gonna hurt yourself.
So we decided that it would be in your interest if we put you somewhere
Where you could get the help that you need.
And I go:
Wait, what are you talking about, we decided!?
My best interest?! How can you know what's my best interest is?
How can you say what my best interest is? What are you trying to say, I'm crazy?
When I went to your schools, I went to your churches,
I went to your institutional learning facilities?! So how can you say I'm crazy?

They say they're gonna fix my brain
Alleviate my suffering and my pain
But by the time they fix my head
Mentally I'll be dead

[Chorus]

It doesn't matter, I'll probably get hit by a car anyway
Sometimes it is hard to believe that so much time has passed. I sit here thinking about that time and certain memories are easy to pull up, but some are hard. I don't have any journals of my thoughts, or at least none that I am aware of, so I am stuck with memory.

I suppose that I should clarify and say that sometimes I wonder what that 15 year old thought the future was going to be like. I think that I remember. I think that I know, but the passage of time makes me wonder.

In theory that won't be a problem that I am going to have, at least when it comes to the five years of my life that I have spent blogging. All I have to do is sift through the archives and it all comes flooding back to me.

Wonder what I'll think about all this in twenty years.

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