I must be spending far too much of my time reading off electronic devices these days, because I was thumbing through my copy of There’s Always Something or Other With Mr. Neary, and when I had read the 1 September 2012 entry, my first impulse was to start jabbing the page with a forefinger to add a comment. Oops.
One of my more eccentric computing tutors used to say that if paper had been invented after the silicon chip, everybody would think it was the bees’ knees. “You don’t need batteries! You can build your own basic matrix from plant fibres! You can write to it with a carbon stick! And the refresh time is up to a thousand years!” As this was well before the invention of the tablet computer, he didn’t add, “But however hard you poke at the side of a book, you won’t find a backlight for reading under the bedclothes!” I have to remember that for myself.
Anyway, the piece in question is about Steven Neary’s twice-a-year visits to the psychiatrist. The trick-cyclist seems to be a rather unpleasant fellow; when Steven proffers his hand, as he has learned it is polite to do, the psychiatrist refuses to shake it. He then avidly notes the distress that this can cause Steven and blames Steven’s resulting behaviour on his father and support workers for ‘failing to set boundaries’.
If Mr. Neary senior remonstrates with him, the psychiatrist goes into Sly Game Playing Mode: “It looks like the conflict increases your anxiety, Mr. Neary”.
I want to ask Dr. S., “That being so, why are you provoking conflict? What are you getting out of making Steven miserably disoriented and his father stressed? It doesn’t seem a very professional way to act, more a sociopathic/sadistic one. Quite apart from professional considerations, to refuse to co-operate in a conventional exchange of courtesies is simple oikish bad manners. You’re being plain rude.”
Steven’s father once tried to let Steven down gently by suggesting that Dr. S. had a sore place on his hand, but it didn’t help, as Steven then wanted to see the scab. I have a fantasy in my head of Mr. Neary telling Steven the truth, and reminding him in the consulting room: “Dr. S. doesn’t shake hands, remember, Steve? Dr. S. doesn’t shake hands because…?”
“Because he’s an arsehole, Dad.”