Deep End | Hear Me Roar: Wireless headset talkers join the ranks of the mentally disturbed | Deep End | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Deep End | Hear Me Roar: Wireless headset talkers join the ranks of the mentally disturbed


In light of a new and disturbing behavior, mental-health professionals around the world are being compelled to re-evaluate the long-established disorder known as schizophrenia.

“We used to think schizophrenics were simply loonies,” said Dr. Andreas Kalbfleisch, president of the National Union of Therapists and Shrinks. “Now that this new behavior has invaded our public spaces, we’ve had to reconsider, and even re-assess our traditional ideas of sanity.”

The behavior in question is associated with the modern phenomenon of cellular telephony. So commonplace is the new behavior—solitary individuals screaming at no one in particular, making strange faces, gesticulating wildly, and laughing hysterically—that it has almost become an accepted part of modern life.

Nevertheless, a significant percentage of those who frequent public spaces is growing increasingly annoyed with cell-phone addicts blabbing away with zero consideration whatsoever for the emotional equilibrium of their fellow citizens. For example, I recently witnessed an incident that is becoming all too familiar. I was enjoying a quiet cup of coffee at a local hot-drink emporium when I became aware of an agitated conversation in another section of the establishment.

Actually, the conversation did not consist of the traditional two-part interplay but was rather a one-man show, a high-decibel monologue audible not just to the customers of the coffee establishment, but also, according to the police reports, to shoppers within a 300-yard radius.

The vociferous soliloquist was, to all appearances, an upstanding and respectable citizen: approximately 30 years of age, white shirt and tie, gray polyester trousers, and polished square-toed shoes. But he was behaving like one of those benighted creatures neglected by our mental health system, exhibiting the classic symptomology (as itemized by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) of schizophrenia: disorganized speech, delusions, auditory hallucinations and paranoia.

From my angle, I could detect no handheld telephonic gizmo that often correlates with such symptoms. Only when he let out a heart-rending cry—“I’m losing you, I’m losing you” (Paranoia? Delusions?), bolted from his chair, and sprinted outside, did I observe the telltale device attached to his ear. After roaming through the parking lot, zigzagging this way and that, his ejaculations and gesticulations sending frightened shoppers to seek safe shelter, the gentleman lurched inside, scattering his sheaf of documents as he importuned his absent interlocutor, “Don’t let your policy lapse, don’t let your policy lapse!”

Within minutes, an ambulance came wheeling and wailing into the shopping center and halted just outside our door.

Two grim-faced paramedics strode inside and proceeded to initiate a capture of the wireless lunatic. But he was oblivious to their efforts to take him into custody, yelling, “You’re breaking up, you’re breaking up,” as they pursued him through a slalom of tilted chairs and upturned tables. Finally, after a Tasered takedown, he was gagged, bound and carried away.

Such scenes will become all too common as the population of cellular lunatics grows. The psychiatric establishment is currently in the midst of a furious debate about how to treat this new disorder. Many mental-health professionals are now taking issue with the preliminary grouping of CLD, or cellular lunacy disorder, with schizophrenia.

These mental-health professionals point out that schizophrenia is now thought to have biological causes—perhaps increased dopaminergic activity in the mesolimbic pathway, or low levels of glutamate receptors in the hippocampus, or neurotransmitters gone wacky. Cellular lunacy disorder, on the other hand, seems purely behavioral. Thus far, antipsychotics like clozapine and single-malt whiskey, have had little or no effect on CLD sufferers.

A splinter group of hardliners has come to the conclusion that drastic measures are necessary to restore CLD sufferers to sanity. These hardliners subscribe to the tough-love school of treatment, and point to the success of the Soteria method of “interpersonal phenomenologic intervention” in treating traditional schizophrenia. As Dr. Aldeni Ensernos, the renowned Portuguese psychiatrist, describes it, “The only way to stop these lunatics is to rip those telephonic thingamajigs right off their ears.”

Already, roving bands of interpersonal phenomenologic interveners have targeted coffee shops, restaurants and athletic venues for flagrant cellular behavior. “Cellular lunacy in automobiles and airplanes is difficult intervention-wise,” said Dr. Ensernos. “But we’re working on a system to zap people through the cell phone or earpiece itself. If all else fails, we have a bill in Congress to subject CLD sufferers to the stocks and rotten tomatoes.”

D.P. Sorensen writes satire for City Weekly.