Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm an asshole, I'm an asshole, I'm an asshole-ee-o-ee-o

{asshole hat on}

Over the weekend, I was given the link to a New Yorker article that left me scratching my head. The article was about Nicholas White, a man who was stuck in an elevator in his NYC office building for 41 hours. A harrowing ordeal, to be fair, but when it dawned on me just how screwed up this whole situation is, I started to wonder...
He got a lawyer, and came to believe that returning to work might signal a degree of mental fitness detrimental to litigation. Instead, he spent eight weeks in Anguilla. Eventually, Business Week had to let him go... meanwhile, White no longer had his job, which he’d held for fifteen years, and lost all contact with his former colleagues. He lost his apartment, spent all his money, and searched, mostly in vain, for paying work. He is currently unemployed.
It's that last part that gets me. If one hadn't caught the beginning of the article, which gives the date of the event, one might surmise that this happened 3 months ago, 6 months ago, heck, maybe even a year ago. One would be dead wrong. This event, that has left Mr. White at the point where he is currently unemployed, something which has not been confirmed to be - but is certainly implied to be - a direct result of his 41 hours stuck in an elevator, happened EIGHT AND A HALF YEARS AGO.

I understand the concept of post traumatic stress disorder. I have a relative whom I believe to be suffering from it, all this time after he served in Vietnam. People go through horrific experiences every day - war, famine, terrible violence, losing children. The Holocaust. Pol Pot. Idi Amin. FGM. And so many of them go on to lead comparatively normal lives. But that's just the thing. Nicholas White wasn't in Vietnam. He wasn't at war anywhere. I'm sure he experienced hunger, but nowhere near what millions of people experience on a daily basis. Nothing about his experience was particularly violent. He didn't lose a child. Presumably, he didn't see his parents and grandparents violently ripped from their homes to die in a gas chamber or on the Killing Fields. I'm pretty sure he's never been an 8-year-old girl having her genitalia sliced off in the name of religion.

He was stuck in an elevator. There are millions of people who would gladly spend 41 hours of fear and uncertainty stuck in an elevator if it meant they could unsee the horrors they've seen, forget the atrocities they've experienced, bring their child back.

Heck, when I was 10-ish - and this is something I've told VERY few people, but if I'm gonna be an asshole, I might as well offer my qualifications - I was, for hours, locked in a bathroom by a friend of a friend's older brother, who sat 10 feet outside the bathroom door with a hunting rifle and told me he'd shoot me in the head if I tried to get out. The only ill effect I've ever had is that I'm afraid of guns. I'm married, I'm a productive member of society, I can find and retain employment.

I know my experience is anecdotal, and I know not everyone is so lucky. I'm not trying to diminish what he went through. Seriously. I'm sure it was a terrible experience, filled with hunger, thirst, uncertainty, fear, loneliness, and probably some dirty underwear (because lord knows I wouldn't be able to hold it for two days), but to have it still affecting him so seriously after almost nine years?

*scratches head*

{asshole hat off, though some will think not}

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