Transcript of 1st Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Thomas Darden, Friday, March 7, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Good Evening, Thomas. How are you?
Mr. Darden: Just Tom is fine. I'm okay. Well, I guess that's not entirely true if I've chosen to visit you.
Dr. Balis: Please, sit down wherever you wish. Just showing up here doesn't mean you're not okay. Many people just want to talk through some problem.
Mr. Darden: Thanks, Doctor. So which chair means I'm psycho?
Dr. Balis: Pardon?
Mr. Darden: Over here is a couch, and in that corner is a rocking chair, and the chair in the middle is like the ones we have in our cubicles. I'm assuming there's some psychological significance to the fact that you give me a choice of three types of chairs to sit in. If I choose the couch, does it mean I'm lazy? Or maybe I'm a workaholic if I sit in the middle chair? Do I get bonus points for insanity if I choose to sit on the floor?
Dr. Balis: The chairs are all here simply because there was space for them. Sometimes I talk to two, three or maybe even more people at once. But now that you mention it, I can see how you might think it was arranged that way.
Mr. Darden: Okay, sorry.
Dr. Balis: Hmm, middle chair? That's what I thought.
Mr. Darden: Huh? What are you writing down there?
Dr. Balis: I'm joking.
Mr. Darden: Okay, okay, so I'm a bit paranoid, I'll admit it.
Dr. Balis: Try to relax, Tom. Remember, I'm not here to pass judgment on you.
Mr. Darden: Hmm.
Dr. Balis: You sound like you don't believe me.
Mr. Darden: Well, I have my doubts. After all, you were hired by Silicon. You're their stooge. I don't know, I've had bad experiences with people who represent firms that seem to work against me. You know, sort of like insurance companies that hire their own set of claims adjusters to do whatever they want as long as it benefits them and not the client.
Dr. Balis: Like having their own mercenary.
Mr. Darden: Exactly.
Dr. Balis: I can understand your trepidation, Tom. But I'm really employed by the HMO which serves SII. The HMO booked about half my time and then they send me patients to fill the time they've already paid for. I'm not beholden to SII, really. To be honest, I was worried about this issue before I signed on with the HMO and I was assured that I would not be expected to report back to SII about its employees. Except for certain extreme circumstances like if you pose a threat of immediate bodily harm to yourself or someone else, whatever is said in this room remains in this room. You have my word on that. Beyond that, you can still get care from an outside source, although it may not be covered by your insurance.
Mr. Darden: That's all right. I just wanted to be sure, you know?
Dr. Balis: I understand. So tell me, in which department do you work?
Mr. Darden: I'm part of the IT Help Desk. Information Technology.
Dr. Balis: And what do you do?
Mr. Darden: I answer questions and troubleshoot problems that employees encounter with certain computer applications, like Quasar, that in-house VAX-based program that our programmers designed for order entry and billing.
Dr. Balis: I'm not familiar with SII's applications.
Mr. Darden: Well, it's been around since the company began--a lot of people are sick of it, and whenever they run into a problem, they come screaming to me. If I can't solve their problem, I forward it on to the programmers and they try to figure it out.
Dr. Balis: Do you enjoy your job?
Mr. Darden: It pays the bills.
Dr. Balis: That's all?
Mr. Darden: It's nothing like I expected. It's very redundant. I transferred from sales because I didn't like working on commission. And I really wasn't impressed with our manager, Dan Martini, although I kept that to myself. When I was first hired on, everybody warned me that he was a very demanding guy. I had sensed it when we first met, but I thought everybody acted that way when conducting an interview. I was wrong. When I had my chance to jump ship a year later, I took it, and although I started off with a Help Desk position, I was promised some training which would eventually enable me to move up to Network Ops and get my C.N.E. certification.
Dr. Balis: C.N.E.?
Mr. Darden: Certified Network Engineer. I was told the company would pay for my training--it costs thousands of dollars--and that I'd be placed on the LAN team working on our in-house computer network. After almost a year, I haven't seen that happen.
Dr. Balis: So you're unhappy with your status?
Mr. Darden: To put it mildly. I feel betrayed. My manager was Adrianne Douglas in the IT department. Six months after she hired me and two other people onto the team, she quit. Some say she was fed up with how our group was being treated, because it was a fairly new concept ten months ago. Others say it was for personal reasons. But there's a lot of turnover going on lately. It's making a lot of us very uptight.
Dr. Balis: I can imagine. Have you discussed this with your new manager?
Mr. Darden: David Torriello was sort of thrown into our department as a last resort. He came in from another company and really knows nothing about the technical side of things. I told him about the training that was promised us, and he said I'd need to give him a written explanation of how the training will benefit the Help Desk. And that's just it. It won't benefit the Help Desk, because if I were to get the training, I'd be moved to the Network Ops department.
Dr. Balis: Did you bother submitting the written justification to him?
Mr. Darden: No. I don't plan to. Where would it get me? He's not going to authorize a charge out of his department's budget which would benefit another department. I just want to get out--move on. The only questions are where and doing what. These past two years have been hell for me, Doctor.
Dr. Balis: You can call me Charles, if that's more comfortable. Tell me about the past two years. How has it been hell?
Mr. Darden: Jesus, where do I start?
Dr. Balis: Wherever you feel is best.
Mr. Darden: I don't know. Give me a clue.
Dr. Balis: You said the past two years were hell. Why don't you start just before then. What were you doing then?
Mr. Darden: I was working for another computer company. I worked for them for a year and a half before I made the big jump to California. The company was near my hometown. I'm from Swiftwater, Pennsylvania and they were in a little town called Tobyhanna. I was new to the workforce, fresh out of college, and had been working part-time at the local newspaper. I loved computers, they were a hobby. The computer company was new and assured me training and I got full-time employment with benefits. But it definitely wasn't what I expected I'd be doing out of college.
Dr. Balis: What was your degree in?
Mr. Darden: Journalism. Do you know what it means to have a journalism degree in today's job market, Charles?
Dr. Balis: Tell me.
Mr. Darden: It means, to everybody I see, I'm qualified to say, "Would you like fries with that?" "Hi, I'm a journalism major. Would you like fries with that? How about a Coke? Is this for here or to go?"
Dr. Balis: I see.
Mr. Darden: I was very unhappy. Damn near suicidal. I was lucky to have gotten a part-time job writing obituaries at minimum wage. For over six months following graduation, I was without a job. If there was one thing I learned how to do well in college, Charles, it was drink. And I drank heavily. My nightly ritual during that period of unemployment was to turn off all the lights in the apartment, light a candle on the coffee table, whip out the vodka and some depressing music, and drink until I was unconscious. I'm sure my mom thought I'd eventually kill myself. She lived with her boyfriend but kept the apartment for my brother and I to use when we were home from school. But she'd sometimes stop by to check up on me. I must have worried her to death. It came to the point that I realized my dreams weren't going to come true, and that I'd have to make the best of what I had. I took the part-time newspaper job greedily. I just didn't care anymore. Let whatever happen happen, and if it's my destiny to be a failure, so be it. I'll be a failure, and a good one. Later, after I met Sharon, things seemed to change for the better.
Dr. Balis: Sharon?
Mr. Darden: My ex-girlfriend. That's another story entirely. I met her shortly before I got hired at the computer company back home.
Dr. Balis: Tell me about her.
Mr. Darden: Well, she was bright, very beautiful, and very young. In fact, she was 18, five years younger than I was. I double dated with her and her friend the first couple times, then we started hanging out together. Pretty soon we were going out regularly and were a couple. I'd have to say that she was my first true love. I had only dated a few girls in college but never developed a relationship. Sharon was, you know, my first. At the time, I definitely needed someone like her around. She gave me a reason to go on. It was great to come home from work into the arms of someone who really cared about me. And for a year and a half, she did.
Dr. Balis: What happened next?
Mr. Darden: My job at the computer company was going fairly well. I bought a new car, was paying my mom rent and started pecking away at all those worthless school loans. I had developed a fairly stable routine. I'd go to work, come home, visit with Sharon for a few hours a night, go to bed and so forth. I was content. For a while I thought it was happiness but no, it was just contentment. There is a difference.
Dr. Balis: Do you think it was the routine that made you content?
Mr. Darden: No, because I have a routine now and I hate my life. My routine now sucks. I don't go out on weekends, I don't socialize anymore--no, the routine itself wasn't what did it for me then. It was the fact that I had value in someone's eyes. Sometimes when I'd come home from work, I'd find little love letters stuffed in my mailbox from Sharon. She was always doing things like that. That really made me feel special. Like I mattered. But, for me, there was always this underlying fear throughout the relationship. You see, Sharon was a senior in high school, and I knew that when she went to college, it would tear us apart. I was cognizant of the fact that I was living on borrowed time. Our break-up was inevitable. I had already seen this happen to other couples while I was in college. They just don't work. Relationships don't agree with the college scheme of things. I don't know.
Dr. Balis: You seem stressed.
Mr. Darden: No, not really. I'm just tired. Tell you what, Charles, could we pick up on this next session?
Dr. Balis: That's fine. How should I schedule you, next Friday again perhaps?
Mr. Darden: Great.
Dr. Balis: Any particular reason why you prefer Friday night?
Mr. Darden: What the hell else would I be doing?
Dr. Balis: I see. Goodbye, Tom.
Mr. Darden: Goodbye, Doctor.
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