Transcript of 16th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Thomas Darden, Friday, August 8, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Tom, hello. Come in and take a seat.
Mr. Darden: Thanks.
Dr. Balis: So how is Tom today?
Mr. Darden: Tom is shitty today, thank you.
Dr. Balis: And why is that?
Mr. Darden: Oh, a collection of things that seem to happen to me in the truest spirit of Murphy's Law.
Dr. Balis: For example?
Mr. Darden: Okay, let's start with the cat. This kitten has so far served as a constant scratching, pooping, biting reminder that I really don't like animals all that much.
Dr. Balis: What is it doing?
Mr. Darden: She's dominating my life at home. She knows more about getting her way than I know how to control her. Claws--I renamed the cat last week for obvious reasons--has learned to manipulate me better than any woman could have. I usually eat supper in the living room, watching TV. Claws refuses to leave me alone. She'll jump onto the coffee table and wants to drink whatever I'm drinking and delve her cat litter-encrusted paws into my food. I throw her off but she'll just jump back up. A couple days ago, I literally spent fifteen minutes throwing her off the table and watching her jump back on before I gave up.
Dr. Balis: Sounds like you have a little devil on your hands.
Mr. Darden: I can't have a moment's peace in my own apartment. She has to be around me almost all the time. I tried closing her out of the bathroom once and she meowed and clawed at the door until finally I got so annoyed that I had to give in. If I hadn't, I'm sure there'd be serious damage to my door right now. And then the poop--oh, don't even get me started on that. I've shit in her litter box more times than she has. Claws finds my couch to be much more convenient. What's so damn funny about this?
Dr. Balis: I'm sorry, Tom. I think you're taking this a bit too seriously.
Mr. Darden: That's easy for you to say. You're not awaking to a living feline nightmare of hairballs and catnip-induced attacks on her owner.
Dr. Balis: There are steps you can take to control your cat. I've heard a spray-bottle filled with water works wonders. If Claws is doing something you don't want her to be doing, you can squirt her with water. She'll soon get the idea that doing those things brings about bad consequences.
Mr. Darden: And the cat shit? How the hell do I stop her from shitting all over the place?
Dr. Balis: I'm no expert on the subject but I've heard you can lock the cat in a room with her food and her litter box and she'll start using the litter box exclusively.
Mr. Darden: It's all such a pain in the ass. I wish I had it as good as that damn cat. Eat and shit, eat and shit--wheeeee! Look at me! She has no worries. I, on the other hand, have to deal with people like those at my insurance company on a regular basis.
Dr. Balis: What happened with your insurance company?
Mr. Darden: Oh, I'm just high-risk at the moment as far as auto insurance goes. I've had three accidents in two years, two of which were my fault, but they take all the accidents into account and label me high risk. So now I get this letter in the mail saying I now have to pay $1000 every six months just to drive back and forth to a job I hate anyway. I tried to go through another insurance company but they turned me down because of my driving record. I mean what do you expect? This is San Francisco, for Christ's sake!
Dr. Balis: If I were you, I'd start using the city's transit system.
Mr. Darden: No way. I need that freedom with my car to be alone and away from everything. It's really the only way you can truly have some semblance of privacy anymore. It's just me and the radio and...
Dr. Balis: ...traffic jams.
Mr. Darden: Sometimes. But as long as you're in your car, it's like you're separated from the outside world. You don't have to really deal with anyone, and the people in the cars around you aren't really people, you know what I mean? They're just non-descript, boxy metal objects scurrying about that drive too slow or cut you off from time to time.
Dr. Balis: Do you find yourself escaping to your car often?
Mr. Darden: Sure. I don't like interaction with people, as you well know by now. Driving my car is one of the few things that still gives me some sense of satisfaction.
Dr. Balis: And protection.
Mr. Darden: What's that?
Dr. Balis: It protects you from having to cope with people on a social level. You can be amongst people and yet not have to interact with anyone. If you ever feel uncomfortable, you simply drive away.
Mr. Darden: Well, there must be a lot of anti-social people out there besides myself--look at drive-thrus at fast-food restaurants or at banks. No one wants to deal with other people if they don't have to.
Dr. Balis: That's different. That's a matter of convenience.
Mr. Darden: Bullshit. It's because people don't want to deal. They'd rather listen to a barely discernable voice crackling back their order than talk to them face-to-face.
Dr. Balis: Perhaps. But I still think it's a matter of convenience for most people. For you, it's clearly a different story.
Mr. Darden: Well, whatever. I think maybe you're reading too much into what I'm saying, anyway.
Dr. Balis: That's my job. Not necessarily reading in "too much" but I do explore avenues you may not have considered.
Mr. Darden: Yeah, well, I have been having some serious relapses when it comes to relating to people lately. I thought maybe I was getting better but I've come to realize I still have anxiety attacks over it.
Dr. Balis: Like what?
Mr. Darden: I don't know if you know about this, but every year at SII, the company reviews the performance of certain individuals who excel and they reward them by herding them together to have a week-long drink-fest in the Bahamas. They get together with the president of the company and have presentations and pass out awards and drink a lot of beer. Well, Dave Torriello, my manager, picked me to represent the Help Desk.
Dr. Balis: That's great! Congratulations.
Mr. Darden: I don't want to go.
Dr. Balis: Why not?
Mr. Darden: Because all the VPs and heads and managers and staunch corporate types will be there and I'll be forced to mingle with them and because I'm afraid, frankly. I am so scared of people that I even skipped the announcement that Dave gave to everyone in the IT department. I couldn't muster the courage to be surrounded by 50 people at once, gathered together to stare at me as he announced his pick.
Dr. Balis: There are 50 people?
Mr. Darden: Well, not in the Help desk area, but with all the departments combined in IT, there are about 50 people. So all the managers for all the departments announced their picks. At least, so I hear.
Dr. Balis: What did Dave say afterward?
Mr. Darden: He was...concerned. My defensiveness with customers was an issue earlier in the year, but my performance improved greatly and my statistics far exceed those of anyone else in the department. Plus Rob Farber changed departments and now works as an engineer in Network Operations. So now there's just me, Jennifer Keys and Doris Meckle. Dave figured I was covering the phones at the time, so I went along with it. I told him I was working on a critical issue and couldn't leave my desk for the meeting.
Dr. Balis: So how did you feel when he asked everyone to meet with the rest of the IT department?
Mr. Darden: I was petrified. I got sweaty and my heart started racing and I felt like a cornered animal. I knew what the meeting was for and knew that if I'd go, I'd be singled out. I can't stand that. I like the fact that many people can't associate a name to my face. At the same time, I know it's wrong to feel that way. As soon as I got off work, I went straight home and drank a six-pack. Guess I was self-medicating again.
Dr. Balis: Sounds that way.
Mr. Darden: I know what you're thinking. I might as well be using the Librium if I'm going to use alcohol to achieve the same results.
Dr. Balis: Not necessarily. Last time you were here, you were very adamant that the side effects outweighed the value of the drug in relation to your social life. If we started you back on that medication, the side effects you reported are likely to recur. On the other hand, I'd rather you not turn to alcohol at the first sight of a crowd.
Mr. Darden: Well, it was only a six-pack. Not like I chugged a case or anything.
Dr. Balis: Six straight beers is still fairly significant.
Mr. Darden: I guess.
Dr. Balis: All right. Well, next week, let's discuss this trip you've been chosen to take--when is it scheduled for, by the way?
Mr. Darden: Sometime in October, I think.
Dr. Balis: Good, that gives us some time. Okay. Next week, same time?
Mr. Darden: How about Friday the 22nd.
Dr. Balis: If you want to skip a week, I understand. But try to get out a little. I want you to start gradually and try to get used to people.
Mr. Darden: Right, Doctor. See you then!
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