by Jon Kaufman
Have you ever felt like your life was someone else’s science project? I feel that way quite often. The sense that somewhere, someone is measuring my responses to various stimuli and creating reports from those responses haunts me to the brink of distraction. People, this might sound odd, but I think my wife Janet has been experimenting on me.
Janet is a very smart person who holds a master’s degree in Psychology. Lately, I have noticed a few small indicators which appear to suggest that I have been an unwitting subject to a form of verbal, informal psychological testing for a long period of time. In July, Janet and I will celebrate out twentieth wedding anniversary and I fear these experiments, which have just now come to my attention, have been going on for years – perhaps decades.
This is not my first experience with this kind of veiled science. My childhood friend Neil’s parents were in the brain game as well; one a psychiatrist and the other a psychologist. Eating dinner at Neil’s house meant becoming the guest patient for the evening. The meal normally consisted of Pot Roast with a large helping of emotional probing on the side. A bit heady for a hungry twelve-year old to swallow, I dare say. Our mutual friend Jeff joined Neil’s family for dinner once and made the mistake of sharing one of his dreams with them. Jeff never seemed the same after that night. Poor guy, the life of a lab rat is not for everyone.
My father was a bit of an amateur clinician himself. For years, his boss would make unwanted visits to Dad’s work area seeking a sympathetic ear in which to deposit all of his rich man’s worries. Annoyed, but trapped, Dad listened to this blowhard spout off daily, never once halting his own work production.
One Sunday morning Dad began reading a New York Times article on the subject of behaviorism which must have struck a chord. The next day, when the boss began to unload, Pop stopped what he was doing, sat down and listened intently, his work halted by the interruption. Several weeks later, the visits from the boss had completely stopped. Through repetition, Pop’s boss realized that the more he talked the less production he received from his worker, a moment of clarity which hit him right in the pocket.
Like my Dad’s programming of his boss, I believe that Janet has been systematically shaping my behavior. Consider this example; each night when Janet emerges from the bedroom in her pajamas she begins talking to me non-stop. We have spent the entire evening together, alone, and while conversation has been ongoing and at times peppy, the repartee has now been increased three fold.
Tired and ready for bed, I say my goodnights to Janet and the dogs, feeling guilty that I am cutting our conversation short. This pattern continues for a period of a few weeks. The only variable that changes in the pattern is the time at which Janet emerges from the bedroom which is a few minutes earlier each night.
I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but, I believe something is afoot! I know that the last time someone in Roanoke jumped the gun relying upon faulty information, a SWAT team was dispatched to the mall to take down a guy with an umbrella, but I feel that like I am being psychologically conditioned by my spouse! She is getting rid of me earlier and earlier each night AND I am even feeling guilty about it. Wow, she’s good.
This recent revelation has prompted me to cast an investigative eye on my own behavior and the sheer genius of the puppet master sleeping next to me. Even though I am on to her, I fear that I am way out of her league. Thankfully, due to the courage and efforts of our local police, I can rest easy about at least one thing; if Mary Poppins decides to go all jihad on us, I feel confident that Roanoke’s finest are freshly drilled and ready to rumble.
They are no match for Janet, however.