Friday, April 03, 2009

Monkey See, Monkey Do

As we pulled into a parking space at Safeway, I noticed that the driver of the car next to us was a man we see in the neighborhood regularly. I smiled and Flip said "hi" as we passed him but he didn't acknowledge us. He never does. He inhabits his own world which seems to have nobody in it but himself. It is not unusual to see him walking with his characteristic bent over but manic gait, gesticulating wildly as he talks loudly to himself while riffling the newspaper vending machines. Trust me, there is no cell phone in the mix.

"If that guy has a license and I don't..." said Flip. I knew where this was going. We assume that Flip's driver's license was revoked when his doctor reported his condition to the DMV. "Maybe they don't know about him," he said.

But I do. And knowing that Froot Loop is on the road does not add to my sense of security.

I glanced back at the other car, a decrepit Edsel station wagon that looks haunted. Our friend was conversing with aliens. Later, I got in line at the check stand behind him. He was eating a handful of cookies from the bakery. The cashier looked at the crumpled wax paper he showed her and said, "Cookies?" He didn't respond. "How many were there?" she asked. He stared fixedly out the window at the parking lot. She rang up something and he extracted a withered bill from his sock and silently handed it to her. Apparently, he only speaks to invisible people.

A few months ago, he sported an impressive shiner on his right eye. One can only guess whom he offended. It didn't slow him down. I saw him rush into a launderette and methodically open every machine and bang it shut, arguing with himself the whole time. At least arguing with oneself assures that you always win.

Last year, his foot was in a cast and then a surgical boot, the kind orthopedists issue when something is badly sprained or broken. I asked him if he was ok as he whipped by me on the sidewalk, pantomiming wildly, even though I knew he wouldn't answer. (I'm an optimist.)

Flip has decided to zoom around making chimpanzee gestures and talking to himself so the DMV will give him his license back. Stay tuned.


nick said...

You do wonder what that guy gets up on the road. Presumably endless near accidents as he argues with himself and randomly checks the covers on the back seats. I guess as far as the authorities are concerned barking lunacy is irrelevant as long as you can drive your car without killing anybody.

So as long as Flip can drive safely, why should he be banned?

the walking man said...

Maybe Flip needs to go to the alternative universe DMV. The only thing is that your "friend" will have to give him directions at least or a ride there at best.

Maybe for the fare of some bakery cookies...

Molly said...

Doesn't sound fair. But the longer I live the more I realize that fairness is a concept that matters only to the likes of me and you and Flip. It certainly doesn't have anything to do with how the world is run, not the legal system, or the ridiculously uneven way people are rewarded [or not] for performing their jobs [I'm thinking basketball, football etc here, as compared with nurses, teachers,--- people whose work actually matters....]And obviously
it has nothing to do with licenses being dispensed! Florida is where crazy drivers come to die. And they keep on driving 'til the hour of their death, with the blessing of the DMV. Go figure....

Maybe it's because common sense has gone out the door, as our numbers have increased. It's more important, and less trouble, to enforce the letter of the law than to evaluate cases individually.

Warty Mammal said...

Lord, the endless panoply of characters.

I echo Molly's thoughts, or would have if I'd actually thought of them.

meno said...

I'm picturing the scene at the DMV when this dude goes to renew his license. I wonder if they even notice that he's crazy.

thailandchani said...

It does seem as though that guy would have a lot of trouble focusing on the road. It makes me wonder if he's ... um ... exaggerating his symptoms in front of others.

The whole thing seems bizarre!

I see no reason why Flip shouldn't be able to drive. You've always said he is a safe driver.


Jo said...

The other day we were driving along behind a car that was going five miles an hour. As we got alongside, there were a little old man driving the car, and he was so small he had to look through the steering wheel. I had a hat on that made him look taller. I had to wonder, don't those folks have families who get concerned about their driving?

Voyager said...

The Canadian version of the DMV finally gave my son his licence on his fifth try, out of exasperation and pity. Which is even more proof that Flip is being treated unfairly.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Flip is an excellent driver, but since AD is unpredictable, nobody knows when he will cease to be. We both understand that, but it does seem bizarre when somebody like that other guy drives. (Of course, we don't know if he is driving legally.)


I like the idea of an alternative universe, but not the one our friend inhabits. He gloms all the cookies.


I have known for a long time that fairness is more important to me than to most people. But in the case of Flip's license, since they can't assess each case individually, they really have no choice. It's just hard now when he is still capable.

I have lived in Florida and couldn't agree more about the drivers in God's waiting room.


We do not lack for town characters here. That's part of its appeal.


IF he actually has a license. And craziness is a relative thing. After working at the DMV for years, it's likely they're all a few tacos short of a combination platter.


Since he keeps his arms moving wildly at all times, it doesn't leave any free hands for driving. I don't think he's exaggerating anything as he seems to spend all his time making rounds. We see him nearly every day, and nobody could keep up such an act full time. At first we thought he was homeless but now doubt it as owns a car and doesn't look as if he sleeps in it. He changes his clothes.

As for Flip, the DMV is doing the best they can considering the volume of cases they process. We don't live in an individual world anymore, but a mass-produced one, and we are all the poorer for it. In every category, people are falling through cracks. Luckily I am able to take up the slack in this case, much as I wish it were not necessary.


You have to wonder. At 5'1", I can't benefit from the visor while driving into a setting sun so I can't imagine anyone shorter being able to see over the wheel at all. Sadly, I suspect that many people are happy to remain unaware of their elders' problems so they don't have to do anything about it.


The fact is, three years ago when his license was revoked the first time, it took him several tries to pass the written test although he aced the driving. (Driving does not involve short-term memory to the same extent.) He thinks they finally passed him out of pity, too, but he simply lacks the heart to fight for it again now, when things are even harder for him.

I'm glad your son got his license, though. I can't imagine being a young person unable to drive.

The CEO said...

I hold Flip in exceptionally high esteem for his continual efforts to reason with a non-reasonable bureaucracy, the DMV. Here in Maryland, we hand out licenses to any illegal alien (you don't have to live here, just get a PO box) yet we're cracking down on diabtetics and 19 other medical conditions regardless of driving records. The Great State of Maryland and its infinite wisdom (must be a legal thing having nothing to do with reality).

On a limb with Claudia said...

As you know, one of my sister is a chronic schizophrenic. It was sheer hell to get her off the streets, out of a car, and into a board and care facility. And that was only after she : 1) drove off the road after being convinced that someone was chasing her (like in James Bond), 2) rang up $50k in debt not counting student loans, and 3) began hoarding knives. And even then, the courts struggled to see her 'visions' as insanity. Finally, my mother became her guardian - a responsibility she eventually gave over to my oldest sister.

It makes me wonder how mentally ill Britney Spears must truly be to have lost all of her rights.

I hear the echo of your sorrow - and I'm saddened by that

Jocelyn said...

I think you may have to give him a shiner, too, if you want to clinch his chances of a license reissue.

I do feel compassion for Sock Man; but, yes, the idea of him on the road is pretty scary. It seems like he should move into some wacky vehicle propelled by his own locomotion, such as a Red Flyer wagon adorned with an apple crate, a hula hoop, some jingly bells, and a stack of burlap sacks.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Maybe that's the problem. Flip is not an illegal alien. He's even a native Californian, bless his heart.

It's all very clear now.


That must be very hard to live with and frightening, especially the hoarding of knives.

It has been posited that Joan of Arc was a schizophrenic, (but in a GOOD way, of course.)

I am not qualified to diagnose the subject of this post, but he definitely has gone around a lot of bends. And yes, the echo of my sadness infuses everything these days. I'm sorry, too.


That little red wagon you designed -- you've had experience, then? I worry about this guy since he periodically turns up with injuries and seems to be quite alone in the world, at least as far as visible companions are concerned.

riseoutofme said...

I wonder if we could hear his music would we dance along beside him?

Had to laugh at the idea of Flip carrying on like him ... no doubt you would join him in the manic tango of life?

Love your kindness to this soul.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I've always been intrigued by those who dance to their own music, even if they can't help it.

We are all part of the manic tango in one way or another. Some are just more obvious about it.

Mariposa said...

Life is full of oxymorons at times!

meggie said...

I love this post. I know that Gom should not be driving but it is against the laws of privacy over here, to report the reason or any reasons to the DMV or as it is here, the RTA.
I wonder how that man manages to transact for food etc?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Yes, it surely is!


How interesting that personal privacy is prioritized over public safety.

While in most situations I opt for privacy and keeping the State out of our affairs, I reluctantly see the benefit in forcing doctors to report potentially impairing conditions even though I don't like it.

Ian Lidster said...

Scary that this guy is actually on the road with other people. I can understand Flip's chagrin at the unfairness of it all.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Yeah, it really bites.

But as he said, it's possible that the authorities are not aware that this guy is driving. (When he kills someone, they'll notice.) If there is nobody looking out for him, relatives or doctors, he would definitely fall through cracks in the system.

Jameil said...

wow... that is scary and crazy.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It really and truly is.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

If I haven't said it before, I absolutely, whole heartedly, LOVE you and Flip.

I do.
I always will.

The DMV will license Flip if he can prove insanity; it's a requisite trait for all California drivers. He must have slipped through the cracks before. Pun intended.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I just learned (although not from the DMV, bless their hearts) that Flip's license was revoked in February, so apparently they pull it for dementia but not for fullbore batshit elevator doesn't go all the way to the top wacko. And as you point out, this is Crackpot California, which doubtless explains a lot.