Thursday, September 15, 2011

How Mental Breakdowns Happen

So my older brother was in charge of putting up some signs for a charity drive at his office. And he emailed the building supervisor, let's call him "Richard" (because that's his name), and asked permission to post the signs in the elevators. Here's the exact wording of the email:

"Would it be okay to hang some 8.5 x 11 signs in the elevators? I wouldn't cover over any wording that's already there on the elevator wall, I was thinking I could put the signs in the black space above the buttons on the left side."

A reasonable question in my opinion. Richard quickly emailed back:

"Not a problem. Just try and keep them neat. Thanks"

So my brother went and posted the signs, one in each of the four elevators in his building. Then he got a call from someone saying that Richard wanted the signs removed from the elevators. So here's what he sent to Richard:

"Susan just called me and told me that you said the flyers in the elevators need to be taken down. I'm confused, you replied to me last time that it was okay. Could you please clear this up for me?"

Still very reasonable. And frankly, very logical. But here's what he got from Richard:

"I am talking about the ones that are posted on the inside of the elevators. They need to be placed like we discussed. Thanks"

When my brother read that email, his brain imploded. I know that sounds far-fetched, but it happened. He realized that the rule that Richard was implementing was basically this: "You're allowed to have posters in the elevators, just as long as they're not in the elevators." The physiological effect that statement had on him was the equivalent of his brain thinking it was drowning in its own confusion. So he collapsed and his brain shut down. The doctors are calling it "Unintentional Mental Waterboarding, Hemorrhaging, and Trauma" or "UMWHAT." He'll survive and recover fully, but he can't ride elevators anymore.

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