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Why Are We So Broken?
By Matthew Notch | 13th May, 2013 | 10:16 pm

Why Are We So Broken?

I have a special love for public transit. I rode a short bus in grade school to various extracurriculars, and a big bus all through high school as well. Now that I'm all grown up, I still find myself drawn to the bus. It might seem kind of strange, but you don't understand how nuts-clenchingly stressful it is driving to work. I have a ten minute commute (which probably makes anyone in DC just piiiiiissed), but even that little drive seems terrible once you've sat in a bus for a while, reading a book or writing a song or taking a nap or even just playing Angry Birds, and then you look up and, lo and behold, you're home. It is a truly nuts-liberating experience.

Now this is all mostly a set-up in order to introduce you to Creepy Chatty Bus Passenger Guy.


O hai, other guy on the bus!

CCBPG is probably not evil in the traditional sense. He just heads your direction, or even (somehow) worse, he shouts at you from the opposite end of the bus, and attempts to make conversation with you. Perhaps you even humor him somewhat: you laugh at his questionable, angry jokes, you nod your head every eight seconds, approximately, when he sets into a rant, you say "that's interesting" when he seems to be finished. Perhaps you even engage him in conversation, but see, this is when it gets confusing, because perhaps after a while CCBPG seems to lose interest in your own efforts at a dialogue, and suddenly it dawns on you... YOU were CCBPG all along. You were the one who was riding the bus, looking for a travel companion to chat with, and found one, albeit a temporary fix. You were the one looking in the most peculiar places for a friend.

Why was that? Why were you willing to talk to this person? Is it because you were hoping to brighten HIS day, or were you feeling a bit lonely, a bit lost, looking for a connection anywhere you could get it? I mean, por que no los dos? It's compelling how people who are feeling rather empty inside can still want to give of themselves so much. How nice it is, then, when you find someone who feels as you do. Not someone who likes the same things, or has the same skills and affinities as you do. Someone who feels as you do. When you describe the loneliness, or emptiness, or whatever it may be, to the person you have found, that person understands, to an almost eerie degree, what it is you are going through. That's so much nicer than Creepy Chatty Bus Passenger Guy, isn't it?


"But I could give you a friendship bracelet made of my own teeth!

So why is it, then, that we all went looking for friendship in the comment section of a comedy website? How does that even make sense? Comment sections are not known for their friendly folks and compelling conversation. In fact, click on this link right now and read that CNN article from last year. In the time since that article, Gawker has overhauled its comment section so thoroughly that now it's pretty much an aristocracy, for better or worse. Other sites may soon follow suit, as it's becoming increasingly difficult to have an honest, intelligent conversation with the average comment section lurker. Meanwhile, over here we enjoy the best of the best from Cracked's commenters, and that's wonderful. I've noticed a curious correlating phenomenon though, and I'm not the only one on staff who has. Let me share this with you now.

The Welcome Mat for this site, at the time of this posting, is not even a month old. Let that sink in for a second. How close have we all gotten in that time? Well, we're now posting sexy pictures, making sexy noises, spending approximately 100% of our time chatting, putting together some really cool toys for you guys, and amazingly, in the interrim, we have managed to eke out a handful of our own content, some great and some a little less so, but all honest and at least interesting. But do you know what else we've been doing? Working through a great many crises, that's what. For myself, I've been present or active in three actual emotional crises so far, trying to talk these nice people out of doing terrible things to themselves. What is it about this community that drives so many broken people (myself very much included) together?

Understand, this isn't an effort to determine what it is, medically, that we have in common, because that much is not a mutually shared experience. Some of us have nervous disorders that cause us pain at all times. Some of us have dealt with abuse, either at our own hands or at the hands of others. Some of us are full of anxiety, some panic, some mania, some depression. Some of us just really have no idea what it is that breaks us from time to time. But it does. It breaks us. It makes us cry or it makes us not able to cry. It doesn't always make us want to die, but it makes us think we ought to be dead. And as far as I can tell, just about all of us are super-nice, so why us? What kind of karmic chicanery decided that?

For me, wanting to die has always been with me. I first considered it at age eight, and I'm 29 now. It's a curious thing: It's not so much that it hurts so bad you want to die, because it really doesn't hurt that much most of the time. It was like diabetes for me. I would wake up, stretch and yawn, put on my pants and wonder if today was the day it would finally get me. Whenever I was very close to making it happen, it always came down to logic: I made a morbid list of the pros and cons of being alive. Friends were always in the pros list. If I'd ever lost them, who knows which way the balance would tip?

So, then, is that it? Were we all just too lonely, too shy to seek out companionship on forums or in iRC channels, perish the thought of the real world? Had we forgotten what it felt like to trust another person that much? Really, were we just looking for a friend?

It's interesting, because in the comment section trust was the name of the game. You could speak freely, even if it wasn't always a popular or pretty idea you were verbalizing. The idea that you would suddenly have to scale back those questionable, angry jokes, the idea that you might have to accept that no one is listening to your rant anymore, the idea that the only feedback you'd get to your soapbox discourse would be, "That's interesting", and then a quick dismissal... it hurts, because to us, we're just being honest. I wonder if we can't even help it, sometimes, that our eagerness to share turns us into Creepy Chatty Bus Passenger Guy. But around here, we can play the air drums and "use the Force" to open automatic doors without fear of judgment.

Please remember this, though: we here are friends. We're certainly not trained medical professionals. Friends are wonderful things to have in a crisis, but if you are having some real troubles, some serious troubles, please please please for the love of whatever celestial being you ascribe to, if any, PLEASE seek professional help. That said, I know personally and far too well how difficult it can be to do that. Sometimes you will need a friend to tell you, "Hey, you know, that's not actually a good thing that you're describing yourself feeling." We are piss poor judges of our own mental health--it's part of the reason people sometimes have trouble with therapy. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right? But you need someone you can trust to listen without passing judgment when you admit it. Even the world's greatest therapist can't help you if you aren't willing to be honest about your crippling scat fetish.


You have a problem, cat!

I made a statement once about the comment section over at Cracked, and I'd like to restate it since you're all gathered here, and I'm not at risk of swiping anyone's glory.


I mean some of that is obviously dated

It is indeed wonderful to have such good people in my life (whose faces I have in fact seen now and may or may not have stowed away in a certain corner of my memory reserved for gentleman times), and as wiped out as I often get after tending to my wounded friends, I couldn't possibly ask for any different, except that my friends are no longer hurting. This has been a really exhausting past few months. It has also been immensely rewarding. There aren't many places in the civilized world Creepy Chatty Bus Passenger Guy fits in, including the bus. But here we all are, warts and all. It's a lovely time to be alive. Let's keep it that way.

Tags: Psychology, Commentary, Personal perspective, public transit 37

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