Monday 30 January 2012

Am I Going Nuts?

Dealing with lots of people at the same time and keeping an eye on the big picture is usually not difficult for me; I am quite used to it from having worked at fairs for almost ten years now, and my former work place was in an open-plan office with many comings and goings, phone calls and other noise surrounding me every day.

So maybe I am either going nuts or getting old or both :-)

Today, my mum came to meet me around lunch time for a quick dash into town to get a few things she wanted for my dad's birthday do (he is 70 tomorrow). Since I have made it a point of leaving the house at least once a day ever since I have started working from home, I had offered to come with her.

It is not far from my house to the centre of our small town (less than 90.000 inhabitants), just down the road really, and within 10 minutes, you can be at the shopping mall.
So, off we went, well covered in padded coats and scarves and woolly hats.

By the time we reached a particular part of the road leading towards the centre, all of a sudden, everything seemed to be happening at once - and it was almost getting too much for me for a second or two:
Someone wanted to park on the pavement right next to where we were walking, while someone else was just vacating that same parking space. People coming towards us and people walking in front of us were undecided about which way to go, plus they were a lot slower than us, so that we could neither go past them nor comfortably stay behind them. A small kid on a bike, accompanied by his mum pushing a pram, kept frantically ringing the bell on said bike, in spite of there not being anyone in his way. And my mum, walking half at my side, half in front of me (for lack of space), kept turning halfway round to me, telling me about my aunt who had rung three times on Sunday about my dad's birthday party, and somehow she managed at the same time to ask what, if and where I wanted to eat anything, it being lunch time and all.

Right there and then, I was ready to stand still in the middle of the pavement, put my fingers in my ears, close my eyes and shout "STOOOOOOP!!!", but of course I didn't - instead, I pulled myself together and kept walking, answering mum's question(s), dodging the other people on the pavement, looking ahead to see where the narrow space allocated to us pedestrians would broaden again.

Moments later, the episode was as good as forgotten, and we had an enjoyable hour in town, finding the things we wanted (more about that tomorrow), and when I was home, I sat down with a cup of coffee and was ready to get back into working mode again.

Why I reacted like that for a moment I don't know; am I not used to being surrounded by many people every day, all day, anymore? Am I getting too old for that? (My mum is older and wasn't bothered in the least!) Or am I simply going nuts?

Maybe I just wasn't in the right set of mind for crowds. Next time I'll go into town at lunch time, I'll remember to switch into crowd mode first :-)


  1. Think you were just having a bad day. But going out every day sounds like a good idea as it's easy to get immersed in your own little world. You are lucky that you still have a mum to go shopping with.

  2. I completely understand what happened to you. I would have reacted the same and may have even have had a panic attack. I can no longer cope with crowds (even a few people for me is a crowd), noise, organized or disorganized chaos. Lucky for me I'm now retired and don't have to subject myself to the outside world except on market day when I go early in the morning, mid-week, to avoid people. If I were able to have my groceries delivered I'd never leave my nice, roomy, and QUIET home.
    PS. I like the new font and love the darker print.

  3. Maggie, actually, I am not having a bad day at all. That is why I was so puzzled by my own reaction to this! I last reacted like that to the outside world after I was released from hospital in September 2010.

    Oh I am glad you like the changes I have made to my blog, Jill!
    The strange thing about this little incident is that I usually am of the opinion "The more, the merrier", and crodws leave me unfazed. So why was it different today? I really don't know!

  4. Cognitive overload. Your brain was unable to decide what was relevent and what could be fltered out. This is, so I understand it, how people on the autistic spectrum feel all the time.

    I like the new layout. I find it very relaxing to look at, all colourful there in my peripheral vision.

  5. So fängts an... ;-)

  6. Yes, too much all at once. A rush of activity and you lost your focus. But healthy you quickly adjusted and got on with your day. I have this problem when the phone rings. Sometimes I nearly jump straight up into the air, and sometimes I pick it up and sweetly say "Hello!"
    p.s. Absolutely no problem leaving comments now , must have been blogger.

  7. Yes, Perl, cognitive overload pretty much sums it up.
    Glad you like the new layout! It was the most fitting one for my library theme among the standard ones offered by blogger.

    Ja, 12, genau so fängt's an!

    Julie, of course it was blogger when leaving comments was a problem - nothing to do with the settings on my blog :-)
    What was so puzzling about the situation was that I usually do not lose my focus so easily. And I earn my money practically on the phone, therefore, it is a most welcome sound to hear it ring; during work hours because it means potentially business, and after work and on weekends it usually means a friend or family member, which is even more welcome.

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  9. I bet your little town does not usually offer so much sensory overload as you describe, that sounds more like a busy city street. There could be various reasons for it, all of them totally innocuous. Maybe your blood sugar was a bit low. I find that kind of thing happens occasionally to me if I haven't eaten for a while. It has also happened to me after being ill and.or kept inside for a few days, like after I had my kids and once when I injured my leg and couldn't go out. When I did get out, everything seemed to be happening at the same time in the way you describe.

    I don't think using the phone a lot has much to do with it. It's the physical thing of having lots of actual things happen at once, and having to respond physically.

    Human beings are not really designed for lots of abnormally fast moving things happening at once, although we learn to be pretty good at dealing with them most of the time. But just occasionally, it would be surprising if we were not thrown into momentary confusion. And so yes, it might be something to do with age, just a little bit, because it does get a bit harder to deal with sensory overload, like rough fairground rides, loud music in shops, etc. They just don't seem so exciting and fun in the way children and teenagers and even young adults find them.

  10. Jenny, my blood sugar level was alright as I had eaten a light lunch maybe 15 minutes before leaving the house. And there is quite some hustle and bustle on the streets in town centre on most working days around that time, so it wasn't really an unusual situation at all - which is why my reaction to it puzzled me all the more. Like I said, I probably simply had forgotten to switch mentally into crowd mode :-)
    As for loud music in shops - I so agree on that! I have left shops without buying, even though they had things I would have liked, because of the terrible music they were having blasting from the speakers. Another time, my mum and I complained to the girl behind the counter and she was so happy we did that - she said that now that customers had said something, she was allowed to turn it down; when she wanted to turn it down on her own initiative, her superiors had forbidden it, convinced that this was what customers wanted.

  11. Librarian,
    I think you're going nuts.
    You do not want to know how I would have reacted. I think it is possible that I might be on that autism spectrum that PerlNumquist mentioned above, and I am getting older at the same time. Life just keeps getting more interesting...

  12. Are you going nuts? No! 'Cos if you are so am I and I'm not. I can cope with crowds when I'm detached from them but when, for example, the children all start shouting for this and that at the same time and there are other conflicting things (like someone leaving a TV on!!!) then I react as you did on this occasion. I see that as a perfectly natural response to something which I find anathema. I suspect that however much you felt it wasn't affecting you at a rational level your sub-conscious found it anathema and rebelled.

  13. Indeed, Kay, it is getting more and more interesting and colourful, this life, doesn't it! And if going nuts is the price to pay for that, then so be it - a little nuttiness befits a Librarian, doesn't it? ;-)

    GB, my tolerance threshold towards children is, I'm afraid, unreasonably low. I very well remember my own childhood and know that it is, for instance, impossible for a kid to walk up and down stairs without running, or to tell someone something important without starting to get that high-pitched, excited voice that is so penetrating. But remembering it from my own days does not mean I like it when others do the same, and therefore, I admire anyone who, like my sister-in-law or my mother, work with children - and enjoy it!

  14. "Switch into crowd mode"

    That's what I do when I have to go shopping in England...I'm just not used to the noise, hustle and bustle anymore, so I brace myself before I go.

    Trust me, you're not going crackers.


  15. Mmmmm but I like crackers, SP! ;-)

  16. Yeah, I was having this discussion about London at the weekend. It seems that qutie a few people concurred with me that shopping there, or even just being there a few days, leaves one strangely exhausted. I think this must be down to the effort of constantly processing stimuli about scenery, crowds and individuals. Our Pliocene brains aren't really geared up for that since they evolved to live with generally about 150 to 300 individuals. I guess if you live in Lndon, you learn to zone out and let less information in.

  17. I guess you're right, Perl. Last time I was in London was 5 years ago, for 5 days, in occasion of my sister's 40th birthday. It was a great few days and we both enjoyed it very much, but we were quite knackered in the evenings and agreed that we would not want to live there (it is very different being on holiday somewhere or living and working there), unless we had piles of money and could afford enough living and breathing space. Not bloody likely!!