Sunday, June 19, 2016

Care and Handling of Your New Jonny Friggin' Panic

Some facts about your host, Jonny friggin' Panic:

#1) I am extremely socially awkward and anxious. I have a long history of near-total social isolation since youth, and so have little practice dealing with people. I do have a catalog of stock commentary and responses I've built up over years of watching people interact, but I've had to discard a lot of it due to the material in question being disrespectful (sexist, racist, classist, etc) or requiring more familiarity than I have. Therefore, my library of stock interactions is limited, and, if we don't find common ground before I reach the end of it, I'll either fall silent or start to word salad.

#2) I am constantly anxious about my size. While I am not actually all that large (6'2", 235lbs, size 14 feet), I always feel rather gargantuan. On a related note, I also feel like I'm going to break everything, which makes me handle everything... including other people... very gingerly, with great hesitation. On the rare occasion that I do these things, I hug awkwardly and my back rubs have been described as awkward and uncomfortable. I'll hug if someone hugs me (although I actively try to not crush them), but I no longer try to do back or neck rubs if asked.

#3) I have a lot of hand anxiety. I have trouble having anything on my hands: gloves, rings, even lotion. I'm a compulsive hand-washer and, while I can function with something on my hands for a while, eventually I'll need to go wash them even if there's no actual reason to. On a related note, I also tend to use paper towels or napkins to handle public bathroom facilities and doorknobs, unless I make a concentrated effort, I tend to also wash or rinse my face when I wash my hands, and I dislike shaking hands... I much prefer a fist bump. Hugs and handshakes are usually reserved for those people I'm extremely comfortable around, or when I don't want to offend someone who offers one.

This stems from me learning, when I was a janitor for US Steel back in '94, that roughly 40% of Americans say they don't wash their hands after using the bathroom. Since then, the compulsion has just grown.

#4) I often forget a key word mid-sentence. Due to this, I've developed a tendency to do something I call "dartboarding," which is citing words that mean or imply something similar to the word I'm looking for from several angles. Very often (because this is the kind of company I generally keep), someone in the conversation will then be able to infer and supply the word I'm looking for, or I will rediscover it myself, and I can complete my sentence.

This happens because, in my head, that precise word is necessary to convey my point accurately, so it's difficult for me to simply approximate it and move on. I have learned to do so under some circumstances and with certain understanding company, but I still get hung up dartboarding rather often, and so can seem to communicate slowly because I'm attempting to communicate precisely. Precise communication is, to me, art, and I exult every time I succeed.

The real downside is that this means I can be steamrolled out of a conversation by people who are willing and/or able to communicate more quickly and with less hesitation, especially in a group setting. This is one reason why I socialize carefully, and generally with people who understand that, while I am not necessarily stupid, I can communicate slowly for the sake of precision.

#5) I spend a lot of my processing time trying to anticipate future conversations. This lends me a distracted air, sometimes, as I actively try to imagine and cope with possible upcoming conversations and select a library of possible responses for each point as it arises while still around other people. It can also result in me seeming to talk to myself when I think I'm alone as I try to enact similar scenarios and test verbal and behavioral responses I've seen normal people use, to see if I can make them appear natural. Yes, I practice pretending to appear like I know what I'm doing and saying. Is it successful? Occasionally, but almost never when I anticipate needing it.

#6) I'm a nailbiter. Not just nails, I nervously gnaw on my hands; any oddity tends to be game. This is an extension of the above hand anxiety and handwashing compulsion, because that basically includes callouses and prominent cuticles. I do know it's a bad habit, and it sets back my attempting to learn to play guitar, but nothing I've tried stops me or, really, even slows me down much. My oral hygiene is very good, but that's little excuse for the human mouth, so if you ever need a real reason to give me a fist bump instead of shaking my hand... there you are!

#7) I am in constant pain. If I am awake, I am in pain. There is no actual pain, though... the way the doctor described it is that my brain thinks it's getting pain signals the body isn't actually sending. This means normal painkillers don't help. It's generally a full-body pain that feels mostly musculoskeletal, and that I can best compare to burning or overheating, although I get occasional stabs in specific spots seemingly at random... sometimes every hour or two, sometimes several times in an hour.

However, I usually compare it to snow on an old television; annoying at first, but quickly pushed to the back of the mind. Most days, I come in around a 2 or so on a pain scale, which I can almost completely ignore except for the pokes. Occasionally, I'll hit a 3 day and it's irksome, but I'm still reasonably functional and friendly. Very rarely, I'll hit a 4 or 5 and I have to concentrate to do something as basic as walking, binocular vision or holding a cup. These are the days I'm likely to stagger or fall, drop a glass, miss a stair step or the like.

Oddly, actual physical fatigue takes the edge off this phenomenon. I really should go to the gym more.

#8) I don't sleep normally. I commonly get about 4-5 hours of sleep nowadays, and then just wake up. The pain regulates my sleep schedule; I can't sleep till I'm too worn out to stay awake, and I can't continue to sleep once I'm rested enough to come to the surface and feel the pain again. Occasionally, though... about two to four times a month... I'll crash and sleep for 12-15 hours, and then start the process over again. The pain usually tends to reset when I sleep.

I've been dealing with this since I was 12; I'm sure it sounds awful, but I'm actually rather used to it now. It does make a reliable schedule difficult to pin down, though, so I'm grateful for the lifestyle I have right now for its flexibility, even if the pay and benefits are abysmal. Indeed, the real drawback is more that I can't nap reliably... very often, I'll go to take a nap and end up sleeping normally, even through alarms and phone calls, but sometimes I get wiped out suddenly, nap wherever I am for a half hour or maybe a couple hours, and be back on my feet, revitalized.

#9) Related to the above, my zombie-mode skills are superhuman! I get greedy for sleep once I am asleep, so, if my body doesn't feel satiated, I'll end up sleeping through phone calls and klaxon alarms, and can even go so far as to have phone conversations or even stagger into the other room and solve a puzzle to shut off an alarm without ever actually waking up!

Be excellent to each other!
Jonny friggin' Panic


  1. Is an aardvark flange related to the samoflange from Thundercats?

    1. Aardvark flanging is a method of shaping a protruding rim on metal (generally... attempts to perform the process on flesh have been, as yet, gooey and largely unsuccessful) by launching aardvarks at the work-in-progress from somewhere between mountaintop height and near-Earth orbit. The result is usually a well-shaped flange in the material with little effort (albeit significant expenditure), and the aardvarks usually seem little more than momentarily dazed in the process.


      Forgot the link sorry