Friday, February 15, 2013

Phenology: Flowers, Raccoons, Bacteria, Humans

Yesterday's phenology post needs an update. Crocuses are continuing to pop up around the Cat Sanctuary. So are some little four-petalled pale blue flowers for which I don't see an exact match in Peterson's Field Guide--they look a bit like miniature violets, but they're not any of the species we call violets, and they look a bit like extremely short speedwells, but they're not any of the speedwells illustrated in the book...

Why was Rackety Coon trying to tear apart my cellar, the night before last? Well, he (or she) wasn't technically in the cellar so much as in the crawl space under my bedroom. Some of the racket that kept me up all night came from dogs. Shouting "Go home, dog" was one of the things I did during that long, long night. So hunters were probably chasing Rackety Coon, and instead of climbing to the top of a tall tree like a normal raccoon, apparently he thought he'd be safer if he could crawl inside a house. That's not a typical raccoon instinct. Makes me wonder whether Rackety grew up around humans, possibly in a suburb, and had learned to hide in a crawl space as a young kit. Maybe he'd been able to fit between the joists under someone else's floor when he was smaller. Anyway, last night I heard no dogs and no crazed raccoon behavior.

So I got a good night's sleep. Bacteria are also phenology. Despite the chance to make up for lost sleep I still feel bleary-eyed. I've been exposed to a trivial bacterial infection; when I'm not thinking about other things but just tuned in to my body I can feel it.

One never knows all that's going on when other people's behavior surprises one. The Scott County Telephone Co-op has maintained three computer centers. In Duffield and Yuma nobody's ever said anything about the fact that, when signing a list that's visible to the public, I would sign "P. King" if "Priscilla King" were my real name. In Nickelsville the manager goes into a swivet. Everybody else puts their full name on display, you're only making yourself seem suspicious, etc. etc. Actually the Consumer Reports article that explained exactly why it's dangerous ever to display your full name, why everyone should always sign public sign-in sheets in the "P. King" style, did mention that the danger is greater in affluent areas. Part of the problem is that many Americans don't realize they live in affluent areas. Nickelsville is not Beverly Hills but to most of the world it'd look pretty affluent.

However, observation of this individual over time leads to an inevitable conclusion. She's a defensive introvert--not self-accepting, still trying to pass as an extrovert. She's not comfortable with new people, and uses dominance displays to push new people back. Which is unfortunate. I'm sensitive to fellow introverts and good at fitting into the comfort zones of shy and wary people...unless they use dominance displays, because I've learned that backing down in the face of a dominance display tends to lead to further hostilities.

Humans who go to public elementary school, like raccoons who live in suburbs, adapt to an unnatural environment in abnormal, dysfunctional ways.

During my elementary school years I wanted to be a pacifist. Well, actually I just wanted to be left alone. I heard a lot of well-meant theoretical talk about how if you leave people alone, ignore them, don't fight back, they'll stop picking on you. Sometimes this is true, and then there are the people with extroversion. (I like saying it in that prissy p.c. way. "People with extroversion." Doesn't that make it sound ever so much more like a dreaded disease than just saying "extroverts"?) Sufferers from severe extroversion feel that they need other people's attention to validate that they're still alive. That was what my first school enemy had to teach me. Nobody noticeably liked him--I loathed him--and he didn't seem to want to be liked, but if you hit, kicked, or shoved him first he wouldn't hit, kick, or shove you, and if you failed to do those things he would attack you. In theory the idea of withholding attention from people like that is excellent, if you can prevent them from physically escalating their sick demands for attention. In practice, if you want to get on with your life, you learn to get in the first punch, make it count, and leave the pest behind you.

According to so-called "gender studies," women are supposed to be good at defusing violence by "tending and befriending" and nurturing and self-deprecating and so on. Not necessarily. I was a bit of a "Daddy's Girl," for the same reason my mother was--both of our mothers worked when they weren't too ill--and my father was a drill sergeant. I'm not good at the sweetly-sweet super-"feminine" style of communication Deborah Tannen erroneously imagines all women learn; I've never been able to take it seriously, and certainly don't find it charming.

So when people seem uncomfortable with me, there's this combination of two separate things that seem to be operating together. I believe in winning through intimidation when dealing with stray animals, with burglars, or with bullies. I don't normally want to intimidate anybody; nor, given the fact that practically everyone else in my family is bigger than I am, do I see myself as intimidating--but I am my father's daughter.

I was not brought up to feel or express the kind of fearful view of life I've seen this woman displaying practically every time I've watched and listened to her. "I won't come to work if it snows! I can't drive across that bridge!" Nobody ought to have to cross that bridge if there's ice or snow on the road, that's a simple fact, but what's with the emotion? "If you're sick, don't come to the computer center!" More emotion. So I handed her the link to the blog on which I mentioned yesterday that I'm fighting the kind of strep infection normal adults don't even notice unless we've received repeated wet kisses from infected people, or kittens, and certainly don't use as an excuse to miss work...and yesterday as I left the building she said, with more emotion, "Well I probably won't come in tomorrow! I don't feel well!"

So if there's nothing good on this web site, today, you'll know why. I feel well enough to ride the bus to Nickelsville, but I'm not going to be stupid and keep walking around in the chilly wind, hauling the laptop in and out of Gate City.

Some middle-aged people who seem healthy are in fact using immunosuppressant medication for conditions like lupus and arthritis. I don't know whether the manager of the Nickelsville computer center is one of them. If she is, she has a valid reason to worry about a silly little strep infection.

Some people carry the idea of quarantine to extremes for a reason. Once, years ago, a client came to the office with "a summer cold," one of those mild infections only the Highly Sensory-Perceptive notice ourselves having. She breathed on me. Two days later I had that fighting-the-flu feeling, and might have sneezed a couple of times. I breathed on my husband. Two days later he noticed that fighting-the-flu feeling, but he went to a job where he had to be around a sick child. And next week that child was in a coma with staphylococcal pneumonia; she came out of it but I don't recall hearing that she ever was able to go back to school. This was a traumatic experience for all three of the healthy adults involved...but there comes a time when you have to say that any active healthy person is an immune carrier of a lot of infectious agents that could potentially kill an AIDS patient, and the only reasonable solution is for the immune-deficient to avoid the rest of us.

But I suspect the manager of the computer center is just uncomfortable with having to spend, what is it, twelve more afternoons with someone who's not part of her carefully limited comfort zone. And she needs to get over it. I like fellow introverts. I'd like to be part of her comfort zone. I was happier working in the Yuma computer center--calmer staff and also only seven miles from home--but it occurred to me last night that I may have been sent to Nickelsville for a reason.