Catcher in the Rye 2 1.4

By Asa Montreaux 

‘And really Holden, do you have a problem with the way everyone else behaves?’

‘The way everyone else behaves, you mean like you feel everyone has one way of behaving?’

‘Well of course. Everyone except for the mentally ill. Like you, Holden. And criminals. There is a proper way to behave and everyone follows the rules.’

‘Well I get like decorum.’

‘No, Holden. A way to act all of the time. Your personality is, I must say, not right.’

‘What do you mean? Everyone’s allowed to have their own personality?’

‘What made you think that Holden? Everyone must have a personality that is agreeable to everyone else. There is the one ideal personality.’

‘I think I might have the wrong office.’

‘Don’t go anywhere Holden.’

‘Okay. So there are right behaviors in every situation?’

‘Of course. There are. It’s while you are here that you have to learn them.’

‘But how?’

‘Well,’ he took off his glasses, like he was a very sensitive and quietly intelligent man. ‘I suggest you watch the staff. Observe how they behave. And act exactly how they act. And if they are not around, then observe one of patients that are not as sick as… as yourself. And act like them. That would be what I would do, Holden, if I were you.’

‘And should I act like you?’

‘Well Holden, I’ve given you several people to act like, that should be enough. But, failing that, I suppose you could act like me. Do you think you could handle that?’

‘Are you this great personality, I thought all personalities are the same.’

‘No I am not. And they are all exactly the same. Consider me a perfect exemplar of the exactly correct behaviors.’ 

‘I see. Well, alright mister high and mighty. All that try that a little. And the other thing you said. About the staff.’ I would have told him anything to get out of that place.

‘You’ll try observing the staff, and behaving as they do?’

‘Of course. I just said I would.’

‘Good. I just wanted to be clear.’

‘Yea. We are clear.’

‘It’s funny. I wasn’t aware there was a correct way to behave.’

‘Oh yes, why, of course there is. Etiquette has long been developed, and it is meant to make society flow in the most harmonious way possible, as if it were controlled by God himself. It is, you know.’

‘Oh, for sure. Though I wonder if you’ve heard of the decay of morals?’

‘That is not true. They are continually progressing towards absolute perfection. People like yourself only need to fall in line.’

‘If there so perfect why hasn’t it occurred to me follow them exactly before?’

‘People like yourself are not seeing things properly. You all are not well. Allow me to heal you.’

‘Well okay. I thought that was what we were already doing here.’ 

‘No, we are still in the process of healing you. There was more to, ah, address, you see.’

‘I do sorta see what you’re saying. How many more of these points do you think there will be, doc?’

‘Not that many. That was the major one. Perhaps it was the last one, though it will take some time for you to adjust.’

‘Well, of course. In time I will fall in line.’

‘Don’t think of it as falling in line, think of it as becoming a functional person again. Someone as sick as yourself, it should be seen as a gift. People rarely recover.’

‘So you think I’m someone that will likely recover? I really think I could get better, you know and things.’

‘Yes, Holden, I am very good at what I do. You are lucky. With me, you could get a lot better. You could become all the way better, perhaps. It is rare that we see this in my field, but I think you have the chance to really, well, you quite have the chance to really recover.’

‘Thanks, doc. Well here the part we are say are we done here. You know, it’s been great and all.’

‘Yes, Holden. We are done now.’

‘Alright. Thank you, then.’

‘Bye, Holden.’

‘See, you’  


The next day I decided I ought to put the doc’s theory to test. Did I believe in it, I hadn’t at all. But that didn’t mean that it wasn’t a good way to get on his good side. It wouldn’t be so hard to pretend a few of these behaviors had rubbed off on me. The staff were not going to be so difficult to act like.

So while I sitting around having a coffee in the late morning, I started observing some of the behaviors of the nurses around. They actually had an air of indifference, so I suppose I was not going to copy that. I would ignore that, and pretend I hadn’t notice. The thing was, they said the same thing to everybody in the hospital. Hi, how are you doing? And how are you feeling, today? Any problems with the medication? I think they were supposed to smile. Though they almost never did. It seemed like more than once they let out a faint grimace. Though there behaviors were quite constrained, and that was something to be observed. They weren’t necessarily controlled, they were minimal, well, to be honest, even lazy. But I got it, they didn’t like fidgeting and things. Everything needed to be perfectly docile. I suppose that’s why so much venom seeped through all of their little behaviors. 

They never moved quickly, and they took many breaks. And they only chatted with each other, and they really complained to each other. So that was behavior I didn’t need to copy as well. As the day went along I noticed they did all of their work indifference, but they were really took pride in how everything had become very routine for them. So doing things with efficiency, and meanwhile taking your time. I wasn’t sure how well this was going. I decided I might observe some of the other staff, and see what they did differently than these nurses. As there might be aspects of their behavior that, through routine, also varies from the one standard of behavior. As these nurses were diffidently a little unhappy.

The cafeteria workers seemed to do things more efficiency, so that was a great trait to learn to copy. Though at the end of the day, they seemed sadder, and maybe a lot madder at what their position required. The administration staff answered the phone with disdain, though they even more so said the same things time after time. Maybe this life thing was like a job. I suddenly realized I had a position as the nicest person in the world.

I figured I’d try out some of these behaviors amongst the other people in the hospital. When I tried it on the nurses, things didn’t go quite as well as I wanted. They seemed almost able to tell, what I was trying out on them. It really was okay, though if you judged by their reaction, you might have thought it was an indignation to someone out there, maybe another nurse they knew. I tried asking them questions, about things around the building, and when they answered, eventually, I’d reply thank you like they hadn’t done anything wrong at all. When they asked me how I was feeling, how was I reacting to my medications, I would answer with a bit of technical knowledge, as if I were another one of the nurses, and I suppose it didn’t annoy them, not as much as my random inquiries into the things going on around the building. They really only looked at me a little strange, wondering what had me so excited, or whatever. Though, when they did answer there was still quite a bit of that usual disdain, for their work, for all the people around considering them only someone doing their job, one they really probably don’t love anymore. Glenda said she hated the job after a year, and most of the other staff agreed. She was the nurse I found the most interesting. I suppose I didn’t have a favorite.

And then I tried it on some of the patients. They weren’t quite as bothered by my questions. I asked old Howard, how his porridge was.

‘It’s alright,’ he answered.

‘Good,’ I answered. Maybe that was too hospital worker like, and not quite universal enough. Next I tried, ‘Would you recommend the porridge to me?’

‘No,’ he said. ‘I would not.’

‘Oh, well alright,’ I replied.

‘Good day to you,’ I said.

He only replied with a bit of a ‘grumph.’ I though I’d try again.

‘Good day, Howard.’

Finally, he answered, ‘Good day, Holden.’

‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘And keep in mind I am only sitting next to you.’

‘I was aware, Holden.’

‘Of course, I said. Of course.’

Overall, they hadn’t really worked. They sort of had. I think I learned more about how to behave in the one way, if one could learn such a thing, than I had previously thought I would. I figured I wouldn’t learn anything. So I figured I could tell the doctor it went really well, and that I was really getting it, and that would be get me on the fast track out of this place.

People weren’t really acting in just one way, so I really still disagreed with the doctor. Though there definitely was conformity that people were fitting into. I had never thought of conformity as a good thing, or a right thing. And they’d say like it will help if everyone behaves and also does the same thing so things run smoothly. Really I felt like that was not very good. It was better to be original. But maybe some people didn’t know how to be original. The only thing I felt differently now, is that sometimes you had to be not to so original, and just fit in. Maybe in a way, that would cause less ruckus. Then no one will be saying hey why are you being so original when we’re all just acting the same. Originality was to be cherished, but maybe you shouldn’t stick it in people’s faces. Oh, they don’t like to hear there not as good as you. And whatever else.


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