Fathers Can Be a Pain in the Ass

I’m going to talk a little bit about fathers. Mothers are important too, but I’m a guy and I can talk about mothers another day. Because it’s a touchy subject, I’m going to begin with a Men in Black (MIB) joke, like I always do when I’m being defensive. There’s this MIB 3 scene in which Agent K and Agent J have this exchange:

Agent K: I used to play a game with my dad, what would you have for your last meal. You could do worse than this (explanation for this: they’re sitting in a restaurant and an eyeball in Agent K’s soup swivels around and stares at him).

Agent J: Oh, okay, I used to play a game with my dad called catch. Except I would throw the ball and it would just hit the wall, cause—he wasn’t there.

Agent K: Don’t bad mouth your old man.

Agent J: I’m not bad mouthing him, I just didn’t really know him.

Agent K: That’s not right.

Agent J: You’re damn right, it’s not right. A little boy needs a father.

On one level, this scene is just another way of showing the father/son, teacher/student, mentor/mentee relationship Agents K and J had with each other. By extension, their interaction says something about what happens in similar real-life relationships—in the shallow, cliché ways that movies always do.

I sometimes think about the relationship I had with learners when I was a teaching consultation-liaison (C-L) psychiatry. Often, I say to myself that I never had a mentor and I was never a mentor.

That’s not true. Although I never had a mentor who was formally assigned to me, there was more than one faculty member in the psychiatry department with whom I had an informal mentor/mentee relationship. And I was an informal mentor to at least a few trainees.

However, I was middle-aged by the time I entered medical school, which probably set the stage for awkward relationships with my fellow students and some teachers, partly because I was either the same age as or older than them.

That doesn’t mean I was wiser than them. It just means that I was conflicted about them. Later, in residency, I learned about transference and countertransference. In fact, I focused on the psychodynamic as well as the medical issues in teaching trainees. In the first C-L manual I wrote (the forerunner to the book I and my co-editor published later), I devoted a large section to psychodynamic factors relevant to doctor-patient relationships.

So, if you’re wondering when I’m going to start bad-mouthing my old man, you can stop wondering. I’m not going there. He wasn’t a hero, like Agent J’s father was (you need to see the movie to get this angle).

My dad was funny. I don’t think I got my own sense of humor from him, but it makes sense why I would have one—and just because “he wasn’t there” doesn’t explain everything. It never does.

Fathers can be a pain in the ass, not just because of dad jokes. Fathers can be a pain in the brain, too. Ask anybody who was a latchkey kid; I was one of those. We really don’t belong to any specific generation.

We also can’t just up and time travel like Agent J and find out about the father we never really knew. Mostly, it’s just bits and pieces, like a matchbook with a name and address from somebody on your paper route. The path it can lead to doesn’t always mean you find out that “Your daddy was a hero,” like a young Agent K tells young James (who becomes Agent J in the future) after he neuralyzes him to shield him from the hard truth about his father.

You’ll have to watch the movie to get that one.

The Kindness of Strangers in a Parking Lot

This is a post about how easy it is to forget where you parked your car in a big parking lot, say at the grocery store, and ways to help prevent it. This sometimes attracts the kindness of strangers, which is puzzling because it’s not very clear how helpful they can be in this situation.

But you want to say more than something like, “Oh, that’s too bad, hope you find it before the ice cream melts.”

The other day, Sena forgot where she parked the car at the grocery store. The circumstances were a little unusual. She parked near one entrance to the store and after getting the groceries, left from an entrance on the other side of the store way across the parking lot. The landmarks were all different.

This is how things started: she ran into a guy with his little boy. The guy actually couldn’t remember where he parked his car and was trying to use his car key fob remote to locate it. This is actually pretty common nowadays. I remember leaving the eye clinic a few months ago and hearing a small symphony of beeps from a number of people using their key fob remotes this way trying to find their cars in the large parking garage.

Sena was sympathetic to the guy, but it was understandably really difficult to help him. He eventually found his car using the key fob trick.

Then the situations were reversed. Sena had trouble finding our car. She was roaming about the parking lot, pushing the grocery cart, obviously looking lost. This attracted 4 different persons (including the first guy she met) who were sympathetic and offered advice—mostly on how to use a key fob to locate the car by pressing one of the buttons (probably the lock/unlock although there might be a panic button). They demonstrated it by pressing the key fob button while standing right next to their cars. They suggested holding it far above your head.

This trick usually works best when you’re fairly close to the car because the key fob remote is a transmitter which uses low-power signals. The operating range may sometimes be limited. Sena was probably pretty far away from our car. She actually began to suspect our car had been stolen. She eventually found it by trial and error.

This episode resulted in attracting a number of people who were kind to her. That’ s encouraging since it looks like kindness is often in short supply. On the other hand, it’s not always good to be alone in a large unfamiliar parking lot, perhaps at night, looking lost and surrounded by strangers.

We can’t remember having this problem years ago before the era of keyless fob remotes, which I read was in the mid-1990s. And we didn’t have them until years after that. I guess we were just more careful about noting landmarks in large parking lots.

There are few things to do in order to avoid forgetting where you park.

You can try to find your car using your key fob remote, although the effective range of the signal might be too short to trigger the horn or the lights. And it might not work if the fob remote battery power is low. And if you’re surrounded by a lot of other people hunting for their cars using the same method, you might have a little trouble discriminating which beep is yours. This could become a YouTube meme, especially with different beep tones (like the 5 tones in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”).

You can pick a landmark which will make it easier to remember where your car is. Many parking lots have large signs with numbers and letters which can help you.

You can take a picture of your car’s location using your cell phone, including more permanent landmarks than just the other cars adjacent to it—which can be driven off by their owners.

You can also use a cell phone with Google Maps or another geolocation app to help guide you back to your car. Just about all smartphones have this feature. You can consult the owner’s manual for instructions for flip phones, some of which have this function. I don’t think car owners’ manuals typically have instructions for how to use the key fob remotes to find your car. At least ours doesn’t.

Good luck.

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