Friday, February 5, 2010

The Brown Snap - A Case Study

It can happen in the blink of an eye. You could be at the Browns, enjoying a tasty beverage in the beautiful backyard garden, amidst the geraniums and tulips, discussing puppy rubs and butterfly kisses, and then suddenly complete mayhem – monsoon-like. Clouds overhead, rain – no, hail – pouring down. Guests scrambling for cover, picnic napkins draping over heads, car keys clanging about. The sound of engines peeling away from the curb. There’s no time to think. Just get the hell out of there. Disappear. Make yourself ghostlike. Because you, my friend, have just experienced the wrath of the Brown Snap.

Studies have shown that there are no determinable causes to trigger the Brown Snap, or even where or how it originated. Some researchers have dubbed it as the eighth wonder of the world. But if one were to truly dissect its most recent occurrences – say within the last three decades, the data might be able to show how it erupts and consequently, give those who find themselves in the throws of its rage time to react or more aptly prepare against sustained damages.

My first memory of the Brown Snap happened around the age of six, although I would argue that I likely experienced several before then. I forget what I did to piss off my dad, to instigate the Brown Snap. Most likely something simple and kid-like. Pick one: throwing a tantrum, throwing food, throwing a curve ball. And I remember the quickness of it all, the shear fury in his eyes. He went from sweet loving, pony ride dad to crazed growling get-out-of-his-line-of-view dad. Since we had a no-hitting rule in our house, his outburst methods were limited. Although, he did find a way to inflict physical harm. Cut to the permanent finger bruises I still have on my upper arms or the invariable ringing in my ears from shaken-child syndrom.

What’s poignant about my father’s Snap is that it didn’t just happen when I was misbehaving. It also surfaced when I was beating him at certain “family fun” board games. One minute my little blue round ball head would be racing around the board to home base, the next minute it would be flying in mid air towards the ceiling fan. And just like that, as the dice lay on the floor next to the dog and the cards strewn about in chaos, the game was over.

Another solid case study is my brother, Turd. He somehow acquired the curse in spades – truly the worst I have ever seen. A couple of instances which are lacquered in my psyche bear repeating.

Turd and I were hiking up the Rubicon Peak trail in Tahoe about 10 years ago. It was a beautiful winter day, so we were forced to wear snowshoes. The trail happens to be a two star challenge. Something to get your lungs working, but standard and easily doable. About two-thirds of the way up, Turd, who happened to be packing a too few many el bees at the time, stopped, knelt over and snapped. When he arose from his vertical fetal position, he growled quietly, took off his snowshoes and hurled them into the fresh, unchartered snow. He then proceeded to berate me for taking him on what he coined as a “death march”. I wasn’t quite sure what Turd was going to do at this point – his snowshoes were 50 feet up the hill (a hell of an arm), which meant that he had to not only continue hiking up the mountain, but he had to do it in his non-waterproof Bay Area gravel Velcro hiking shoes – the ones you wear to Starbucks on Saturday mornings after an urban “hike”.

Sure, I offered to help, but this is futile. Those who have been recipients of the Brown Snap know that there is nothing you can do – you cannot offer assistance or solace or even words of encouragement. And you certainly can’t snap back. This will make the perp angrier and can elevate the Snap intensity.

Another Turd Snap incident occurred several years later on a trail up in Auburn, California. Like the previous Snap, this too arose during a beautiful day outdoors. It was spring. The air was clear and crisp. The birds were singing. The mountain bike trail on which I graciously took Turd was again, a two star challenge - a little up hill to make the downhill worth it. And the ride couldn’t have been more enjoyable.. until…

We were exactly 6 minutes from the car, and Turd stopped dead. He bent over his bike (oh, boy, I have seen this before), breathing a couple of hateful breaths – those breaths that should be traveling out the mouth, but end up coming out of the nose… similar to that of a Grizzly before he attacks.

And before I could run, Turd’s mountain bike was in the air and coming straight for my head. Luckily, I dodged and weaved to get out of the way as the blur of titanium and tires landed inches away from my feet. Like a trapped rabbit, I froze and waited for the rash of obscenities to be launched my way for taking Turd on another "death march".

“Well if you just hopped on a treadmill a couple of times during the week, these outings would be more enjoyable.. for you and for me.” This turned out to be the wrong thing to say and the Snap lasted twice as long as it would have otherwise.

One would think that my mother would have escaped this syndrome since she married into the family, and it appears as though the Snap originated on my father's side. This would certainly answer a lot of questions – that the Snap is hereditary, therefore more acceptable and perhaps manageable, but this is not the case.

One recent Brown Snap outbreak happened within the past year at a rare family gathering. Our cousins from Colorado were visiting – a once in a blue moon type of event (although I would prefer more frequently, but I understand fully why they stay away). Mother Turd was in the kitchen washing dishes and drying dishes and cleaning the floors with a toothbrush while simultaneously telling us that dinner was ready, but brother Turd for whatever reason, wasn’t ready to eat. Perhaps Junior Turd needed attending to. Mother Turd and Brother Turd found themselves nose to nose, sharing a few choice words about respect and timeliness and the next thing you know, two Snaps occurred simultaneously. Fortunately, the chances of that happening are rare, albeit horribly dangerous.

Being the peacemaker in the family, I took it upon myself to step into the middle of the dual Snap and try to conflict manage our way to the dinner table. I can’t recall verbatim what happened next, but I can tell you that Mother Turd stormed out of the kitchen, picked up a director’s chair (the canvas chairs that fold in two even when you are sitting in them) and heaved it towards the wall. Funny, this time it didn’t fold in two, and funny, this time it almost decapitated my step son. Due to his 5-day a week basketball conditioning, his reflexes were stellar, and he ducked. And the chair leg landed against the living room wall creating a hole the size of a light bulb right below an Ansel Adams print, which given my parents’ frugal taste was likely not an original.

There is a silver lining to this pandemic that yes, it will pass. But you need to wait it out. There’s no cure. You just need to be perfectly still and be completely compliant – even ignorant. Sometimes you must pretend that it never happened. Talking about it, dissecting it later will only lead to responses of denial, lack of control, answers like, "its in my blood, I can't help myself".

It’s troubling that science has come so far in certain areas, but has let us down in others. We are very close to finding a cure for AIDS, for Alzheimers, even several forms of cancer. But like the common cold, the Brown Snap doesn’t have a cure. And until we discover its origin and be able to answer some very simple questions, like, is it contagious? Is it a virus? A bacterial infection? Is it in our DNA? We will be no more closer to a cure.

And until that happens, I go about my days a little on edge.

1 comment:

  1. I think if you're around it enough, you can kind of sense it coming on. Like animals before an're instincts are telling you something bad is about to happen. Just gotta trust your instincts.

    It's too bad walls and DIY projects don't have those instincts. They're the most common victim of a Brown Snap.