I pity Sigmund Freud, because he didn’t have Facebook. I feel bad for Karl Jung, and Carl Stumpf, and those other fathers of modern psychology too. How were they able to drag this discipline out of its infancy without the armada of diagnostic tools that’s recently appeared from over the horizon of social media? I refer to evaluations such as:

15 Unmistakable, Outrageously Secret Signs You’re an Extrovert
23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert
23 Signs You’re Secretly a Narcissist Masquerading as a Sensitive Introvert
10 Ways to Tell if You’re Confident – or Arrogant
5 Ways To Know You’re Watching a Spielberg Movie

Those represent just a tiny fragment of the avalanche of mental health/personality syndrome quizzes we are enjoying.

I can’t help tossing my pebble into the landslide. I found a gap in the flow of helpful questionnaires, and I’ve applied my profound lack of expertise to the challenge if filling it. I present “Nine Ways To Tell If You’re a Raccoon.”

Just answer the questions using the five-point scale below. Be honest. This thing doesn’t work if you aren’t honest, and then you walk around for the rest of your life in doubt about whether you’re a raccoon. Once you’ve finished, add up your points and read your results!

The Five-Point Scale
5 – This is me. It describes me perfectly.
4 – This sort of describes me. Maybe when I feel nostalgic or I’ve been drinking.
3 – Eh. Maybe this describes me, maybe it doesn’t. Is Walking Dead on?
2 – This doesn’t describe me too well. It might once in a while, like on Halloween.
1 – This isn’t me. You’re talking about a squirrel, or a goat or something.

The Questions

1. ___ I can always find my way back to a place with good food, such as Fuzzy’s Tacos or the garbage can in your garage.

2. ___ I enjoy social activities like tormenting your cat until it cowers behind the air conditioner in a neurotic stupor.

3. ___ When the weather is cold, I like to snuggle down into a blanket made from the insulation under your Jacuzzi.

4. ___ If you make your garden unpleasant by blasting talk radio all night, I’ll just chew through the screen on your utility room window and pee on your clothes.

5. ___ I like the night life. I like to boogie.

6. ___ I think food always tastes better when someone gives it to me for free. That includes birdseed in a feeder hanging from a greased pole sprayed with Tabasco sauce and adorned with peppermint-soaked cotton balls stuffed into pantyhose. That also includes French fries on an unattended plate.

7. ___ I’m secretly laughing at everyone around me.

8. ___ I find ornamental ponds so compelling. I especially love those goldfish that swim around in them.

9. ___ Even though I have opposable thumbs, I rarely find an opportunity to poke some idiot in the eye with a stick.

Now let’s see how you scored!

Under 20: Sorry, you’re not even a good simulation of a raccoon, and you’re probably not too cute, either. Move to Cuba (where raccoons are extinct).

21-35: You have strong raccoon tendencies, which you can cultivate with some effort. Chew your way into the attic a few times, and wash your chicken wings in the gutter before you eat them. There’s hope for you.

Over 35: Hooray! You are among nature’s most insidiously destructive cute animals! Let’s go tear some shit up and eat garbage!

Don’t feel bad if you aren’t a raccoon. We all have our place in the magnificent tapestry that is existence, and although you suck you might be lucky enough for a raccoon to eat part of your body after you die.

Yeah, you know that you wish you were washing cockroaches in your neighbor’s pool.

Photo by Svdmolen
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

I like almost everybody. That’s why I hate to be around people.

I don’t mean that I like everything about everybody. That’s some kind of psychiatric illness, and I’ve already got all of those I need. And there are a few people I’d just like to stab a lot and be done with them. But I can find something to like about almost everyone, even if I just appreciate seeing my own folly in them. For example, at midnight when I’m eating my pancakes at I-HOP, maybe a guy staggers in drunk, knocks over the trash can, screams an apology at the cash register, and passes out in the booth behind me, mumbling in his sleep about some girl named Christie. I think, Yeah, I remember doing that. Hang tough, brother.

So if I like people, why don’t I want to be around them? It’s just exhausting, that’s why. Dinner with a couple of friends is pretty easy, but big herds of people wear me out. First, I’m deaf in my right ear and too vain to get a hearing aid, so I spend a lot of time trying to guess what people are saying. I’m not a good guesser, so my guesses are often a lot more colorful than what was actually said. Someone might say, “Next Saturday is the Jam and Jelly Festival,” and I’d probably guess something like, “Next Saturday is the Fast of Sweaty Genitals.” When I respond to that person, my statement will seem logical to me, but to the 20 people around me at the Chuck E. Cheese birthday party it may seem eccentric.

Second, even when I understand what people say, my immediate response tends disrupt the conversation because I say weird things. I know that will shock my friends. For example, a person may say, “My neighbor’s tree is growing over my backyard. It’s getting to be a problem.”

Then I might say, “You have sort of a Sudetenland problem. You have to hold the line with these guys, or before you know it they’re on your patio, and then they’re dive bombing your garage, and then they’re sitting around the pool with all the cute French girls drinking your wine and invading the shit out of Russia. Then you’ll have to bomb them into rubble, and then you’ll have to rebuild their house and station troops there for 50 years. So just cut the damn thing down in the middle of the night and blame it on raccoons.”

At that point everyone stops and looks at me for five or ten seconds. They’re all really uncomfortable, and then they go back to eating and drinking and talking about assassinating the president of their homeowner’s association as if I’d never spoken. All right, I just made up the assassination part, but that emphasizes the problem.

That sucks. I don’t want all those people to be uncomfortable. After all, I like them. So I try to instead say something like, “Bummer. Have you asked them to trim it? Maybe bring them a pie?” That’s an okay response, but the effort required to not talk about the Sudetenland and to instead talk about pie is fatiguing. When I come home I’m exhausted, and I have to hibernate in my cave for a few hours to recharge.

This causes problems for my wife. She likes people, too. At least she likes me, which proves she’s forgiving enough to like just about anybody. But she loves being around people. It charges her up. I suspect it’s because she’s not expending much energy to stop herself from saying whatever she’s thinking, because she isn’t thinking about the damned Sudetenland. That must be nice. But she wants to go to every let’s-drink-wine party and jam and jelly festival that comes along, and I only want to go to the birthdays of my less popular friends, attended by three guests and a blind dog. After 20 years of this she’s comfortable going to big parties by herself, which I appreciate. But it can still be awkward when she walks out of the house looking like a kid who expected a bicycle and instead got a scratchy wool hat with pom-poms and pink bunnies crucified all over it.

I do better when I have a job. When I can cut slices of cake, or hand out name tags, or calculate way too big a tip, I’m a lot happier. I don’t have to sit there guessing what people are saying. I don’t have to hold back from explaining the parallels between the shell casing ejection mechanism in automatic rifles and my dinner partner’s hemorrhoid problem.

Alas, not many social invitations specify a job. “Please join Sherri and Bob at their Baby Shower to help them celebrate the joyous upcoming birth of their daughter. You’ll be washing the dishes. Bring gloves.” That sort of invitation is sadly uncommon. So, if I don’t show up at your birthday party, please don’t be offended. It’s only because I like you.

What about you? Do you avoid public gatherings like you’d avoid syphilis, or do you hit every party as long as the guests are conscious and there’s at least one dirty glass to drink from?

The last party I went to felt kind of like this.

Photo by Ant Mulligan, from Mala Mala Game Reserve.