Maladjusted Techies Gone Wild
By Andrew Dertian
“Who would like to start?” Michael says as he taps his pencil on his notepad.
Alexandra reaches into her purse, grabs a journal and holds it triumphantly into the air and exclaims, “I will start.”
I recognize my journal and sink into my chair. The journal contains an idea I once had for a work of satire, maybe for the theatre, perhaps the big screen. I was sure my Orwellian piece would go further than my now estranged wife using it against me in couple's therapy.
She shows the cover to Michael, our therapist, and I cringe. What must he be thinking as he reads, “The Butt Sniffer.” written in black marker.
“Nick told me,” she says in a voice that sounded rehearsed, “I don’t know, what’s it’s been now, for close to a year, huh, Nick? That he was going to stop paying his credit cards go so he can work on his writing, to follow his dreams, to show our kids what it means to sacrifice for… what did you call it Nick? A higher vision? What was it Nick? That without paying your credit card bills you would have more time to write?”
“Michael, can we start with a feeling check in?” I say. “Maybe we can all begin with "I" statements. Here’s mine: I feel violated… give me my fucking journal.” I spring from my chair and snatch it out of her hands.
“See Michael, see this is Nick. It’s scary.”
“You bring my journal into therapy!”
“Alright, alright, everybody, let's calm down. Let’s regroup.”
“She thinks this notebook is some kind of indictment on my character. Why don’t we read it out loud, so we can all be the judge –“
“I don’t – “ Michael says.
“No.” I say, interrupting him. “Thank you, Michael but no. This is client-driven therapy and I will read my journal like Alexandra wants.”
Alexandra folds her arms and looks at me like I am filth.
I begin with my Acknowledgement Page. Thank you and fuck you very much to Care Credit - you predatory-lending, high interest bastards so I could get my teeth fixed. Fuck you and Thank you Costco Card for all the diapers and baby wipes. Thank-you Visa Platinum and any creditor I forgot. Debt is an illusion and means nothing to me. I shall not pay thee.
Dedication Page. I dedicate this work to my children. Kids, it is more important to be creative than kill yourself working to pay off credit card debt.
I clear my throat and begin with both pride and trepidation.
There was this... this creature... this girl, this woman running around with a child having fun, laughing, swinging, playing. I knew right away she wasn’t the mother because what mom at Lafayette Park in Low Pac Heights acts so spontaneous, free and joyful? To be fair, what dad does? And she had these--I don’t know what they were--some kind of workout pants or something. But they outlined a young, round healthy backside and you could almost, well you could damn near see her ass through her pants.
I witnessed three dads in the span of a half an hour stumble over to where she was and strike up a conversation with her. Yeah, whatever, not me. She said something to my Angela. And then to me. I remained (seemingly) aloof. We left.
That night I thought about that ass and prayed. I prayed earnestly to Jesus. Not to the evangelical Christian Jesus but to the mystical Jesus who whispered into the ears of a Jewish, atheistic Professor of Medical Psychology. That persistent, nail-biting Jesus whispered into the good doctor’s ears for a period of over seven years in iambic pentameter until the metaphysical masterpiece A Course in Miracles was completed. Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God is what Jesus said. Meaning this world ain’t shit.
I went to the bathroom and got on my knees resting my arms on the toilet clasping my hands together in the prayer position. Oh Lord Jesus, I know that that sweet ass does not truly exist. But I sure do believe it does. Please show me the way through that butt. Amen. And Jesus, if the way out of the butt is through the butt, well, I will accept whatever mission you have in store for me.
The vibe in the room is riveting. I think I have captured my listeners’ attention. Ha. Reading my notes for a screenplay in therapy! I win again. Oh, how I love myself.
I clear my throat:
The Butt Sniffer by Nick Freeman.
Synopsis: The city of San Francisco is plagued with fear and chaos thanks to a demented, maladjusted techie. A coder or developer (it is believed) has been going around the city pulling down the pants of women or lifting their skirts, smelling their asses and running away. He usually strikes during morning commute times and it is believed that after he commits his crime he then runs to a waiting Facebook or Google commuter bus and makes a luxurious, air-conditioned, Wi-Fi enabled getaway to Silicon Valley.
I look up and Michael is looking down writing notes. I hope he doesn’t think I am the butt sniffer and is deliberating whether or not to report me to the authorities. Who would pick up Angela at preschool if I were in jail? I continue:
The mayor has seized this opportunity to divert the public’s attention from the housing crisis and growing income inequalities which make the city unaffordable for the working class, teachers and, public servants. The mayor holds press conferences relating to The Butt Sniffer, admonishes the tech community for their culture of sexism, praises the SFPD for their progress on the case, and thanks to the good citizens of San Francisco for coming together and rallying against The Butt Sniffer.
The Chief of Police introduces the lead detective to a room full of patrol cops--a transgender (F to M) from Germany who speaks four languages and is on methadone for chronic hip pain. A former child and teenage prostitute in Berlin, Detective Lamb is mocked by his peers. Detective Lamb stands, introduces himself and when he addresses the nature of the crimes, he involuntarily twitches his nose. This involuntary action of Detective Lamb will become uh… the butt of many jokes among the red-blooded butt patrol officers.
The national media has been camping out at City Hall, The Mission and SOMA, interviewing victims, witnesses and residents. One male reporter from FOX News is ostracized for asking one of the victims who was wearing a skirt at the time of the incident if the perpetrator actually touched her. “So, when he put his head underneath your skirt and sniffed did he make any skin contact at all?” The impetus being perhaps a crime was not committed. Is it really a crime to approach a skirt, peer underneath and inhale through the nostrils? FOX News, under pressure, fires the reporter but he quickly lands a job with Breitbart.
I clear my throat again. Michael is looking at me and I think, but am not sure, that he is smirking. I feel so stimulated by my screenplay pitch. I am actually grateful Alexandra brought it the session. I decide not to embarrass her by asking her if she sees the irony in her bringing my screenplay to the session when she, not too long ago - before my credit was shot to hell - asked if I would finance a pair of butt implants. It’s all coming together now. Like butt cheeks squished in a pair of yoga pants:
Somewhere in the city, a client has told his therapist that although he is a highly paid tech employee, he does not know how to interact with women and wishes he could just make out with their sweet asses. Like ‘just make out with a butt for like an hour,’ he says. And talk to it. He feels he could really open up to a woman and make progress as an individual if he could just process his fears and insecurities while kissing and licking an ass. The therapist does not know if he should report his client to the authorities and makes a mental note to confer with a colleague.
I look up at Michael. “Divinely channeled material, everybody.” I’m such a liar. Well, maybe everything is channeled from an abstract collective mind and downloaded to our individual brains. Through that lens, I speak the truth. Alexandra’s arms are still folded and her legs are crossed. She looks at me like I am the anti-Christ. I look back at Michael. I get the sense he is deliberating on what to say. Meanwhile:
Kim Kardashian has come to town in the name of activism, social justice, and me-tooism. She publicly taunts the butt sniffer to come do his thing in The Mission after she eats a carne asada burrito at a Taqueria. This causes a backlash, as…
“Okay, Nick, I think we get the picture.” Michael says loudly.
“No.” I say, “Alexandra wanted this. We are going to finish. And it’s very therapeutic for me to do this. I have never shared my idea with anybody until now. And ultimately it is about looking at my own thoughts, attitudes and, beliefs in order to become a better man and father to my children, my daughter especially.” I say.
I’ve got the decoupling therapy session in the palm of my hands. “As an example of my growth, I used to resent Alexandra for watching The Kardashians. Then I realized it is all simply material for my own change, creativity and, transformation. Thank you, Alexandra.” I say in a pious voice and bow my head, again redirecting my focus:
A gay men’s group has petitioned City Hall demanding a public park be opened that makes it legal for consenting adults to sniff each other’s asses. The lesbian community is outraged and old wounds between the two communities are reopened. The Detective Lamb of dog jokes make the rounds.
A group of citizens filed a billion-dollar class action lawsuit against multiple tech companies. Their claim is that they do not feel safe on the city streets and have developed PTSD-related symptoms. Tech, the lawsuit claims, has allowed a toxic, sexist culture to thrive, and it has oozed out into the streets and created The Butt Sniffer. A group of mental health workers hired as expert witnesses for the case has demanded the American Psychiatric Association add PTBSD (Post Traumatic Butt Sniffing Disease) to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
Copycat Butt Sniffers have surfaced and now the city has multiple young white maladjusted techies going around San Francisco smelling women’s asses.
A feminist group plans a parade with blow-up butts and signs such as ‘Come smell this’ with a big turd coming out of a giant inflatable ass.
The far-right attorney general is licking his chops as discussions in Washington involve sending in the National Guard to keep San Francisco safe from all the butt-sniffing going on around town. Once the Guard is in San Francisco they will have no problem infiltrating less liberal cities and the dystopian vision of America as a totalitarian police state will be closer to fruition. The deep state toasts The Butt Sniffer.
I stop reading, spent, awash in a scene of achievement with even greater potential. “You get the gist. It is actually a pro-feminist, a pro-social justice piece of umm... satire.”
“It’s ridiculous!” Alexandra says, “And such a waste of time. There is no way a Hollywood studio would ever want to turn your disgusting little screenplay into a movie.”
I ponder sharing my film production company idea. BackItUp Productions. A collective of progressive filmmakers who are committed to their craft, who take the principles of movements seriously, while maintaining a general attitude of irreverence towards anything of this world. Non-dual filmmaking.
I look over at Michael and am pleased to see the corners of his lips curl upwards and for half a second, he actually chuckles. I win again. I am not a loser.
“Michael! He’s sick. He is so sick.” Alexandra says, her face red with anger.
Michael looks stumped. I feel a little disturbed. Are we hopeless? Have Alexandra and I reached a point where a therapist can’t even help us break up? Did he just give us up by laughing?
“Nick, you will eventually be looking for an apartment or room to rent soon. How do you think your now low credit score will affect you getting permanent housing?” Michael asks.
“Yeah, Nick, how do you think this will affect our children? You blowing off your credit so you can write screenplays about guys going around smelling asses. What is wrong with you?”
Stimulated by the first public reading of my unfinished screenplay, I check out of the session and daydream of new scenes. I hope Michael doesn’t try to steal my idea. Maybe I should not have abandoned it.