Bernard Suits
The Grasshopper

As a boy scout young Bartholomew was interested almost exclusively in those scouting practices which fall into the good deeds department, and in that department he was especially keen on the good deed which consists in helping old ladies across the street. After a bit Bartholomew came to value the role of Old Lady Helper (Streetwise) at least as much as he did the benefit which performance of that role is presumed to provide for old ladies. He thus took to lurking about the busy intersections of the city where he lived which, luckily for him, was St Petersburg, Florida, so that Bartholomew enjoyed a veritable glut of opportunities for performing his service and, more important, his role. But one traumatic day his family moved from St Petersburg to Doze, a hamlet in the hinterland of the state where the entire female population was under the age of forty-five. This was the worst calamity that had ever befallen Bartholomew in his young life, and it might have been too much to bear except for one saving development. It was decided that Bartholomew's elderly grandmother should come to live with the Drag family in their new house.

After the family's removal to Doze Bartholomew's efforts became concentrated upon getting his grandmother to wish to cross the town's one street. The various artifices Bartholomew employed in accomplishing these arrangements need not concern us in this report. Suffice it to say that Bartholomew was now engaged in playing a two-role, two-person, one-player game of the kind in which the non-playing participant is manoeuvred into performing the desired complementary role. But grandmothers are much less easily deceived by small boys than small boys believe, and Grandmother Drag very soon realized what her grandson was up to. She was. however, an especially indulgent grandmother, and so she was willing to humour Bartholomew in his pastime. And so at this point Bartholomew was playing a two-role, two-person, one-player game where the non-playing participant intentionally performed the complementary role out of, we may say, the goodness other heart. But, as often happens in dealing with small boys, this favour was exploited rather than returned, and Bartholomew, since his appetite for the game knew no bounds, very soon became a dreadful bore and nuisance to his grandmother.

And so she became much less available for sorties across the street to the public library, the post office, or the candy store. Whereupon Bartholomew quickly restored affairs to their original satisfactory condition by producing a bribe. It was unmistakably conveyed to Grandmother Drag that Bartholomew's usual sunny disposition would be replaced by an attitude of sullen bad temper if the grandmotherly excursions fell below a certain level of frequency.

The rest of Drag's life, in those particulars which are relevant to his treatment and rehabilitation, consisted of a series of arrangements which were in essence the same kind of arrangement he had achieved between himself and his grandmother.

By the time Drag was thirty-five he had accumulated, as all of us do, a quite extensive repertory of proprietary roles; all the roles, that is, associated with the various social positions he occupied: father, husband, boss (he was owner-director of a computer manufacturing corporation), chairman of the Opera Board and of the Heart Fund, and city councilman, to name just a few of his more obvious positions. And since each of these and similar positions has a number of distinct roles associated with it, Drag was. like the rest of us, called upon to perform many different roles in the ordinary course of events. And many of them he performed, as the rest of us do, largely automatically and unreflectingly. But with respect to a very substantial number of them Drag assumed a distincly atypical posture. He treated them just as he had long ago treated the role of helping old ladies across the street. That is to say, he valued performing them at least as much as he valued their social benefits. Among his favourites were: Understanding Father, Understanding Husband, Pig-Headed Father, Pig-Headed Husband, Graciously Condescending Banterer (Typing Pool). Ditto (Assembly Line), Jocular Chairman of the Board, Gruff Chairman of the Board, Sympathetic Confidant, Shocked Confidant, and many others. And since Drag valued these roles not primarily for their social uses but as vehicles for dramatic performance, there developed a hiatus between Drag's performance of the roles and the situations in which they could appropriately be performed. That is, he took to performing them even when the situation did not require it, just as he had done as a boy scout. And the other people who happened to be involved in his performances were treated in the way that he had treated his grandmother, that is, as dramatically enabling devices. And at first, just as was the case with his grandmother, the other members of the cast in his little dramas were unintentional and unknowing accomplices. But it soon became clear to them what Drag was doing. Now Drag was an immensely likable man, and his friends and acquaintances, when they realized that Drag had a kind of quirk, were entirely ready to humour him in what they were prepared to accept as a minor peculiarity in his make-up. But, as it had been with Grandmother Drag, the more they humoured him by pandering to his eccentricity, the more demanding Drag became of their services. He became, in short, a nuisance and a bore. A senior stenographer in the typing pool would whisper to a junior typist, 'Go over to the water cooler and banter with Drag,' or a husband would say to his wife, 'I've got to think up some personal problem I can confide to Bart on the golf course tomorrow or he'll be grumpy all day.' Or: 'Smith, I'm going to have to muck up your figures on this Jessup Corporation order. I'm sorry, but we'd better give the old man the opportunity to hit the ceiling tomorrow.'

Finally things reached a crisis stage with the Robinson affair.

'Robinson won't get his promotion, you know.'

'Why not?'

'The old man kept him in his office till midnight last night playing Indecisive Executive over the Kramer account. Finally Robinson got fed up and said he had better things to do than play parlour games all night.'

'Oh Jesus. What did the old man do?'

'Oh, he just whipped out Understanding Boss in the Face of Extreme Provocation and apologized to Robinson for keeping him so late.'

'Look, we can't let this kind of thing happen again. Why did Robinson crack, for God's sake?'

'Bad scheduling. The day before he'd had to partner Drag in Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears a Crown, and the day before that he had to pretend that his and Joan's marriage was on the rocks.'

'Well, we've simply got to get organized. Get Jones in Planning to work out a complete schedule for everyone concerned. That includes the gang at the Opera Society, the Heart Fund executive, the city councilmen and their staffs, and of course Mrs Bartholomew and the kids as well as everyone here in the administration building and at the plant. Have him say it out day by day a month at a time, including a likely projection of Drag's appointment schedule a month in advance, with indicated possible deviations. Then have him make a sequential projection of Drag's likely role preferences on the basis of his performances over the past year (I know it won't be easy). with six alternative roles for each role in the sequence in decreasing order of probability. He'll have to do the best he can; a year from now we'll have better data and he can make a better projection. Now, when he's done all that have him make up a list of role assignments and give everyone as many as they think they can handle. We'll have to set up a central dispatching office to get people to the right places at the right times, and Drag's secretary and Mrs Drag between them can keep Central Dispatching up to the minute on his location and contacts. OK?'

  The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Through Eden took their solitary way.