“Man I’m having a rough week,” Celine says.
“What’s happening?” I reply.
“You know how I get when it rains,” she says sadly.
Celine, one of our part time hostesses, has an incredible phobia about driving when it rains. Over the past year the problem has become worse.
“Oh man,” I say, “With all the rain we’ve been having you must be close to psychotic.”
“It’s awful,” Celine says, “I almost can’t go to work.”
“I wanted to sleep in my office and shower in the gym across the street. I’m so afraid to drive,” Celine says.
“You know,” I reply, “You told me about this problem a year ago.”
“It seems to be interfering with your life more and more.”
“Maybe you should think about getting some help,” I say.
“What do you think’s wrong with me?” Celine ask.
“Sweetie I’m a waiter, not a psychiatrist.”
“But you used to work in the field,” she says.
“That was a long time ago,” I reply, “Besides, I only have my BA in psych.”
“C’mon,” Celine says, “Hazard a guess.”
I get a little nervous when people ask me for psychological advice. I may have worked in mental health for ten years and been in analysis, but I don’t have any real qualifications.
“I think your time be’d better spent talking with a therapist.”
“Please,” Celine asks.
I take a deep breath. “Celine,” I ask, “Did you always have this problem?”
“No. It started when I was twenty five.”
“Did anything happen when you were twenty five?” I ask.
“I was in a bad car accident,” she replies.
“I was knocked out and woke up in the hospital.”
“Were you hurt?”
“Bad bump on the head.”
“Do you remember the accident?” I ask.
“I just remember thinking I was going to die,” Celine says.
That could be it. When people are exposed to a trauma that causes them to feel helpless and in imminent danger of death or serious injury, they can develop a condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. People who suffer this disorder relive the intense emotions surrounding the event over and over. Now, while most people associate PTSD with soldiers in combat or victims of crime or natural disasters, it is possible for a rather common event, a car accident, to cause the syndrome to occur. I’ve seen it before.
“Well Celine,” I start to say carefully, “It’s possible you have something called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
“What’s that?” she asks. I explain it to her.
“Do you think that’s what’s happening?” she says.
“Maybe when it rains, when you perceive a hazard that actually exists, and driving in the rain can be tricky, that somehow causes you to relive the extreme feeling you had during your accident,” I say.
“But it wasn’t raining when I had my accident,” Celine says.
“The rain may just be a trigger. Who knows why it makes you nervous.” I reply.
“It was snowing though,” Celine murmurs.
“Maybe that has something to do with it,” I say, “And maybe it doesn’t. My advice is to set up an appointment with a psychiatrist.”
“I’d feel funny talking to a shrink,’ Celine says.
“We all have things rattling around in our head we don’t understand. There’s no shame in getting help. I was in therapy for a long time,” I say.
“Did it help?’
“Yep. Best investment I ever made,” I reply.
“Maybe I’ll call someone,” Celine says.
“Celine,” I say taking her hand, “Promise me you’ll call someone. Talking to me isn’t going to cut it.”
“You could have PTSD. You could be experiencing something else. You need to let a pro handle it.” I say.
“My husband’s been telling me to talk to someone,” Celine whispers.
“Your husband’s a smart man,” I reply.
“Do you think I’m crazy?” Celine asks.
“Not at all.”
“Cause I’m not.” Celine says. For the first time I see a smile.
“No you’re not,” I say, “If you want to see crazy just watch our customers.”
Celine laughs out loud. “Some of them are real wackos,” she blurts.
“How true,” I say.
“Ok,” Celine sighs, “I’ll call someone.”
“That’ll be $150,” I say, holding out my palm.
“How ‘bout a beer instead?” Celine asks.
“I’ll take it.”
Celine is a bright and talented woman. She’ll work it though.
I turn around and go back to serving my customers.
Maybe I should dispense counseling instead of advice about wine. My sub specialty could be working with rich female nymphomaniacs.
Nah. Too much work.
I think I’ll stick to handing out pharmaceutical company pens.
Oh Waiter, you dog.
I used to be terrified of getting on down escalators. Not up ones- just the down ones. It hasn’t completely worn off, either. I still get on with both hands on the same handrail and trembling a little bit. Still makes me shiver thinking about it.