May 4, 2004

Freud and counterculture girl.

Yesterday, I was walking down State Street and there was this young woman leaning forward with her mouth open, making an odd gurgling noise, which forced me to turn and look at her just in time to see her spew a huge green globule out onto the sidewalk. Involuntarily (I think) I let out with a perfectly audible "uuuugggghhhh." The globule-source calls out, "Wouldn't it be more disgusting if I swallowed it?" Another young woman, more the student type than the street person type, yells back, "No!" She's striding along talking on a cell phone and explains what happened into the phone as she overtakes me walking down the street. Phone girl makes me laugh, and she turns to me and says, "Counterculture!"

The story of the woman on the street and her counterculture notions of propriety calls to mind this story that Freud relates in "The Interpretation of Dreams" (note that this is a true story about himself, which he views as the source material for a dream):
When I pay my morning visit at this house I am usually seized with a desire to clear my throat; the sputum falls on the stairs. There is no spittoon on either of the two floors, and I consider that the stairs should be kept clean not at my expense, but rather by the provision of a spittoon. The housekeeper, another elderly, curmudgeonly person, but, as I willingly admit, a woman of cleanly instincts, takes a different view of the matter. She lies in wait for me, to see whether I shall take the liberty referred to, and if she sees that I do I can distinctly hear her growl. For days thereafter, when we meet, she refuses to greet me with the customary signs of respect."

Imagine thinking the lack of a spittoon entitles you to spit on the stairs repeatedly and to be disdainful of the poor old woman who has had to clean it up for being insufficiently happy to see you! And I love the expression "the sputum falls"! No agency on his part there. And the housekeeper is accused of having negative character traits--she's "curmudgeonly" and has crabbed "cleanly instincts"--and this instinctive creature ridden with disgust is such an animal she "growls" and cannot muster the "customary signs of respect."

So what do you conclude is the difference between Freud and counterculture girl?