Ledge of happiness requires balance

I couldn’t yet use Y2K or Hale-Bopp as a scapegoat for my actions. I had no comprehensive, well-thought out plan. I had no plan. Even while I was doing it, I didn’t know what would happen. It was impulsive. It was exciting.
It was the last quarter of my freshman year, and the energy in the air was contagious. A beautiful day had everybody in shorts, even the attractive people. Walking out of a particularly stifling class in Vincent Hall, I needed to get outside, badly. So I tried to make a beeline for Northrop Mall.
But the end of the hallway was the math department office, and a former professor was walking in. I had dropped his class because I finally realized I don’t like math classes.
I followed Dr. X as he headed for the department head’s office. The secretary asked me if she could be of service, and I challenged her to find the professor, who happens to look like Waldo, of “Where’s” fame.
With a confused expression I asked Dr. X if there was a building exit nearby. He told me the obvious fact: I would have to go around. (I enjoyed portraying a person so annoying that he would bother a busy man to ask obvious directions.)
I wanted to get the following reaction out of the professor and his boss. Abs(Minded Prof) + Boss(Abs(Minded Prof) = 2 x HEE or Hee Hee.
Heading outside, I walked around the building and looked up at a three-foot ledge under the office window. I jumped up onto the ledge and began hopping from one foot to the other while grinning at the professor. I watched his face as it passed through initial bewilderment, as he wondered what the hell I was doing, to a more refined state of confusion.
I assume he tried to categorize my actions in one of the following ways: inappropriate, offensive, unacceptable, disruptive, wasteful, annoying, weird or completely intolerable. These are reaped from years of report-card comments, with teachers pushing keys to add one of several comments. (For me it was never “Focused,” or “Stays on task well.”)
The professor’s boss turned to see me giddily dancing a jig and tapping the glass. At no time was I trying to put the fear of God into their hearts, but they were nervous and, after another minute, called the police.
I fled the scene, running to the Northrop mesa, where a crowd was protesting against the closing of General College. I mingled, but soon wanted to see what was happening back at the scene.
I hopped back onto the ledge and peered into the office, where witnesses were talking to a police officer. Then someone spotted me, and I was off and running again.
When I saw the policeman patrolling around the building, I waved to him. (The newspaper report had me gesturing for him to follow me, like a leprechaun leading him to my hidden pot o’ gold.) I fled into Morrill Hall, which, as would be expected, had good security. Three officers stopped me as I tried to enter the building.
“Whoa, whoa,” one said. “What’s going on here?”
I gave them the run-down. I had been having fun with an old nemesis. But, as former University Police Sgt. Joe May later stated to the Daily crime reporter, “He looked as if he was crazy or high or (insert raised eyebrows, meaning ‘I guess he could have been…’) BOTH.”
In truth I was neither, but I appeared excited, having been running around playing this prank. One of the officers said, “Something’s wrong here. You’re too happy.” Eventually, they said they’d take me to the county hospital, but I politely informed them I was due in the computer science department, where I was a teaching assistant.
They really wanted me to go with them. I said, “I appreciate your concern, but I’m fine, and I have to go to work.” They tried to grab my hands, but I dropped to the ground. They wrestled with me for a while and finally got me hog-tied. As I was being carried out to the police car, I tried to raise awareness among the protesters. They didn’t, however, care enough about the cause to offer me assistance. It’s too bad they weren’t more dedicated activists!
During the ride to Hennepin County Medical Center, I informed the officers I was displeased. I did this by bitching at them like the arrestee stars of “COPS.” When we arrived at the hospital, they tossed me in a wheelchair — the better to push me around — and wheeled me into a locked room. There I sat.
The social worker entered and said, “Obviously, you’re going to get out of here, but you picked a bad day to visit. The psychiatrist who has to sign you out is backed up with five other patients.” I was let out to roam the corridor.
After four hours the psychiatrist came in for a little chat. She observed that I had been acting goofy and excited, and now I wasn’t. Thus, she said, it must have been a hypomanic episode, meaning I acted too happy for a short period of time. That contrasts with mania, which has wider swings between moods. Well, I asked her, could I go to work, or do you recommend I quit my job and classes and check in for intensive inpatient treatment to de-happify myself?
I got a cab and finally made it to my job. The incident made the top of the weekly campus police report with the headline, “U Police Arrest Ledge-Climbing Math Student.” Jim Martyka, the reporter at the time, said he had tried to contact me to get my side of the story, but he couldn’t reach me.
I later began working at the Daily, eventually working as the crime reporter myself. My boss? Jim Martyka. We had some good laughs about his colorful report of the incident.
I like climbing things. My first week at Territorial Hall, I received a warning for climbing a ladder and pounding on a window. The shrieks I heard made me run to my room, which happened to be directly below the ladder. (It wasn’t hard for “the man” to find me.) It turns out the room’s occupants were two girls practicing aerobics in Spandex, and they were, understandably, scared.
Then I climbed some scaffolding at Pioneer Hall. A resident assistant caught me and said, “I just called the police. Wait here.” My friends stepped in for me. “His name is Brian Close, from Territorial.” Thank you very much. I got a disorderly conduct ticket, but I flirted with the judge and escaped punishment.
And it seems I haven’t learned much over the years. During finals week last month, I thought a police car in front of me was taking too long to turn right on red, and I honked my horn. Then I got annoyed and honked longer. It turned out he was waiting to stop a car across from us, in the wrong lane. The perpetrator drove safely out of the now-occupied hands of the officer — hands that were busy writing me an “Illegal Use of Horn” ticket. I don’t blame the officer, for whom I left an apologetic message with the dispatcher.
I will try to lay low from now on, unless, of course, the moment is just too perfect to pass up. Then I’ll be on the ledge again. After all, I like being too happy.
Brian Close’s column might appear on Fridays. He welcomes comments to [email protected]