Puppy Dog Syndrome


leftovers & links
Thursday, April 20, 2023 

Getting ready for work well before dawn one morning, I was walking back from the shower as Dark Side of the Moon ended in Dean's room. The music was loud enough to spill out into the kitchen and hallway. He likes his music loud. He's old and can't hardly hear.

As the song faded away, there came Dean's voice. He was either on the phone or talking to himself — loudly — so of course, I stood still and listened.

He was giving a monologue about events at the restaurant where he works, and what he was planning to cook that day, and what he'd cooked yesterday. "Desserts aren't really my forte, but that's where the executive chef needed me, so I made Tres Leches. I'd never made that before, and didn't have anyone to look over my shoulder, but I thought it came out well. Two Mexicans had some, and asked where I'd learned to make Tres Leches. 'It was so good', they said."

This is the recurring motif in many of Dean's cookery stories from the restaurant: Whatever he made — fish or pasta, roasted this or grilled that, customers and co-workers line up and take turns complimenting him on the excellence of his cooking. It's amazing how amazing his cooking it, and amazing how often he's told that it's amazing.

It was 4:45 in the morning as I eavesdropped. Early to be talking to a friend on the phone, or maybe Dean has early-rising friends. Or maybe he was talking to himself. The pauses in his talking were rare, hardly enough for anyone else to participate in a conversation, which is ordinary when he's talking to me or my other flatmates, Robert and L.

I've heard it all before, and then Dean started explaining, to himself or to the phone, why restaurants use unsalted butter, and I resumed the short walk into my room and closed the door.

Dean has invited me to dinner, many times. Almost any time he's in the kitchen of our shared house, an invitation is coming. "I'm making roast beef," he'll say, or, "I'm making my famous oyster stew, and there's plenty if you'd like to join me." It's a kindness, technically, but I've declined so many times that the invitation seems more a nag than a kindness.

A couple of times when I was new in the house I said yes. Both times the food was OK — better than I'd have made if I'd tried to cook, which I don't, but not as good as you'd expect in a restaurant.

The guy talks so often and endlessly about how he loves to cook and about all the compliments his cooking gets, but what he's made — at least what I've eaten — isn't all that.

He doesn't ask Robert & I to pay when he cooks at home, but the price he expects is that you gotta sit around the kitchen while you eat, and listen to him talk about cooking, as he watches you eat, waiting for the compliments he expects.

It took some months for me to understand, but Dean isn't merely an extrovert who cooks. He's mentally Ill. He's as crazy in his own way as any of the crazies on the bus, so I try not to snap at him.

It's Puppy Dog Syndrome. Most people want to be liked, and Dean wants it so much that he doesn't notice he's driving people crazy. Like me, like me, like me, he shouts between the words every time he speaks, which is whenever he's awake. But I don't like him.

Like most people, I want to be liked, too. Sure, go ahead and like me. I'm not going to put much effort into it, though.

When Dean asks me to join him for dinner, which he does several times a month, what I've said many times is, "I'm on a diet, only eating salad and not much else."

Sometimes I cheat on the diet, but I ain't never gonna waste a cheat by eating Dean's damned oyster stew made with week-old oysters bought at a clearance price. Just, no.

I've never been quite that blunt, but I have said, "No again, man. No every time," and, "Please stop asking me."

He hasn't stopped asking me. He'll never stop, because something's wrong in his head, but I am neither his buddy nor his mental health care provider. The answer must always be nope.

All the above was written on different nights over different months, but I've hesitated to publish it, because it's not much different from other tales of Dean I've told. Unlike him, I try not to repeat myself.

Him repeating himself gets annoying, though, and writing about what annoys me is what I do. If I didn't, I'd go as crazy as Dean.

Plus I gotta be on the bus to work in an hour, and I'm too rushed to write anything better than this.

Typical was last night. When I came home from work, Dean was cooking in the kitchen, which I must pass through to reach my room. Briskly I walked.

"Oh, hi, Doug," he said, and I nodded at him. Often I simply blitz by without an answer, but when I can muster the minimum I give it to him, and the nod was the minimum. He told me he'd seen me leaving in the morning, and asked where I'd been all day.

"Out." I said, again the minimum, because it takes a few moments to unlock my bedroom door and if I didn't say something he'd only repeat the question.

"I knocked at your door a while ago," he said, but my door is somewhat misaligned, and doesn't latch. When I leave the house I gotta padlock the door. 

This made me chuckle. When the door is padlocked, it means I'm not home, but Dean had knocked on my padlocked door.

Should I explain it to him? Why, though? Explaining it won't stop him from knocking at the padlocked door tomorrow, so I said nothing.

"I'm cooking fried chicken," he said, "and there's plenty. Would you like a plate?"

"Nope," I said. After those first couple of yeses it's always been nope and it'll always continue being nope.

"Why not?" he asked. Several times I've told him nope because I'm an introvert, and nope because I'm on a diet, and a couple of times I've grumpily said it's nope just because it's nope. Nope shouldn't need a 'because', so I didn't answer.

Always I'm tempted to say, "Because you're not that good a cook," but I don't want to be mean to the mentally ill. Especially the mentally ill I gotta live with. And anyway, it's not about the cooking. It's about Dean.

Nothing more to say, I simply stepped into the glorious solitude of my room, and closed the door.

After one last proofread in a rush, I published this page, then tossed a towel over my shoulder and opened the door to go down the hall and into the shower.

Instead I saw Dean's backside, as he walked into the bathroom, with a towel over his shoulder. Well, at least he didn't see me, so he didn't talk at me, but the bus comes in 25 minutes so today will be a sticky day at work.

It's not Dean's fault. There are no reservations for the shower, and he's in it and I'm not, but I could've lathered and rinsed an hour ago instead of all this cutting and pasting and typing. It's my own fault.

I hate him so much, though, I'm still gonna blame him, the whole sweaty, smelly day.

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♫♬  It don't mean a thing  ♫
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Anne Perry


Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.  

Tip 'o the hat to ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, CaptCreate's Log, Katameme, Looking for My Perfect Sandwich, One Finger Medical, Two Finger Magical, Miss Miriam's Mirror, Nebulously Burnished, RanPrieur.com, Voenix Rising, and anywhere else I've stolen links, illustrations, or inspiration. 

Special thanks to Linden Arden, Becky Jo, Wynn Bruce, Joey Jo Jo, John the Basket, Dave S, Name Withheld, and always extra special thanks to my lovely late Stephanie, who gave me 21 years and proved that the world isn't always shitty.

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