NATICK, Mass. It's a drizzly Saturday in this western suburb of Boston, but the weather hasn't dampened the spirits of a thousand participants assembled here for a twenty-mile walk into the city. The problem is that organizers estimate the size of the crowd to be two thousand, and the other half is holding up progress.
"Don't you want to win the Fight Against Ironic Detachment?" Beth Tunstall asks her husband Jim, who unlike her suffers from the ailment.
"C'mon--don't be a Gloomy Gus!"
"I don't see the point," he says as he remains in his car seat while she stretches. "Wouldn't it be easier if people just wrote checks?"
"But then we'd miss out on all the fun and disappoint everybody who pledged money to help, sweetie," Beth says, her eyebrows bent into urgent little bows of concern.
Jim purses his lips and looks off into the distance as he considers, in an uncharacteristic act of mental dexterity, the feelings of others.
Bruce: "In the halls of justice, the only justice is in the halls."
"Screw 'em," he says finally as he turns on the car's battery to listen to one of his favorite classical numbers, a Lenny Bruce routine from the fifties.
Ironic detachment is both a psychological and a neurological condition, according to doctors at Metrowest Eironeia Associates, an interdisciplinary group of specialists who treat the affliction. "On the one hand, ID sufferers are unhappy," says Dr. Ian Waits. "On the other hand, they're perfectly fine with that."
Pediatric Ironic Detachment poster girl
Symptoms of ID can often be detected in childhood, and are associated with prolonged exposure to Mad Magazine and Animaniacs cartoons. "These are excellent sources of mental stimulation and the highbrow references to intellectual giants such as Freud and Voltaire can increase a child's score on aptitude tests," notes Earl Byrum, principal at Mosi Tatupu Middle School, as he struggles to free himself from the coating of paste that students have applied to his office chair. "We nonetheless urge parents to monitor their children's intake of this sort of media in the larger interests of decorum and teacher safety."
I have learned so much from these three!
Pharmaceutical companies say they are closing in on a drug "cocktail" that offers hope to ID victims, composed of equal parts mashed potatoes, elevator music and taped episodes of the Live! With Kelly daytime television show. "We need to get these guys off their butts to do walk-a-thons and phone banks," says Mark Asher, who manages a fund that hopes to back one of the winners in the race to cure irony. "Don't they understand that they're standing in the way of a big payday for me?"