By Dan Miller
January 30, 2009
I'll have to be careful with this, so I don't offend those of you who routinely talk out loud to yourself.
When I was a kid, people used to say that talking to yourself was the first sign of madness.
Well, it wasn't so bad to talk to yourself.... but if you answered yourself, you were obviously "deranged" for sure.
A monologue with yourself was odd, but a two-sided conversation with yourself was looked on as just plain wacky.
Of course, none of that is necessarily true.
Most of us.... probably all of us.... talk to ourselves at certain times.
My preferred time is when I'm driving through heavy traffic and get behind a really bad driver.
OK, maybe I'm not exactly talking to "myself".... so that's a whole different issue.
Up and down the streets he'd go, walking at a brisk pace with long steps, looking straight ahead, obviously in a hurry to get somewhere, with lots to say along the way.
He was probably in his mid 30s, nearly totally bald.
He often wore a hat and an ill-fitting, brownish-orange, Dacron polyester, wrinkle resistant suit.
We knew him as Cranston.
I don't think that was his real name.
Seems to me we assigned him that name because -- being such a baffling, shadowy figure -- we linked him to Lamont Cranston, the character on the old radio drama "The Shadow."
Cranston was quite a chatterbox.... though he was always alone.
I never saw him actually speaking to another person, just to himself.
My pals and I would try to overhear snippets of his monologue as we'd pass him on the street, but we couldn't really grasp the flow of his words.
The truth is, we were reluctant to linger too close for long, being the brave bunch that we were.
Consider the irony that, in the present time, Cranston would feel very much mainstream, and nobody would even give him a second glance.
With all our wireless phone headsets, Bluetooth devices, and speaker phones in cars, the streets and shopping malls are teeming with people walking or riding alone, talking out loud.
Sometimes I feel embarrassed for them.... sometimes they scare me.... but more often I don't even notice.
It's difficult for me to distinguish between those who are really talking on the phone.... those who are just faking it so people will leave them alone.... and the weird ones who don't even have a phone.
I occasionally wonder what became of Cranston.
Is he an old man, still alone and talking to himself?
Even today, I wonder what he was discussing.
Maybe he was an inventor, who had devised a hidden wireless phone of some sort, and was simply ahead of his time.
Or maybe, just maybe, he knew what evil lurks in the hearts of men.