Fri 9 Dec 2005
I visited the Carlisle House for the second time with Andy. Unlike my first trip where there was a much larger group, I was somewhat apprehensive because it was going to just be Andy and I. We walked inside hesitantly not quite sure what to expect seeing how this was going to be much different from orientation; we were now expected to socialize and interact with the consumers. Not a minute went by and we were quickly greeted by a very personable woman named Peanut; she asked Andy and me if we would help her to set up the karaoke machine. Andy and I agreed to help her set up the karaoke machine under one condition, we would not have to sing. Once the machine was set up, however, Peanut talked “Stanley” (she referred to Andy as Stanley throughout the visit) into singing with her. The two of them gracefully sang Stand By Me and quickly followed that up with a much more upbeat song, Shout, that brought the consumers and myself to our feet as they sang. Once Andy decided that his vocals needed a rest we proceeded into the kitchen to talk and meet more people. We engaged in a very interesting conversation about New York City in general and at New Years. Several of the consumers had both lived and visited New York City and were excited to talk about the city. After talking about New York City, Andy and I spoke to one man in particular for a while about his “night life” in and around Carlisle. He even recommended a few spots for us to visit. Afterwards, we went and played two gentlemen in a game of pool. Luckily, one of the men on the other team sank the eight ball because they were clearly better than us and would have beaten us. Once the game of pool was over we went back into the “common” area and met and spoke with more people. At this point, however, it was late in the day and everyone was getting situated to leave. This wasn’t the case for everyone- Peanut continued to sing for our entertainment and her own pleasure, I think she may have even made her way through both of the two karaoke cd’s. Andy and I continued to casually sit in the “common” area conversing with most of the consumers about their Christmas plans. Some of the consumers remained in rooms amongst themselves watching television and listening to music. Before it was time to leave, the two gentlemen we played in pool earlier asked us if we wanted to play again. In an effort to redeem themselves, the same man accidentally sank the eight ball again and we were once again victorious. The man who didn’t sink the eight ball continued to harass the other man back into the common room where we once again sat down and continued to talk and learn more about the consumers.
As I mentioned earlier, I was somewhat apprehensive in going with just Andy. I thought that I was going to feel uncomfortable knowing that there would be many consumers that I would feel obligated to talk to and hang out with. I had done community service based projects similar to this yet this experience still seemed to be unique. I had never interacted with people similar to the consumers at the Carlisle House. Consequently, I wasn’t sure what to expect from them and wasn’t totally sure on how I should act. Much to my surprise, nothing that I had stressed and worried about was a concern. Many of the consumers were extremely outgoing, wanting to engage in conversation. They were enthusiastic in speaking about themselves as well as learning about Andy and I. Once Peanut approached Andy and I and “broke the ice” I no longer felt uneasy. There were still a few consumers who didn’t seem to want to talk to anyone. Initially, I felt bad for these consumers and wanted to talk to them feeling that they felt left out. In talking to the other consumers and just being around them I got the impression that they wanted to be left alone, which I can respect and understand. Nonetheless, I felt better knowing that it wasn’t a personal thing against Andy and I. My one complaint, if that’s what you would call it, is that they kept referring to Andy and me as “rich kids.” A few times while talking to the consumers about New York City they assumed that we had all been there and were more likely to enjoy the city because we were “rich kids.” I thought that it was unfair of them to assume that we were rich because we were students at Dickinson. In the end, however, it didn’t bother me too much but was something that at the time caught my attention. Also, it was obvious that they were not saying it to insult us. By the end our two hours and them leaving to go home I felt much more comfortable than when I had first arrived and enjoyed myself while I was there.
One of the things I found interesting and thought about while I was as the Carlisle House were the five ways that Rosemary Garland Thompson discusses in her book about the reaction society has to anomalous figures and their way to deal with these figures. One of the ways she mentions that society deals with and treats anomalous figures is to label them as dangerous, thus forcing them out of the realm of what it means to be “normal.” Having met with and interacted with these individuals at the Carlisle House thus far it seems ludicrous to think that someone would label one of these individuals as dangerous. In reality, having spent time with them, the consumers are similar to us in many ways, assuming that we’re viewed as “normal.” In fact, I think that the consumers are less harmless to society than many people who are considered to be normal. As a result of spending time at the Carlisle House it seems unfair that these individuals are labeled as dangerous due to the standards of society. Yet, it was interesting to be able to experience much of what Rosemarie Garland Thompson discusses throughout her book.