Columnist: How to tell if you have affluenza — and the cure |

Columnist: How to tell if you have affluenza — and the cure

Lindsay DeFrates
Staff Photo |

It would appear that America has a new disease du jour.

Well, some may argue that it is not actually a disease, but it is definitely du jour. In fact, it has made more headlines (with a significantly larger-sized font) than the resurgence of polio.

What is this imminent threat to the health and well being of our nation?

The ironically titled “affluenza” is, according to Ethan Couch’s defense attorney, a state of total ignorance to the consequence of one’s actions brought on by wealthy parents who coddle a sense of irresponsibility.

We all, no doubt, just rolled our eyes in disgust or at least sighed in an exasperated fashion. Just call him a spoiled brat and be done with it. Ridiculous, right?

Yet perhaps a few us had some nagging questions. What if I have affluenza? How would I know? Is it a congenital disorder only passed down by bad parenting? Or can one contract it later in life? How contagious is it, really?

Not to worry. Even though the hypochondriac’s delight (aka WebMD) weirdly refuses to offer it as a possible diagnosis, there is hope. I have developed a highly sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tool, relying heavily on expertise gained from more than a decade of work in various anti-affluenza positions such as retail, restaurants, coffee shops and raft guiding. I will focus heavily on the service industry as it allows for the most relevant day-to-day reflection for life in this valley.

So, to determine conclusively whether you have contracted affluenza, please take the following quiz:

1. Do you often avoid making/forget to make eye contact with the person making you coffee? Y/N

2. Have you ever justified leaving a bad tip with a phrase like, “Well, he just didn’t go above and beyond?” Y/N

3. Do you regularly show up late for reservations/appointments but see no need to apologize? Y/N

4. Have you ever made a reservation for a service (restaurant, spa, rafting, etc) and then after your plans changes, neither shown up nor called to cancel? Y/N

5. When you experience truly bad service at a bar, retail store or restaurant, do you take some righteous pleasure in sharing your ordeal with as many of your social acquaintances as possible in order to receive what you are sure is some well-deserved sympathy? Y/N

6. Do you ever talk on your phone/text while simultaneously speaking with an actual human being to make an order or ask a purchase-related question? Y/N

7. Do you believe your waitress is responsible for the kitchen 86ing seared Ahi tuna? Y/N

8. Have you ever placed blame on an employee of any establishment because of unfortunate natural phenomenon, such as wind, rain, flooding, fires, bank robberies and/or I-70 closures? Y/N

If you answered yes to none of these questions, I hope your shift manager gives you next Friday night off for once.

If you answered yes to at least two of these questions, you may be demonstrating the first symptoms of affluenza and should leave your next server/barista/house-keeper an extraordinarily generous tip.

If you answered yes to five or more, please take immediate action to prevent the disease from progressing any further.

If you answered yes to all of them, I’m fairly sure you have stopped reading and this paper is now in the trash can next to the recycling bin. Your case may be inoperable.

Now on to the treatment. Fortunately, affluenza is highly reversible, even when it has been present in a host for years. Although there are many, many prescribed remedies, such as barefoot pilgrimages across India and writing sincere thank-you notes for friends and family, I am going to focus on one intensive treatment program that is readily available in the Roaring Fork Valley. This option is also the most effective inoculation against the disease when applied at a young enough age.

I promise it does not involve specialists, expensive tests or therapy.

All you need to do is get a job. No, I know you have a career, but you need to get a job. Just for a few months even. Only the most severe cases have been shown to require lifetime treatments. Most individuals can fully reverse the effects of affluenza by taking a job even for just a few months as long as it meets the following criteria:

1. It must not require a specialized degree.

2. It should be a position that offers only hourly compensation for full effect.

3. The schedule must require potential nights, weekends and holidays. Nothing kills affluenza faster than giving your family a call from behind the counter to say, “Happy Thanksgiving.”

4. It must involve interaction with the public on a daily basis, regardless of your ability to “deal with that right now.”

5. It should include co-workers who do not fall within your traditional socio-economic boundaries, yet will, inexplicably, still treat you like a decent human being and maybe even cover your shift on that one night.

6. Tip-dependent positions are most effective.

After just a few months of living paycheck to paycheck, having to be polite to every customer every day, cleaning up your own messes and having no excuses for not showing up for work, your level of human decency will have increased so dramatically that your affluenza will have disappeared, and you will not need a booster for at least a few decades.

Lindsay DeFrates lives and teaches in Carbondale. She writes and rafts, grades and goes down slides, sometimes not in that order. Her column will appear the first Tuesday of every month.

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