Temporarily Insane

Date posted: April 1, 2008

They wanted more money … I was not heard … they had the upper hand … I felt oppressed … in that dreary office, their voices drowned in the restlessness of my heart … their images became distorted in the light of my rage … I was panting as I chased my breath … my heart was pounding … I was choking on my tears … then silence filled my head … I neither saw nor heard them … my world stood still as I reached out for the documents on his desk, grabbed them, and ran out of the office at full speed … I stole my file!!! Who, in her right mind, would steal a file from a governmental office? Fine! I felt robbed and cheated. True! I failed to understand their illogical logic. What was I thinking? Was I even thinking? It was a moment of temporary insanity!

This was the second time in my life when I experienced such a moment; a moment when reason totally and completely abandoned me. The other time when that happened, I was driving home after airing my relationships segment. I drove, bumper to bumper, from what seemed to be the Southern hemisphere to the Northern hemisphere. Stuck on the road, thinking of food, and dreaming of a good night's sleep, a microbus driver drove his little white box on the pavement and decided to land in front of my car. He forced his way back on the main road disregarding my honking and signs of distress. We were both stuck and, once again, I no longer felt or saw the road; the sounds and the images faded and I reached for my high heels, pushed down my window, and frantically began hitting the ugly box. What if he attacked me? What if I got arrested? What if he hit me? What if they chased me? My curses, screams, and black mascara colored this moment of insanity.

In movies, murderers plead innocent on the basis of temporary insanity and in real life there are masters at crossing the fine line between sanity and insanity – yet finding their way back. When I first met this 26 year old redhead, he seemed like a very sane young man until he began telling me about his addiction to extreme sports and his incurable passion for classic cars and bikes – I mean really ancient motors. Mahmoud Ezz El Din – known as Turbo – drives an authentic 1958 blue and white Vauxhall Cresta and believes that doing extreme sports is the only thing that keeps him sane. Turbo jokes about his being a left handed redhead who was born on the last day of the year and thinks that this combination could lead to nothing but insanity.

Turbo is all about exploration and experimentation; he works in a multinational company that strives to keep Egypt clean using biodegradable eco-friendly products that are extracted from fruits and vegetables. "I am also a freelance photographer and an event organizer specialized in classic car events" added Turbo who defines extreme sports as an unquenchable thirst for "adventure, speed, momentum, and adrenaline." Windsurfing, kite-surfing, water-skiing, scuba diving, sailing, fishing, and crab hunting are his favorite water sports. "The desert itself is extreme; it is a very hostile environment that needs special preparations in terms of food, water, and safety measures." In the desert you will find Turbo sand-boarding, kite sand boarding, biking, racing, or simply camping in the least heard of places.

"It is genetic, I believe" said Turbo as he explained how this addiction started. "Most of my family, cousins, and second cousins are into extreme sports. My first encounter was crab-hunting" added the young Robinson Crusoe. I have never heard of such a thing as crab-hunting hence an inquiry was due; "we all have homes in Ismailia and they are all overlooking the beach. At night, under the moonlight, crabs of all shapes and sizes come out to the shore. A spear in one hand and a torch in the other, we used to choose the biggest and hunt them. It sounds pretty safe until you miss! If you miss a crab with your spear, run … just run because the crab's reaction is unpredictable; it would either swim back into the water or turn around and attack its assailant."

"People who are not into sports or who do not understand the concept of extreme sports, call me insane. Define insanity! Define my scale of insanity! They do not understand how extremity helps you explore your human limitations; do you know how many miles your human sight can capture?" asked Turbo as he defended his sanity. "It takes less than three seconds for a crash to happen; do you know how focused and alert you have to be? Football and volleyball are nice but I am in my element in water or in the desert. We were created to be a part of nature yet we have found out ingenious ways to alienate ourselves from her embrace; the power of wind, gravity, challenge, survival, the risk, the rush, the high, the achievement, and adrenaline. I need to get this rush at least once a month to recharge from the inside." said Turbo with unmatched passion.

The only natural thing to ask about next was fear; I had to know where fear fits in Turbo's choice of activities and he said that "fear is an option; I never know what is to scare me until it hits me. I fear what I do not know. I have seen and studied almost all sorts of snakes, scorpions, insects, and animals that I am likely to encounter; hence, I do not fear them. If I run into something that I am not familiar with, I will fear it." For a control freak like myself, injuries and death scare me but Turbo comforted me saying that he has never broken a bone "I once cracked a toe and I have had a fair amount of stitches. Safety is not an option and venturing in the desert or the sea takes a lot of studying and precautions. As for death, it is coming one way or the other and I believe that if you look for something, you will eventually find it and I do not look for death" concluded Mahmoud Ezz El Din – AKA Turbo.

"Insanity is rebelling and showing it regardless of the consequences. It is a moment when the human brain fails to adapt to certain facts or feelings so it either escapes or fights them. Stress, pressure, and anger can trigger my insane nerve" says Loay Omran architect/ actor/ presenter/ trainer/ art director. Is it sane to juggle four or five consuming careers when most people can barely manage one? "People called me insane since I was a kid. I have always had the tendency to jeopardize my safety for something I wanted and I always wanted things that were out of my reach" explained Loay. "You do not get hurt when you are hyperactive; you get hurt when you are impulsive. I broke many bones in my pursuit of risk and novelty. I still remember the guava tree in my grandfather's garden. A far away fruit caught my attention, and although there were many others, I decided to get the guava that hung at the far end. I neither cared for the barbed wire beneath nor for the weak branch that carried my weight. I caught the fruit between my fingers as I felt the wire against my body … I fell and insanity never felt better."

At work, people call you insane. "No, I call it creativity and the power of dreams. If we were to design all houses the same way because it is insane to stretch a line or to erase another, then no one would have built skyscrapers and architecture would have died ages ago" explained Loay defending his daring designs. From designs I moved to women and relationships and, as expected, "I have been accused of insanity by most of the women in my life – including my mother – because of my unconventional approach to life. Most women fail to see the logic in my opinions and beliefs. They think that I have a distorted vision of things when I happen to see things from an unusual dimension." concluded the young actor.

Loay showed us four different sides of insanity; the first relates to escapism, the second reflects anger and oppression, the third was triggered by a need for winning, and the fourth was just insane. "Back in college I had a problem with a professor who flunked me in architectural design and it was very shameful and embarrassing incident – I mean no one I knew ever failed this course. I feared not graduating and my family was adding fuel to the fire. One day, as my final exams approached, I woke up when the alarm went off at 7:00 am, sat on the bed, looked at myself in the mirror in front of me, and the next thing I knew was that it was 12 noon. I did not go back to sleep. I do not know what happened. I just stared in the mirror and blacked out."

Looking at Loay now, he is more on the slim side of things. "As a kid, I was short and weak and I avoided fights because I did not have the body for them. In third grade, an older and bigger kid used to bully me all the time, eat my sandwiches, and spit in my face. I used to take it because I had no other alternative. After about two months of the same routine, my resentment took form. He pushed me. I did not move. He ate my sandwich. I did not move. He spat on me. I did not move. He turned to walk away from me. I lost it. I flew in the air, landed on his back, and my teeth penetrated his sweater, shirt, and undershirt as I bit him. I turned into a vampire that was literally sucking his blood and I lost it … completely."

The life of an athlete is that of discipline, deprivation, and endurance. Loay, as a track and field runner peaked twice at the age of 21 and won two gold medals in a row but because of an unfortunate incident in a race he flew and landed on his face tearing his hamstrings. He had to withdraw from the race that day but, against the advice of his coaches, the day after he insisted to run the 800 meters. He could not let go of the long training hours and firm routine because of his injury and made it to the semi-finals and the finals. Limping and dragging his body he broke his record, won a bronze medal, and killed his chances of ever running again. His injury turned into a disability that came between him and any further victory. "That was insane and I should have known better." said Loay.

As an actor, Loay is required to do some stunts. There are times when he could use a stunt man but there are other times when the role would not allow for it "I stopped being insane for insanity's sake. Safety is a prerequisite in anything I do but I remember one time I was shooting in Gouna and I was doing a skin diving shot. I am not a diver; I took a crash course in diving a few days earlier and I dove ten meters deep without oxygen because, in my role, I was saving someone. I lost breath on my way up. I almost died."

There is another type of insanity … the type that is driven by ambition and a need to prove oneself. Evon Nabil is a young multi-talented artist; she is a ferocious journalist who sings, acts, and presents on TV. "Nothing will ever come between me and a good story" says the zealous Evon. I was once doing a story on prostitution and picking up girls from the streets of Mohandeseen. I posed as a prostitute and lured guys who were driving their cars. They would stop for me and would ask me to get in. But there was no story there. I would ask them to get out of their cars because I was uncomfortable and I would begin conversing with them. I asked them why did they want me to get in the car and their response was that they wanted to give me a lift. I went as far as asking them to show me their ID cards. I just played stupid and eventually I revealed my identity … it does not always end well."

Evon comes from a conservative family that would not allow her to make a living out of acting and singing so she managed to incorporate acting and singing into her journalistic escapades. "A real journalist has to have a heart only for the truth and the scoop." explained Evon as she told me how she also posed as a beggar – a decent looking beggar. "I adopted the character of a beggar that I saw frequently in our street. I pretended that I am from Mansoura, that I got lost in Cairo, and that I needed money to get on a train to go home. I was very curious to find out what makes people reach into their purses and give beggars money. I spent ten minutes in Mohandeseen and I earned L.E. 28.50. The funniest thing was when one woman stopped for me and offered to drive me to the station so I could stop begging. I ran into that woman the day after by coincidence and she was livid. I had to explain to her my undercover mission."

How insane is it to pretend to be insane? "Some Egyptians are known for their kind heart; others do not have a heart at all. The story went as follows: I was in the company of a man and I was supposed to be mentally retarded. I was supposed to stop and completely refuse to walk in front of a shop and the man who was accompanying me would walk up to anyone in the street, tell him that I have a condition, and that he was going to get my father from the nearby corner. Once my escort left, I would begin showing signs of insanity and miraculously freak my temporary custodian. One time, I pushed it further to the extent of running in the middle of traffic, sitting in the middle of the street, hiding my head between my legs, and waiting to see the reactions of drivers and passersby. I was shocked that day that the man who was supposed to take care of me did not even move and some cars stopped and claimed to know my family – guess they wanted to take me for a "ride". I was "saved" by the poor street-sellers and shopkeepers." Evon spoke with unmatched pride and passion.

Upon asking Evon about her pride and joy of an assignment, she said: "I outdid myself when I, followed by a cameraman, walked up to a sheikh in a mosque and told him that I wanted to become a belly-dancer. I wanted to see how religious figures handled "bad" people; would they bring them closer to God or were they going to push them away? Our sample included two sheikhs and two priests. I was provocative and almost rude. One of them was very warm, supportive, and patient; he actually tried to reason with me and absorbed all my aggression with a smile. The other extreme was a man who refused to even see me. Reactions vary and human nature is the best source for stories and scripts. Would you think of me as insane? Am I really insane?" wondered Evon with a naughty smile.

Is temporary insanity fact or fiction? Can someone lose their mind and power of reasoning under pressure, stress, fear, moments of anger, and depression? Can someone's self image be so self distorted? Could power cause insanity? Could lack of power cause insanity? Wikipedia says that every man is presumed to be sane, and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes or actions and that to establish a defense on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act that person did not know what he was doing and was unable to tell the difference between right and wrong.

The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four people is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you.
– Rita Mae Brown

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