We had a training exercise where one bunch of us would try to follow complicated instructions while the second bunch tried to distract the first bunch. This would somehow help us empathize with those who have schizophrenia. Apparently, schizophrenia causes an overload of real and imagined data to the victim’s awareness.

I was one of the second bunch. We were each given an index card with a paragraph that we were to read aloud over and over. We would do this as we were standing behind the first bunch as they tried to follow those complicated instructions.

I was reading a few lines from a weather report. I stood there, ignoring the other readers, as I read aloud. This was pretty boring for me. After the first few iterations, I was starting to read aloud on autopilot and I would occasionally catch snippets from what the person next to me was reading. Let’s call her Penny. Penny was saying, “blah, blah, evil, blah blah, Satan, blah, blah, eternal damnation.”

I couldn’t make out all that she was saying and as I tried to catch what Penny was saying, I started to stumble in my own reading. Fortunately, my mistakes were lost in the cacophony of all the other reading. “blah, blah, fiery pits of hell, blah, blah.”

When the exercise was over, we found that the first bunch did a crappy job because of all other the distractions that the second bunch provided.

I asked Penny, “What the heck were you reading? That was distracting me. Never mind the first bunch with their complicated instructions.”

“I know. Right? I hesitated when I first saw it but I had fun with it anyway.”

I said, “Darn. All I had was a boring weather report. If I’d known that was available, I’d’ve paid money to be reading it.”

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