top of page
  • Writer's pictureknowles.1

The Moment of Psycho

It happened fast. The guy next to me put his head on the table next to his laptop and stopped moving. Small head, trimmed beard, face planted on the wooden coffee table. Half a cinnamon roll still uneaten, which made me nervous. Who goes to Fox and Snow and doesn't finish their pastry?

I looked at the guy across from me and we weighed the situation wordlessly together. Time to intervene? I rolled my eyes and went back to my 5-letter words. Scrabble is a merciless taskmaster. The guy across from me, though, could see that the young man's left arm had gone limp. "Are you OK?" He reached across and touched the back of his head.

The young bearded guy shook it off and said "Just needed to take five, is all." He picked up his cinnamon roll and left.

The two of us congratulated ourselves. "I thought he'd stroked out." "It was good that you intervened." "You only have minutes in those situations. And I could see that his arm had gone limp." "Weird, though." And then it was back to my 5-letter words.

Fifteen minutes later, the guy across from me fixed me with his twinkling eyes for a second time. "What do you think of all this?"

I was glad of the opening, but not sure where we were going. "You mean, Columbus? Or the big world?"

"You know, everything."

It's not often you get a chance to talk to a complete stranger about the state of the world. We used to do it on transatlantic airplanes, but now it's considered an invasion of privacy. In a coffee shop three days before Thanksgiving, I was ready to talk.

"If you'd asked me before, I would have said Ukraine. For nearly two years, that's all I've been watching. But now, after October 7, it's a different problem."

He was ready for that. "Yeah, I was just reading about the Palestinians. Do you know how many there are?"

RED FLAG. Mild interest drains from face as you realize you're speaking to a Zionist nutbag.

"14 million," he read off his phone. "And 2.2 million of them in Gaza. All of them supporting Hamas."

Yikes. "Well, that's Netanhayu's fault. He played divide and conquer, and supported Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. What did he expect?"

Got him. He didn't think I knew that.

"It's like with homeless people," said the man, who was beginning to lose steam. "I'll give them food and shelter, but not money."

"What's your analogy?"

"Well, you know. Biden went to Israel and gave $100 million to the Palestinians."

A pause.

"The thing that worries me," I said, "is that so many young people, so many college students, will identify with the Palestinian cause that they hand the Presidency to Donald Trump, with consequences that are irreversible."

Heavy stuff for 10:30 in the morning. But we did both witness a near-stroke by a Gen-X guy muttering something about "FAQs" as he left the coffee shop.

It was time for me to move along. But I'm not a teacher for nothing. "You know what?" I said. "I just picked up this book from a Little Book Library up the street. It's called 'The Moment of Psycho' - a frame-by-frame review of Hitchcock's film. It's very clear that in 1960 Hitchcock opened the door to violence on screen, to a level of sadism and cruelty that America had never before allowed itself to entertain. It changed films, and it changed America. What happened on October 7 affected me in a visceral way. It was like when that guy hit his head on the table - we were confronted with the abject, with death in its physical state. When people are animals to each other, what remedy do we have?"

We shook hands, and parted friends. I'm grateful for the chance to have an open conversation about the problems of the world with a total stranger. More people should fix their eyes on others and ask "What do you think of all this?" Because the alternative is not thinking about it. And that way leads to slaughter. As David Thomson says in The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America To Love Murder:

"By Christmas, Marion Crane was in the swamp."

Happy Thanksgiving! Next week I'll have a list of the best books of 2023.

110 views5 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Joe Neff
Joe Neff
Nov 24, 2023

To paraphrase Carver's aggrieved baker, Thomson on Hitchcock is a small, good thing in a time like this.


Theodore Knowles
Theodore Knowles
Nov 21, 2023

Great story pops


Nov 21, 2023

Will AI be less genocidal than humanity?


Nov 21, 2023

"Next week I'll have a list of the best books of 2023." Fair warning to Seb's blog readers: none of them will have been published in 2023. 🤔

Nov 22, 2023
Replying to

Haha guilty as charged!

bottom of page