Speed Therapy Featured


Speed Therapy. It’s a thing. Or, it could be a thing. The other day, I was in line at the post office behind Winnie, waiting for Jenna to finish with the customer ahead. Within moments, we three had established a virtual circle of group sharing. We managed to cover our thoughts and feelings on a wide variety of local topics, review recent books we had read, reinforce our mutual affection for one another, catch up on the status of our children, admire each other’s outfits, remind ourselves of our amazing awesomeness and agree to meet again, and often. All in the about the time it took Jenna to gather up the next round of yellow cards and pink cards.

I said that I had gotten a lot out of our microseconds together. Winnie said, “It’s speed therapy!” and we decided, as she flew out the door, that it is a real thing.

My time at the counter was brief, but I felt that I had made real progress on my issues (which are many and fascinating). Jenna and I agreed that I would come in for another session after she returned from vacation. I made a verbal appointment for 11:45 AM on any day, which coincides with the likely time my mail finds its way into my post office box.

As I explored this newly hatched healing modality, it occurred to me that Friday Harbor is an excellent place in which to both practice and benefit from Speed Therapy. Sure, there are some confidentiality issues. We all know each other, or we are related to each other, or we have been partnered to each other’s former partners. We know who has made Herb’s their second home, and whose kid is running with a bad crowd at FH High. Or, was a founding member of the bad crowd at Friday Harbor High.

That said though, despite knowing each other’s secrets, I don’t detect much meanness behind the gossip. When I hear that a couple is getting a divorce, the teller usually mixes a note of concern in the telling. Any delight is just anticipation that the parties involved will be newly single and available for other disastrous relationships in the near future. Islanders tend to have more empathy than glee when learning of another’s misfortunes. Schadenfreude is not the primary type of freude here on San Juan Island, and people are remarkably willing to stand about, mail in hand and with their car running, to catch up on the latest complaint or joyful news in your life.

Thus, I believe that speed therapy has a real future in Friday Harbor. The only obstacle that I can identify is that some environments are, by their nature, going to be speedier than others. Jenna’s clients only have as much time as it takes to pick up a package or ponder the stamps. You know your session is over when she calls out, “May I help the next customer?” This is likewise true for the therapists at King’s. Whatever your distress may be, you need to articulate it, and get the emotional support you need in the time it takes your cashier-therapist to tally up your groceries, take your payment, punch your Turkey Card and get your frozen pizza into either a plastic or paper bag (because one of your problems is forgetting your re-useable bag each and every time you go grocery shopping…just saying).

Fortunately, other than closing at 6:00, Market Place provides the ideal venue for leisurely speed therapy. I know people who go twice a day for a tiny cuplet of coffee and a chance to engage with a revolving staff of speed therapists roaming the aisles. However, although appointments are not enforced, it may serve us all to establish some sort of therapist-client etiquette so that we all still look forward to running into one another on a grocery run. No one wants to be the person who always finds themselves alone in every aisle because everyone else is steering clear. Our friends cannot charge our speed therapy sessions to our insurance providers. They listen to us because they like us, and we should be mindful that they may have other (if not better) things to do.

In the spirit of maintaining respectful time-management boundaries, a local friend suggested that Market Place attach little flagpoles and colored flags to their shopping carts. Hoisting a particular flag on your cart would alert other shoppers to your availability.

For example, a Red Flag would indicate, "I am on a mission. I am available to greet you and inquire briefly (and, perhaps, insincerely) how you are doing, and that’s about it. Please respond that you are fine. And, for the love of all that’s holy, do not take the opportunity to offer any information on your medical condition, your current relationship, the job you hate and the people you hate who work with you at the job you hate, or the whereabouts and achievements of your offspring. Your more complex problems requiring focused attention will have to wait for another grocery trip and a different flag.

A Yellow Flag indicates that I have a few moments to go over a rough outline of the above. Yellow says, "I have time to linger for up to five minutes in the mustard aisle, and you can give me an abbreviated update. “

No excruciating detail, mind you. You can mention that you just had a colonoscopy, but any particulars will have to wait until I am waving a green flag.

A yellow flag also indicates that I am available to hear about the broad strokes of your vacation and travels, your new pets, your old pets, your houseguests, any movies/television shows/ books/spiritual practices that you think I might enjoy. We have enough time to dabble into the minutia regarding people we have in common, but you must limit yourself to three snarky comments. I am a little busy, after all.

An Orange Flag signals that I am not in the right head-space on this trip (or at any time in my life) to hear about the intricacies of your diet or digestion. I may be saying all of the right things, but my Orange Flag speaks my truth. Be assured that I am not gripping the handle of my shopping cart because I am about to levitate upon hearing that you have given up grain and dairy, read the China Study, or that you are eating an exclusive diet of bacon smothered in gorgonzola three times per day. I am just trying not to bolt to an aisle far, far away. A Green Flag means that I am open to offering an intensive speed therapy session. We can move to a private corner in the organic chips aisle where we can share deeply personal details beside Barbara’s Baked Cheese Curls.

Our Green Flag session is over when we acknowledge we have made important progress in our time together and that I/you always feel better after talking to you/me...or the frozen stuff starts leaking…whichever comes first.

The Purple Flag (although never raised), would signal that I want to hear all about your diet. Spare me nothing. Give me the exhaustive details on the supplements you are taking, your fasting regimen and the status of your colon health. Please include the number of active bacteria in your probiotics, tell me how vinegar has all but eliminated your joint pain and sing to me your praises of kombucha. If you are also into cross-fit, throw that in as well. I can stand it. My Purple Flag has given me inner resolve to stay strong.

And, finally, if I am waving the White Flag, it’s not about you. It’s me, really. As an uncertified speed therapist, I have reached my therapeutic limits and feel like I am no longer being effective. The White Flag means that I am going to give you a referral.

Please set up a session with Jenna at the Post Office, and tell her that Ingrid sent you.




  • Beth Spadafora
    Beth Spadafora Tuesday, 30 October 2018 14:04 Comment Link

    That was an amazingly accurate portrayal of living in Friday Harbor! That’s what I love, the feeling of belonging. I hadn’t thought of it as speed therapy but now I will. Thanks for the insight and potential structure.

  • “Winnie of the Spice Isle”
    “Winnie of the Spice Isle” Friday, 26 October 2018 09:25 Comment Link

    ??“....that was amazing. Was it good for you?”??

  • Cynthia Brast-Bormann
    Cynthia Brast-Bormann Thursday, 25 October 2018 18:25 Comment Link

    Love it!

  • jim shu carroll
    jim shu carroll Thursday, 25 October 2018 17:07 Comment Link

    oh ingrid, that's too many colors for me. i'm gonna stick with the big three. and i'm also gonna steal your idea and implement it here in langley. trust me, it's VERY FH here...

    i think the only thing i miss more than reading your ( and david's and others') in the SJIslander is writing my own. do you think they would accept a quarterly "view from the south"? i mean, i'm still stuck on an island, in that beautiful island-sticky kind of way... check it out for me?

  • Gail
    Gail Thursday, 25 October 2018 16:05 Comment Link

    This was so funny I laughed out loud. This is Friday Harbor.


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