Did you ever pick your toes in Poughkeepsie?

A classic scene in the 1971 movie “The French Connection” is where Gene Hackman as Detective “Popeye” Doyle chases down a suspect.  He throws him up against a wall and asks “did you ever pick your toes in Poughkeepsie?” The perp looks at him like “wtf”?  And Doyle repeats it.  And the guy answers.  The question wasn’t meant to be funny.  The purpose was to disorient the subject and change the situational dynamic. Next time you have a disagreement with someone, ask a random – unrelated – question (at the right moment of course). And see what happens.  

When you read of the failures of our prison system and the collateral damage of incarceration, you wonder if changing the situational dynamics of rehabilitation might provide better result.   Breaking the patterns of troubled youth might be just the ticket.  For first and even second offenders, this could include mandatory programs for:

Socialization — Learning to sing, act, dance, debate, do stand-up comedy, counseling others;

Scholastic — The reading, writing and arithmetic but also languages, computer programming and skills like cooking;

Discipline — Toeing the line.  You’re in the program and you cooperate;

Sports — Learning the atypical:  golf, tennis, skiing, squash, handball (no basketball or football);

Responsibility — Caring for plants and animals; working with therapy dogs; visiting senior centers; getting jobs;

Nutrition — Not just eating healthy but learning why you eat healthy.

You read of boot camps where young offenders are pushed by drill instructors.  They do push ups, lift weights and toe the line — just like they would in prison.  But just think about getting young men to learn ballet, play golf, prepare spaghetti carbonara or perform in a Shakespearean drama.

Modifying situational dynamics can enhance levels of success for a lot of things (marriage, politics, parenting, academics, business).  Creative thinking – inside and outside the box – can pay dividends.