Atlantic monthly introvert

Caring for Your Introvert - The Atlantic

The habits and needs of a little-understood group

By Jonathan Rauch

Ina Fassbender / Reuters

Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

If so, do you tell this person he is "too serious," or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?

If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren't caring for him properly. Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.

I know. My name is Jonathan, and I am an introvert.

Oh, for years I denied it. After all, I have good social skills. I am not morose or misanthropic. Usually. I am far from shy. I love long conversations that explore intimate thoughts or passionate interests. But at last I have self-identified and come out to my friends and colleagues. In doing so, I have found myself liberated from any number of damaging misconceptions and stereotypes. Now I am here to tell you what you need to know in order to respond sensitively and supportively to your own introverted family members, friends, and colleagues. Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts. It pays to learn the warning signs.

What is introversion? In its modern sense, the concept goes back to the 1920s and the psychologist Carl Jung. Today it is a mainstay of personality tests, including the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."

How many people are introverts? I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search. The answer: About 25 percent. Or: Just under half. Or—my favorite—"a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population."

Are introverts misunderstood? Wildly. That, it appears, is our lot in life. "It is very difficult for an extrovert to understand an introvert," write the education experts Jill D. Burruss and Lisa Kaenzig. (They are also the source of the quotation in the previous paragraph.) Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood. They listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping.

Are introverts oppressed? I would have to say so. For one thing, extroverts are overrepresented in politics, a profession in which only the garrulous are really comfortable. Look at George W. Bush. Look at Bill Clinton. They seem to come fully to life only around other people. To think of the few introverts who did rise to the top in politics—Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon—is merely to drive home the point. With the possible exception of Ronald Reagan, whose fabled aloofness and privateness were probably signs of a deep introverted streak (many actors, I've read, are introverts, and many introverts, when socializing, feel like actors), introverts are not considered "naturals" in politics.

Extroverts therefore dominate public life. This is a pity. If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place. As Coolidge is supposed to have said, "Don't you know that four fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?" (He is also supposed to have said, "If you don't say anything, you won't be called on to repeat it." The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself.)

With their endless appetite for talk and attention, extroverts also dominate social life, so they tend to set expectations. In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. "People person" is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like "guarded," "loner," "reserved," "taciturn," "self-contained," "private"—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality. Female introverts, I suspect, must suffer especially. In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty.

Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts. Also, it is probably due to our lack of small talk, a lack that extroverts often mistake for disdain. We tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking, which is why their meetings never last less than six hours. "Introverts," writes a perceptive fellow named Thomas P. Crouser, in an online review of a recent book called Why Should Extroverts Make All the Money? (I'm not making that up, either), "are driven to distraction by the semi-internal dialogue extroverts tend to conduct. Introverts don't outwardly complain, instead roll their eyes and silently curse the darkness." Just so.

The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books—written, no doubt, by extroverts—regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward. We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts' Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say "I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush."

How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice? First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation.

Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don't say "What's the matter?" or "Are you all right?"

Third, don't say anything else, either.

The Ultra-Introverts Who Live Nocturnally


While most people are fast asleep, some ultra-introverts are going about their lives, reveling in the quiet and solitude. They challenge a core assumption of psychology: that all humans need social connection.

By Faith Hill

Max Mikulecky for The Atlantic

Imagine it’s nighttime. You slip under the covers and turn out the light. Maybe you hear cars honking in the street, or voices from the other side of your apartment wall, or your partner snoring beside you; maybe it’s quiet. It might even feel like the whole world is drifting off with you.

But out in that dark night, while most people are fast asleep, there’s a whole world of people who are wide awake. They go to work, drive around, run errands at 24-hour stores. In this parallel universe, there are rarely crowds, nor traffic, nor lines; no awkward shuffling around other shoppers in the grocery aisle, no run-ins with neighbors or cacophony of email notifications. As the sun rises, these nocturnal people settle down to sleep.

They don’t all want to live this way. Some of them have to; they have sleep disorders, or night-shift jobs. But some of them want this very much—enough to seek out those night shifts, to train themselves to wake in the dark. They do this because of the isolation, not in spite of it. I talked to people who painted me a magical picture of their nighttime world: of exquisite, profound solitude; of relief; of escape.

According to most psychologists, humans are inherently social creatures; contact with others isn’t just a want—it’s a need. Deprived of it, people’s physical and mental health tends to decline. But the nocturnal people I spoke with feel they don’t need much interaction at all. “I’ve tried to hold down day jobs, but I couldn’t handle waking up early, rushing to work, and most of all just … being around people all the time,” Chris Hengen, a 26-year-old nighttime security guard living in Spokane Valley, Washington, told me via email. (He didn’t feel comfortable talking on the phone.) “I don’t have any ill will towards people, it’s just exhausting to me.” John Young, a 41-year-old network engineer living in Hammonton, New Jersey, told me he’s “more than happy” living a fairly solitary life. Young has worked night shifts on and off since the late 1990s; he prefers the peace of night, but that preference is sometimes mistaken for social anxiety or depression. In fact, he told me, he’s an introvert and this is just how he likes things. And many others I spoke with had similar reasoning.

I could understand why people might wonder, though, whether a near-total retreat from daytime society would be motivated by more than just introversion. When does a desire for solitude cross into something unhealthy? If we take the nocturnals at their word—that they simply like living this way—they complicate one of our core assumptions about human psychology: that all people have the same fundamental needs.

Max Mikulecky for The Atlantic

Social interaction looked very different among ancient humans than it does today. Until about 12,000 years ago, connections were mostly limited to relatively small extended-family groups for hunting and gathering. When agricultural practices developed, larger populations began to settle down together—but interactions with strangers were still fairly limited. Those communities, though, grew larger and more complex over time. That growth exploded in the industrial revolution, as large numbers of people flooded into cities to work in factories, coming into closer contact than ever.

In his book Bowling Alone, the political scientist Robert Putnam argued that this urban boom initially spurred a flourishing of connection. But, in his view, the late 1960s and early ’70s saw those bonds begin to break down, as urban sprawl and new technologies led people to spend more time alone, watching television or driving. In 2017, once and future U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warned of a dangerous “loneliness epidemic.” As he wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness. ” In recent years, commentators have implicated loneliness in a wide swath of society’s ailments, including steep suicide rates and the opioid crisis. Twenty-first-century American culture is now often associated with profound isolation.

At the same time, much of modern life still entails being around other people whether you like it or not. From a young age, kids shuffle into schools, where they spend all day with their peers. The people I spoke with told me they’d always resisted this forced socialization. Daniel Herman, who lives in Orland Park, Illinois, and has been working a night-shift machining job since the late ’80s, told me he always wanted to be alone as a kid, though he didn’t understand why he felt that way. After high school, he started drinking more and more often; in social situations, he felt like it allowed him to interact like everyone else. But he didn’t like feeling so dependent on alcohol. “While other people are drinking and actually getting drunk,” he told me, he was “getting normal. ” (Now he’s sober; he told me that living nocturnally makes it easier not to drink, because he doesn’t need to in order to power through social interactions.)

Growing up grants some freedom to pursue solitude (at the very least, you can live alone if you want to and can afford it), but adult life typically involves coming face to face with other humans—waiting in line at the bank, running into people in the park, trading pleasantries with the person across the counter. For many it also leads to workplaces where you’re expected to be “on” all the time: chatting with your cubicle neighbor, making small talk while you microwave lunch, speaking in meetings.

Roxana Alexandru, a life coach for introverts, felt stretched thin by her old office job. “I hid away from people in meeting rooms,” she told me. “It was the worst thing ever, sitting next to people and hearing them talk all day long.” Now she works remotely, and she regularly rises at 4 a.m. to work and enjoy the quiet before her kids wake up, around 6. Though it leaves her exhausted, she says she needs to take advantage of a sliver of time when those around her are asleep, when she can breathe and focus; after she helps her kids with their morning routine, she takes a two- or three-hour nap to try to make up for it. (“I love my kids so much, but I don’t think kids are meant for this type of personality,” she told me. “I would not change it … but it is a challenge.”)

You might think modern life would make it easier to be alone. The internet lets you do many jobs and accomplish many tasks from a distance, and social media can allow you some limited form of connection without actually having to endure a crowded bus or a lengthy conversation. But those same technological conveniences can also start encroaching on the feeling of true solitude. “It’s repulsive to be so in touch, and feel like you’re literally in a crowd even if you’re alone in a room,” Anneli Rufus, the author of Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto, told me. (She doesn’t keep a nocturnal schedule, though she used to fantasize about doing so.) Although the online world never truly quiets, nighttime can still feel calmer—most people in your time zone are asleep, not posting or responding or expecting communication. Even if it’s not totally logical, living nocturnally can feel like an act of rebellion against the practice of being perennially in touch. Like a modern-day equivalent of “shuffling off into the woods and building a cabin,” Rufus told me, you’re making a statement, even if it’s mostly symbolic: “No one else is here.”

Many of the people I spoke with had felt trapped in contemporary life—depressed, on edge, and guilty for feeling that way in the first place. But then, each came to the realization: It doesn’t need to be this way. There’s already a time when the noise and chaos of society falls away. They just need to be awake for it.

Max Mikulecky for The Atlantic

Being awake for it, though, is not always easy. Ideal sleep hours vary from person to person, but most people naturally follow a similar circadian rhythm and wake during daylight. Messing with that internal clock can wreak havoc on your health: Circadian-rhythm disruptions are associated with increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and cancer. Some people I spoke with told me they sometimes have trouble falling asleep and have had to intentionally train themselves for nocturnal living: They have to be disciplined about getting good sleep in the daytime, using blackout curtains or white-noise machines and putting all their devices on silent. But it may still be hard on their bodies.

Nocturnal people have to deal with logistical obstacles, too. Finding 24-hour businesses can feel like a jackpot—multiple people described the relief of walking through an empty grocery store—but when they close down or cut hours, it’s a blow. And some places, including most doctors’ offices, are never open at night except for emergencies; that means nocturnal people typically have no choice but to go in the middle of their sleeping hours.

Some find the inconveniences and health risks to be acceptable trade-offs for a lifestyle that they say has made them immeasurably happier. “There’s a sense of timelessness,” I heard from one woman who asked not to be named, not wanting to insult people she’d spent time with before going nocturnal. “It feels like you’re in a free-floating abyss.” The night gives you freedom—from expectations, from obligations, and from distractions. It allows you to just be. “The daytime forces all these identity possibilities on you,” Rufus told me. “The nighttime, with its silence and its darkness and its solitude, helps you settle more into who you really are.”

But I didn’t know how to square these comments with the abundant research suggesting that humans are naturally social beings. The neocortex, a part of the brain that is essential for strong social skills, is much larger in humans than other primates, which many researchers believe is a natural response to our society’s social complexity. Neuroscientists have shown that our brains process social rejection and physical pain in similar ways. The researcher Matthew Lieberman has found that the neural networks involved in reading others’ emotions are active almost constantly when we’re awake. “This is what our brains were wired for: reaching out to and interacting with others,” he writes in his book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect. And social isolation has profound effects on the body, down to the molecular level.

Given all of that, some psychologists I spoke with were skeptical that a highly isolated nocturnal life would be healthy in most cases. They stressed that it’s impossible to make judgments from afar, but Lee Anna Clark, a professor at Notre Dame University who studies personality pathology, gave me a general framework for how experts think about whether a behavior is maladaptive. Broadly speaking, they consider two separate factors, she told me: whether it works for the person engaging in the behavior, and whether it’s harming anyone else. Being this isolated could be adaptive for certain people—but there are plenty of ways it could go wrong.

There’s already been some controversy in the psychological community about whether intense introversion should qualify as a disorder. The American Psychiatric Association has considered adding introversion to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Pathologizing introversion sounds absurd—until you start considering the extreme end of the spectrum. Colin DeYoung, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, didn’t comment on the DSM debate—but he did explain that the clinical version of introversion is known as “detachment,” characterized partly by low sensitivity to reward. That means disconnection from social relationships, but also from “energetic or upbeat positive emotions like joy or excitement,” he told me. Clark said something similar. “There is a connection between social interaction and pleasure,” she said. “So people who live their life alone without others, they may not be unhappy. But they also may not experience the full spectrum of pleasure.” And they might not even realize it.

Max Mikulecky for The Atlantic

I spoke with seven people who have kept some variation of a nocturnal schedule. Some of them occasionally saw friends or talked to people on the phone, though they said they could handle only a small amount of socializing before needing alone time again. A few were married to non-nocturnal people; Herman, for instance, sees his wife when their schedules happen to overlap, but much of his time at home is spent by himself, watching sports on TV or exercising on his stationary bike while she sleeps. (She’s introverted too, he told me, and their marriage works well because they can function well independently.)

Others were real loners, living alone and keeping largely to themselves. Alec Maltz, a 38-year-old in Los Angeles who lived nocturnally for years, told me he thought he could likely go “indefinitely” without seeing people. (He’s had to switch back to working in the day more recently, “and it’s taken its toll on me. It’s too busy in the daytime and much too bright,” he told me via email.) Some people told me they had lost touch with old friends, and didn’t regret it. One even said he’d forsaken potential romantic relationships in favor of living nocturnally. Everyone I talked with felt deeply grateful for the night’s reprieve.

It is tough for some of the daytime people in their introverts’ orbits. Young said his family has regular get-togethers, but he only attends them sometimes, and leaves early when he does. Alexandru’s husband, Willem, told me he’s had to get used to the fact that they won’t always share all parts of their life. When she goes to sleep at 8 or 9 p.m. so she can wake up at 4, “that means that we don’t go to bed together … That’s something that doesn’t feel nice,” he said. Or “you wake up and your partner’s not there.” But for the most part, they said their family members seemed to understand that their introverted loved ones had different needs, and wanted them to be happy. Willem told me that his wife has taught him to be more reflective and comfortable with silence, and he doesn’t think partners need to share every aspect of their lives.

The nocturnal people I spoke with didn’t see their disposition as optional, and self-acceptance gave them great comfort. “I can’t try to fight it anymore,” Herman told me. “I don’t try to force myself to do things I don’t want to do.” Research suggests, though, that personality traits aren’t necessarily fixed in stone. When introverts are prodded to act like extroverts—say, by pretending they’re more talkative and assertive, or interacting with strangers—they tend to report feeling positive emotions afterward. I asked some of these nocturnal people: Might you ultimately be better off if you pushed yourself to socialize more? Most of them felt skeptical that they’d be happier, and some had tried and felt exhausted by their forced interactions. But some of them said they couldn’t be sure, or admitted that, on occasion, they’ve felt it might be nice to have some company. Maltz said he was interested in having a romantic partner, someone who “wants to do their own thing alone in the same room. ” Herman told me he’s sometimes enjoyed talking to co-workers.

Still, Sanna Balsari-Palsule, a researcher at the Centre for Social and Behaviour Change at Ashoka University in Haryana, India, told me that we should be careful not to infer too much from studies that push introverts to interact. They show mood boosts after people engage with others for relatively short periods of time; it’s not at all clear that introverts would be happier in the long run if they started acting extroverted forever. And some researchers theorize that people benefit from behaving in accordance with their personality traits.

In fact, Balsari-Palsule guessed that isolated nocturnal people could be high-functioning. “If they are able to get the equivalent of what we see as social interaction from other forms, whether that be using social media … or even just watching films where you feel like you’re interacting with people in a way,” she told me, “I don’t think that necessarily translates into being maladaptive.

If they are happy, that raises some serious questions about the amount of social interaction humans inherently need, or whether humans have universal psychological needs at all. For decades, many psychologists have believed that all people share certain basic needs, with variation in degree. In Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs,” first described in 1943, the only needs more essential than “social” ones are those related to physical survival and security. And in more recent years, researchers have proposed updated versions; the Basic Psychological Needs Theory, for example, asserts that we have an innate need for “relatedness”—the feeling that you matter to other people.

But in trying to draw connections between people and cultures—to describe what we all share, despite our myriad differences—researchers may be papering over variation in even these most elemental traits. Some social needs are probably universal up to a certain age; babies need connection to their caregivers, to have eye contact and touch and warmth. But for adults, needs may be less definitive. “I think there are some people so unusually low in that need that for them it basically doesn’t exist,” DeYoung, the University of Minnesota psychologist, told me. “We should take seriously the possibility that there are people who really don’t need social connection.” Psychologists may be missing those people altogether: If they remain in solitude—if they’re not even awake at the same hours as the rest of us—we might not notice they’re there.

Max Mikulecky for The Atlantic

Though the impulse to find some universal traits is well intentioned, it may also be hubristic. We can only know our own internal experience, after all, but we still want to project that experience onto others, to feel that their minds reflect our own. Of course, sometimes there are good reasons for deeming other people’s behavior “abnormal,” and asking them to change. The question is where the line is—when another person’s way of living or thinking can be invalidated, and by whom, using what measurements.

The answers people give to that question are inevitably shaped by invisible biases. In the U.S., a solitary nocturnal life might seem more mind-boggling than it would in other countries. On the one hand, it’s an individualistic culture, seemingly primed for people who want to build the life that works for them. On the other, it’s well documented that America is a particularly extrovert-centric nation. The historian Warren Susman called it a “culture of personality,” which glorifies being bold and being seen. From the time Carl Jung described the term extraversion in a popular 1921 book, it became linked in the U.S. to “self-improvement, independence and the go-getting American dream,” according to Fay Bound Alberti, a historian of emotions and the author of A Biography of Loneliness. Introversion, meanwhile, was associated with “loneliness.”

None of this means that social connection isn’t important. But perhaps we shouldn’t be so sure that connection means the same thing to everyone, or that there is any one way to live a fulfilling life. The past decade or so has seen a growing acceptance of different identities, including a flourishing neurodiversity movement. Traditionally, that’s been focused on neurological differences—but some have argued it should encompass variations in the mind, as well as the brain. Most people probably wouldn’t think to champion nocturnal people under the same banner, or in the same spirit. But maybe we should.

The pandemic, too, may be shifting how we think of individual psychological needs. It’s never been more clear that people can work well on very different schedules. Balsari-Palsule believes that workplaces can play a huge role in dictating whether introverts feel pressured to act extroverted. Now they could pave the way for greater acceptance of nocturnal people, and for introverts at large.

The night owls I spoke with are banking on it. When I asked them what they want from the future, many of them described a similar vision—one of even deeper isolation, further from the clamor and unrest of other people. Young, the network engineer, told me that he’s “looking to maybe become more introverted … thinking of moving into a tiny home in the middle of nowhere.”

And Herman, the machinist who has lived nocturnally for more than 30 years, dreams of a time when he can quit his night shift, his one remaining tie to society. “I can see just living in a tiny little ranch somewhere—somewhere in Montana with nobody around. There’s my dream retirement,” he told me. “Peace and quiet and dark.”

Generation Y New Media

While alive, he was evasive and weird. After his death, he became a frightening ghost and Internet hero, and was also known as a terrorist who participated in the tragic events of September 11th.

Motel guest

On Friday, September 14, 2001, Lyle Stevik walked into a motel located in a sleepy, nondescript town near the Washington Pacific coast. It was a typical September day: 52 degrees in the shade and drizzle. "Welcome. Catch the wave. Life is great,” read a worn sign at the entrance to the Lake Quinault Inn. A very rosy-optimistic motto for such an unremarkable place. nine0003

Stevik looked to be in his early twenties. He went through the registration procedure, like many other motel guests: he grabbed a pen and scribbled information about himself on a piece of paper.

Name : Lyle Stevik
: 1019 S. Progress Ave.
: ID ... Meridian

There was nothing unusual about the registration procedure, especially given the current situation. Three days earlier, at a distance of 3,000 miles from here, three planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing 2996 people, 6000 people were injured. A national security crisis has arrived. The tragic events of September 11 became part of the history of the United States, forever imprinted in the memory of Americans. September 14 was another boring day for the residents of the isolated town of Amanda Park.

In 2001, the Lake Quinault Inn was still a family creation: Barbara, affectionately known as Aunt Barb, was the front desk manager; her nephew Gabe owned a motel and shop next door. Hotel built in 1960s and consisted of six rooms in the main building and two in the wing, gradually fell into disrepair. But for some travelers who wanted to visit this picturesque area of ​​the Olympic National Park, this fact did not really matter. The rooms looked tidy enough. The price of a room per night was less than $50, which made this motel the cheapest in town.

Aunt Barb gave Lyle the keys to room 8 in the outbuilding. He paid in cash. Outside was the Olympic Mobile RV Park, a miniature capital of trailers, broken and wrecked cars and spare tires. Inside, the furniture included a double bed, dusty carpet, nicotine-stained curtains, and a glass dressing table, all for $43.87. nine0003

After 60 minutes, Lyle returned to the front desk flushed, flustered, anxious. Apparently the trailer park was too noisy for him. He wanted to change the room. Despite the fact that she had only just met him, she remembered this second meeting much better.

Lyle avoided eye contact. He was behaving strangely. It gave Aunt Barb goosebumps all over 's body.

She handed him the keys to the fifth room in the middle of the main building overlooking the tiny car. The room was identical to room 8: dusty carpet, stained curtains, but Lyle liked it. He spent that night and the next. nine0003

On Saturday, September 15, 2001, people on the road saw Lyle walking up and down the highway. On the same day, "several people" saw him standing on the porch of the fifth room. Photo: Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Monday 17 September was still 52 degrees in shade and drizzle. Marisela, the housekeeper, knocked on Lyle's door, but there was no answer. It was already 11:30 and he was late with the eviction. She knocked again. Nothing. Marisela only needed to clean one room, which has become the norm lately. The motel didn't have a website - it still doesn't. Gabe hoped to fill the rooms with fishing enthusiasts who would be lured here by rainbow trout and wild salmon found in the Quillaut River. The fishing season ended in August, and Amanda Park was practically deserted. nine0003

Marisela turned the knob and slowly stepped inside. She found Lyle kneeling in an alcove in the left corner of the room.

His back was against the door, his arms at his sides, his head thrown back, his eyes open and staring at the ceiling.

On Saturday he asked her for extra towels, three of which were scattered on the walnut wood table. Three more were folded and lay on a chair. On Sunday, he asked her not to clean his room. Now he was silent, humble and did not answer questions. nine0003

Marisela assumed he was praying, but something was wrong. Aunt Barb was in Olympia 87 miles away, so Marisela called Gabe. He quickly ran to room five and cautiously approached the kneeling figure in the corner. Lyle was still immobile. His wrists were drooping, his fingers relaxed, and loose Levi's jeans fell off his skinny waist.

Gabe stepped closer. He saw a leather belt wrapped tightly around Lyle's neck on one side and attached to a metal hanger on the other. The knees were raised off the ground. Lyle wasn't breathing. He hanged himself. nine0003

On the bedside table was a folded review card, scrawled on the back: "Per Room." Inside were eight bills of $20 each as payment for two nights spent at the motel and as a generous tip for good service.

The date and time of Lyle's death is unknown. He died approximately on the afternoon of Sunday 16 September 2001. Photo: Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Gabe called 911. A paramedic arrived, followed by local law enforcement. Lyle's emaciated corpse (at 6.2 feet tall, he weighed 140 pounds) was handed over to local coroners. Lyle left no trace of himself in room five: no credit card, no driver's license, no passport. A police detective asked bus drivers on Highway 60 if any of them had seen the guy. (No one saw.) Another interviewed members of the Quinault Indian Nation, as they may have known him. (They didn't know.) No one in Amanda Park reported a missing person this week. And no one many weeks before. nine0003

Law enforcement has verified Lyle's DNA, fingerprints, and dental records against the FBI's databases of millions of criminals collected from crime scenes and victims' bodies. There were no matches. The address he listed on the registration slip belonged to the Best Western Plus Rama Inn, 600 miles away. The manager, who worked there for six years, did not identify Lyle from the photographs.

The name Lyle Stevik was not in any database, not in any telephone directory, not in any search engine, not in the voter lists and census data. nine0006

Lyle Stevik did not exist.

First assumptions.

"I've worked on a lot of suicide cases," former police detective Lane Youmans wrote on a popular unsolved mysteries forum called Websleuths, "but I've never met a man who was sure all his bills were paid. " .

Youmans, currently the Coroner of Grace Harbor County, which also includes Amanda Park, had first-hand experience of mysterious murders and shocking suicides. But this case was different - this case was completely strange. nine0003

When Youmans arrived at the motel, he started circling around number five, putting a Styrofoam cup of coffee on the bedside table. Lyle was still in the corner, the belt still wrapped around his neck.

Lyle's special features are a mole on his left cheek and an appendicitis scar. Photo: Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

He took several photos of the room: “The bedspread was removed from the bed and hung over the only window. Hangers lay on the floor next to the chair. The light was on in the bathroom, the door was partially open. nine0003

Youmans noticed that the pillows were between the coat rack and the walls on both sides. Perhaps Lyle came up with the homemade punching bag, knowing that in the last painful moments he would squirm and thrash. Or it was a makeshift sound barrier so that his desperate cries could not be heard in neighboring rooms.

Lyle's suicide was painful. The hanger was four feet above the floor, which was perfect for kneeling. He had to resist an overwhelming, instinctive urge to get back on his feet and save his body from destruction. nine0003

Most likely, he chose "partial hanging", that is, when the weight of the head acts as a constrictive force, blocking the neck veins and blocking access for blood circulation in the vessels of the head.

“There are always involuntary convulsions and movements during strangulation. It is an internal struggle for survival,” Youmans describes.

A pen was sticking out of the right front pocket of Lyle's washed light blue jeans. There were eight one-dollar bills in the right back pocket. The desk drawer contained a new Colgate toothpaste, an Oral-B brush (still sealed), and other small items. There was a red Bible in the bedside table - there was one copy in each room of the motel. Between pages 1050 and 1051, a bookmark was viewed. The opening passage, John 12:33, declared, "He said, signifying by what death He would die." nine0003

A small black bin under the bedside table contained yesterday's Daily World, the local Grace Harbor County newspaper, and an empty Pepsi plastic bottle. Nearby lay a crumpled piece of thick white paper no more than six inches wide. On it was written in block letters: "SUICIDE".

Gabe gave Youmans the registration form that Lyle filled out at the counter. The handwriting was different from the scrap of paper found in the trash can. “Lyle filled out the registration form and the review card in his usual handwriting. I believe he printed "SUICIDE" in block letters to see how it would look... as he wasn't sure he spelled the word correctly... or was it a sign to anyone who found him that he had committed suicide, - thought Youmans. “Then he realizes that it will be obvious anyway, so he throws the note away.” nine0003

"Handwriting is similar to what people with medical backgrounds have. "

Lyle may have been a doctor. Or a surgeon. Even if it wasn't, his clothes suggested he was leading a good life: black Timberland boots (size 10), Levi's 500 jeans (waist 36, length 34), gray Fruit of the Loom T-shirt (XL) and Hanes underwear.

“I always thought Lyle was from an above-average income family,” Youmans wrote. “There was no indication that he was doing manual labor, there were no injuries, he took care of his appearance.” Except for the fact that he was incredibly skinny. His clothes were too big for him. All the cutouts in the belt - with a shiny western-style metal buckle and "GENUINE LEATHER" stamped - were used by him, as if he was losing weight and continued to tighten it more and more. The belt was made for a 31 waist, five inches smaller than his Levi's. nine0003

Lyle may have thrown his things away before coming to Amanda Park, Youmans thought. Maybe he threw his valuables (wallet, bank card, etc.) into Lake Quinault not far from here. But they did not explore the bottom of the lake. They didn't have enough evidence to find anything there.

Youmans wrote: “If we organized a search, we would look for a needle in a haystack. It's deep and very dark."

Youmans collected Lyle's fingerprints, bagged his corpse, and waited for the coroner. nine0003

“We'd get a call if he was local,” Youmans wrote. No, I think he wanted to disappear. He moved as far away from home as possible. I've always told people that Grays Harbor is not the end of the earth, but if you put your feet up on your toes you can see it from here."

Lyle had scratches and cuts on his arms. Before his death, he allegedly weighed about 80 kilograms. Photo: Flickr, CC BY 2.0

However, Lyle was someone's son, friend, colleague, brother, nephew or father. Someone had to look for him. “I investigated several other suicides in which people came here from out of state and did not have any signs with them to identify them,” Youmans wrote. “But I’ve always been able to identify them—before Lyle.” nine0003

Ex-Director of the Human Resources Department of JSC Kazakhtelecom Dalyapraz BUKETOVA worked in the company for 12 years and was fired allegedly due to staff reduction. She told the editors how and with what she had to fight in Kazakhtelecom in order to maintain the company's personnel potential.

Dalyapraz Buketova.
Reduction of the Shrews

- It's a big rarity when a leader of this level - a top manager of the largest company in the country, even a former one - comes to the media with a desire to share inside information about the company. What prompted you to take such an extreme step? nine0003

- I worked at Kazakhtelecom for 12 years and put my soul into the business. What is happening now with the team and with the company, I am extremely worried. I don't have rose-colored glasses, they have always been stealing in Kazakhtelecom, but what is happening now is simply impossible to perceive normally. Even taking into account the fact that we live in Kazakhstan, where a whole generation has already grown up with the notion that corruption is the norm.

- Why were you fired?

- The official interpretation is the reduction of my position, but before that I was subjected to pressure and intimidation for two years. I wanted to create a transparent people management system in which an objective assessment of the performance of each employee would directly affect their earnings and growth opportunities, which would reduce tribalism and corruption by 80 percent. nine0003

- What was this innovation?

- In 2013 I defended the "Strategy of Social Responsibility" and the new personnel policy. The board of directors decided to transfer the payroll fund to the department that I led, and this is more than 70 percent of the company's entire budget.

Spent $2.5 million to save $150 thousand.

The fact is that over the past five years, that is, since the appointment of Kuanyshbek ESEKEEV as Chairman of the Board of Kazakhtelecom JSC, the company's employees have never received a salary increase. Our employees have become poorer by 60 percent. To remedy the situation, we began to introduce a position assessment system (grading) and individual performance assessment, that is, key performance indicators (KPIs). Simply put, who works better - he gets more. This is a very transparent system that allows you to create a "personnel lift" from the very bottom to the top. This system is inconvenient for idlers and non-professionals. One of the important points of the "Strategy of Social Responsibility" is the fight against corruption. I had never really dealt with these issues before, but in strategy I had to go into the details. A commission was created in the company that dealt with corruption cases, and since I was the author of this strategy, I was forced to be admitted to this commission. The scale of corruption shocked me. nine0003

- What scale are we talking about?

- There was not a single branch or division where there were no violations of procurement or privatization, but the perpetrators got off with a slight fright, and only the performers were fired. As a person who has worked in this system for a long time, I understand perfectly well that the executors were punished - those who are forced to follow orders, and not the one who receives dividends from this. In the summer of 2015, I approached the board of directors with my doubts about these issues. I was also prompted to take this step by the fact that this council discussed the issue of extending the powers of the strategic director, who during the period of his work has already seriously harmed the system. nine0003

Plus, I perfectly saw what contracts passed through my department: the sums have already gone not for millions of tenge, but for millions of dollars. This is the director for strategic management of Kazakhtelecom, Batyr MAKHANBETAZHIEV, arrested by the anti-corruption service of Almaty, who came to this position in Esekeev's team. Makhanbetazhiev's activity is now being carefully checked because of the criminal case, in which Seitkazy MATAEV is also implicated.

- What were these contracts?

- Starting in 2012, the company purchased consulting services to develop the company's strategy. As a doctor of business administration, I know that a strategy for a company is written for at least five years. But we bought a consult for a million US dollars every year. First it was the German company Detecon International GmbH, followed by McKinsey & Company, and then by PrizewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The latter company also developed the establishment of a HR document center and was paid nearly $2.5 million for this before the devaluation. The result of this project will be the dismissal of 22 personnel officers in the regions. The salaries of these employees amount to a maximum of 100 thousand tenge, the company will save at most 150 thousand US dollars per year. That is, 2.5 million dollars were paid to cut 22 personnel officers? And when these costs will pay off - in 15 years, that is, never. I raised these issues at the board of directors, told my management that it was inefficient and contributes to social instability, it has a terrible effect on the team both in the regions and in the center. I noticed that in the end, the HR document management program was written by our own programmers, and not by PwC. What was 2.5 million dollars spent on?! nine0003

If it was really necessary to save this money, then it would be possible to reduce the artificially created positions of top managers, whose salary is about a million tenge per month, not counting premiums and bonuses.

Facsimile of the son-in-law of the Minister of Defense

- To whom and for what are such salaries paid in Kazakhtelecom JSC?

- I call them "bunnies" (as President of Kazakhstan Nursultan NAZARBAYEV aptly defined them) - this is a huge number of incomprehensible people busy with incomprehensible things. nine0003

- Can you name them?

- First of all, this is the managing director for the promotion of media content Baurzhan Muratovich IZBASAROV - the son-in-law of the Minister of Defense of Kazakhstan Imangali TASMAGAMBETOV. I respect Imangali Nurgalievich, but his son-in-law has been working in the company as my immediate supervisor for more than five years, and I saw him a couple of times. He is probably a good person, but has nothing to do with personnel management. He came to the company and took such a high position when he was not yet 30 years old. I was asked to train a guy - no question, but how will I do it if he does not go to work? Because of this, by the way, there was a very big scandal with his facsimile. nine0003

- What is this story?

- His facsimile was placed on large contracts for training, development, and so on - without his knowledge. When Makhanbetazhiev declined to put his signature, he used a facsimile of Baurzhan Izbasarov.

- Did he entrust his facsimile to him?

- There are no special regulations, but I can't say for sure - this is not my competence.

- Did Izbasarov know that his facsimile was used for such purposes?

- When he found out about this, there was a terrible scandal in which I was involved. But I am not a materially responsible person and have nothing to do with signing contracts, we only prepared materials on the orders of the management. I never saw his facsimile and had no right to dispose of it. nine0003

- What was the problem?

- Internal audit revealed that a huge number of expensive contracts were signed by him. At first, to get his signature, I sent employees to his office. And I thought that this is how this system works, and then it turned out that someone “spanked” his facsimile.

- Does he have a separate office?

- Yes, he does not sit in Kazakhtelecom, the company does not even have his office, he has his own office, he runs his own business, often he is not even in the country. nine0003

I also didn't make these bunnies happy because of my strategy. If I managed to introduce my own salary system, then they would not be able to receive the money they received, and they would lose all their bonuses and bonuses, and these are multimillion-dollar sums. One such "bunny" costs the company 17-18 million tenge a year, and those who receive bonuses are twice as expensive. I did all the work for Izbasarov and Makhanbetazhiev in the personnel management system, our functions and CRC duplicated each other. I even had to participate in meetings of the board of directors instead of them. All sorts of documents began to be fabricated against the work of my department, and they began to intimidate me with them. I offered to check my work with the participation of the financial police, then they lagged behind me for six months and even apologized. nine0003

During the leadership of the company by Esekeyev, the number of managing directors has grown from 10 to 24. Most of them are relatives of influential people from the KNB, the Senate and the management of Kazakhtelecom. Some of them receive salaries not only in the central office of the company, but also in the branches. But after my statement about what was happening in the board of directors, my position was abolished, and I was made redundant. Berik BITABAROV, a friend of Makhanbetazhiyev, was appointed HR director.

- Is it legal to hold two positions in a company? nine0003

- No, of course, and I raised this issue - this is a complete contradiction to all the company's charter documents.

"Hare" landing from the south

- Who else do you consider "bunnies"?

- The list includes more than a dozen names. All these people and their relatives are mainly from the south of Kazakhstan - from Shymkent or Zhambyl region. I note that the guys are very young. In accordance with the personnel policy of the company, in order to receive such a salary, they had to rise from the first to the fourth level, to prove their skills. But they all immediately came to the fourth level. nine0003

- What are their approximate salaries?

- From 800 thousand tenge and more. Plus premiums, plus bonuses - up to 20 million tenge. When I raised all these questions, a document from Esekeyev immediately appeared, which said that these were super-specialists, without whom the company would die.

- So all managing directors are someone's relatives or protégés?

- No. There are those who have really gone from being a manager to growing within the company. Many of them were simply removed in order to appoint those whom I listed above. Now there are about 40 percent of top managers who have grown up within the company: they are the real stronghold of Kazakhtelecom, and before they were 80 percent. But thanks to the leadership of Mr. Esekeyev, the situation has changed radically, and I am afraid that the company will simply lie on its side. Very strong specialists also left for Russian companies - IT specialists, techies and other valuable personnel. Since 2012-2013, the question has been regularly raised that the company needs to be reduced by a third, that is, out of 27,000 employees, approximately 17,000 will remain, and this is a disaster for Kazakhtelecom. And the worst thing is that the withdrawal of capital from the company began on an unthinkable scale. Kazakhtelecom has been shaken by scandal after scandal since 2012. After the sale of its subsidiaries - Altel and Kcell - Kazakhtelecom is barely afloat, because these assets brought the main profit. The same companies that were involved in the scandal with Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the President of Uzbekistan, participated in the sale of these telecom operators. nine0003

The scale of the theft is shocking

- Since you are talking about the withdrawal of capital from Kazakhtelecom, you must somehow confirm your words.

- In the summer of 2015, businesswoman Aklia DZEVULSKAYA applied to the Nur Otan party. In her letter, she told how she created her own provider company and tried to sell communication services - Internet and telephony from JSC "DKP (Corporate Sales Directorate - Ed.) Kazakhtelecom". Dzevulska came to the PrEP to connect as a provider and found out that in order to be a provider, you have to give part of the profit. Previously, Dzevulskaya also worked in the AsTi Partners Company, a provider company, this company had a 50% discount, which is almost impossible to get from a regular company, which Dzevulskaya was convinced of when she came to the PrEP. When she dug deeper, she found out that the founders of the company are a certain T. NURAMBEKOV and A. DAULBAYEV - the latter held the position of head of the corporate sales department at Kazakhtelecom. Dzevulskaya spoke about this in her letter to the Nur Otan party, saying that the AsTi Partners Company discount from the PrEP was distributed as follows - they took 20 percent for themselves, and the remaining 30 percent were cashed. As far as I know, this particular company was sorted out. But there are hundreds of such provider companies in Kazakhstan, and dozens in each branch. If the anti-corruption service would check everyone who has discounts, one would notice that they give up to 30 percent of the discount every month in the form of a kickback. This is huge money. nine0003

- Maybe this is a special case?

- That's why I appeal to the media, to government agencies to conduct an audit. I am not an economist, it is difficult for me to assess the scale of theft, but what I heard at the meetings of the Commission on Combating Corruption shocked me greatly. I have already said that the employees of Kazakhtelecom have not received a salary increase for five years: it seems to me that the company simply does not have money left for this after all the crazy tenders that are held there. As I believe, the “Mataev case”, in which employees of Kazakhtelecom appear, is a general trend, there is simply no one to check. nine0003

But it's not just about money, it's about national security. Look up the Panama Papers and you'll find a lot of familiar names there, like Aigul NURIEVA, who made all the major purchasing decisions. Her vote was decisive, because she is a representative of private capital and she has a large block of shares. The whole question is political will, but I'm afraid that no one will have the courage, given who patronizes Ms. Nuriyeva.

Security object or through passage? nine0003

- Are you exaggerating?

- Kazakhtelecom is a secure facility. When Kazakhtelecom ordered consulting services, employees of consulting firms, which I mentioned above, got access to all information on the technical and personnel potential of the national company. Even to those information that require a very high level of access.

- How were they admitted?

- This is a very serious and important question. There were a huge number of them (employees of consulting firms - Ed.), they calmly walked around the company's offices and had access to all the documents and all the information of the company. And not only did they not have some level of access - they are not even citizens of Kazakhstan: all their offices are registered in America, Germany and Russia. These guys, who hang out under the guise of "consultants" in Kazakhtelecom, even wanted to conduct psychological tests of the entire top management of the company, but I stopped them. This cannot be done, because tomorrow many of the top managers of the national company can take positions in the government, become ministers, and all their "offal", psychological problems and so on will be known to foreigners - this is compromising evidence on the first people of the republic! nine0003

- Correspondence of political scientists, journalists with high-ranking officials suddenly appears on some resources that are blocked in Kazakhstan. There is even a correspondence between the Deputy Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan, Andrey KRAVCHENKO, and the assistant to the Prime Minister. Scans of letters in whole bundles are published. Is it somehow related to what is happening in Kazakhtelecom now?

- Directly connected. It was with the arrival of Esekeyev that an insane leak of information began.

- Do I understand correctly that there is a threat of information leakage to the USA, Germany, Russia? Where are the databases of the National Security Committee, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Prosecutor General's Office, the Presidential Security Service? Shavkat Sabirov, president of the "Internet Association of Kazakhstan", whose correspondence surfaced on the Web, said that the information was obtained from servers, and not by hacking into personal mail. nine0003

- I'm not an IT person, but, according to experts, a significant part of the servers are located in Kazakhtelecom. I'll tell you more: now Mr. Issekeshev (Aset Issekeshev, Minister for Investments and Development. - Ed.) is lobbying for a law on certification of communications, and if it is adopted, then Kazakhtelecom will manage everything. How can a country's security certificate be in a company with private capital?!

- How to understand - "taxi"?

- This means that he will "close" all the country's Internet resources with one key. This system is a paradise for hackers, even beginners. Now a hacker is forced to open each resource separately, and if certification is introduced, then it will only be necessary to hack one system in order to gain access to all sites. This is nonsense. Or just a crime against the state. When they wrote about it on Facebook, American programmers responded, they said it was crazy. nine0003

- And who will have access to this key?

- At Kazakhtelecom, which can no longer be considered a secure facility, and it will be just a disaster. That is, tomorrow the entire communication system in Kazakhstan may crash.

- It turns out that on all sites you can run any information at a time, for example, about riots?

- Yes, exactly. And it's very easy! He [the hacker] will not have to hack all the sites, he just needs to crack one key - and that's it.

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