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Friday, July 21, 2006

I Will Not Be Going Out for Sushi


Today I was reminded of an episode of the TV series MASH - well, not exactly the storyline - but the fact that each scene was punctuated by a guy playing the guitar and singing about Tokyo. It was not a humorous episode, and while bad things happened, each scene was puctuated by this guy playing the guitar.

It was already big-time hot at 8:30 am as I waited to get through the gate into Yard 1. They were sliding the big gate open in order to allow about 10 inmates to push massive carts of trash out. In the heat, the smell was horrendous. As I turned the corner toward the psych unit, a tall young man was standing near the medication window playing an acoustic guitar. It didn't seem to be any song I could tell, but nice, calming, "folksy," 7th kind of chords. He had a blank expression on his face as I passed him, and he looked at me but didn't appear to be seeking acknowledgement. The yard was active with runners, gamers, talkers, laughter, business as usual. But it was damn hot.

With one foot in the door, I'm pounced upon: "This guy's doc wants you to see him now. He's paroling tomorrow." Now, you say. "And two of your people are in crisis beds in CTC (the hospital) and they want you to go see them ASAP." ASAP, you say. OK. I'm going to see the first guy, and I'll catch the hospital on the way back. I pack up my stuff, leave the air conditioned psych unit and head for Yard 2. I pass the expressionless guitar player.

Yard 2 is a considerable walk - did I mention it was hot - and outside the gate was the repository for all that trash. I am nauseated too easily by such things, and am quick to get past it. This yard is absolutely desolate. Dirt and some some burned weeds. It would seem appropriate for tumbleweeds to roll by. As I walk to the back of the yard, I see on a building a wooden sign into which is burned the word "Handicrafts." The glass is cracked, filthy, and the room is full of trash. Like walking past "good intentions." The front door to Building 9 is open and I enter the steaming tunnel that leads to a gate. CO's are yelling to the gunner, "Staff coming in." He takes his time closing the front door so he can open the gate for me. The patient is pretty stinky and covered, head-to-toe, with tattoos. I ask him to sit down with me, and he has food on his face and chest. All said, he was very grateful that I had come to re-iterate instructions and wish him the customary, "I never want to see you again."

I stop at CTC and it appears as any hospital, but the nursing station is posted by nurses and CO's, and some CO's who are nurses. The doors to the patient rooms, however, are the full-metal cell door's. The chief CO says, "Get the f*** 'outta here. They're all liars and want free money from my taxes." Not a bad platform to run on, I suppose. I enter the crisis unit and am told both patients are currently "heavily sedated." It, apparently, was a bad morning. No problem; they're certainly not going anywhere.

Back to Yard 1, passing the guitar player. It's been an hour. "Your 10:00 is in AdSeg. They're waiting for you." What? Yard 2, Building 6. I was just 3 doors away! Back passed the guitarist - now into some serious barre chords with a 9th bent - passed the steaming trash, into Yard 2, up to building 6, "ASU." Warning signs on the door: "All entering are subject to identification." Why am I wearing this ID? Why would anyone in their right mind want to get in here? Through the tunnel, through the gate, and now having to put on the heavy vest. Deafening "hurricane" fans compete with animal sounds; behind the cell doors, you know they are yelling at you by what you're wearing: "Hey, you checker shirted faggot motherfucker!" I was wearing a "herringbone" Polo (purchased at an outlet store). Thanks for the fashion statement. Ignore, is always the word of the day. My patient has a "MUST have double-escort" sign on his cell door, and I wait as two giant CO's deliver a 5' 6" late adolescent with acne to a cage. He is a truly sad, abused, molested, young man, who struggles to make eye-contact with me as I gather a history. Discharged from the Marines under "less than honourable conditions," where he'd gone to "straighten out my life."
He answered every one of my questions with, Yes, sir, " or "No, sir." "Dude, I'll do what I can for you, but please, please, stay out of here." I turn in the vest and I'm soaking wet, like someone poured a bucket of water over me.

Back to Yard 1 and, yup, passed the guitarist. "Where've you been?" "AdSeg." "Well, two patients left because they got tired of waiting." I can hear the CO in the CTC: "Tired of waiting for free money! You see!" Next! Gentleman, very paranoid, comes in and says, "I don't need your help. I got SSI." "But you've been down for 18 months. You can only re-instate within 12. I'll help you with a new application." "You're wrong. I don't need your help." Cool. "Let me give you the (800) number for SSI re-instatement." He looks at me, stands up and walks out.

Last customer of the day. Bright orange suit: reception center garb. Back on a violation. "I only used a tiny bit of meth twice; gave her dirty urines; and the bitch (i.e. Parole Agent) slammed me." Absolutely relentless complaints. Then, "they arbitrarily stopped my Seroquel. I haven't slept in 3 nights." I have him stand with the CO's while I get his chart. "There is no order to stop any med you're taking." "They do it on the sly. They can get away with it. I'm desperate! I'm going crazy! You leave me no alternative but to cut my wrists, to kill myself!" Oh, Lord. "Are you telling me you have a plan to harm yourself?" Deep stare. "I know what you're up to. I am not going in that cage for 6 hours! I didn't say anything. I want to see my doctor!" I seat him with CO's and explain that I need him under observation. I call the supervizing psychiatrist on his yard, and he says, "have custody bring him here and I'll take care of it." The patient has sort of snuck up on me while I'm on the phone: "Please, can we just forget this. Just let me go home and we'll forget it ever happened." "I need you to take a seat. Custody will return you to your yard and you can see your doctor." "CUSTODY! You screwed me! You're a blah, blah, blah." "I need you to take the seat as I directed you." "You blah, blah, blah. You are ruining my life!" Custody says, "Let's go." No cuffs, just an escort home. I chart, copy files, and pack up. I am soaked and exhausted.

I walk out to find the guitarist. Apparently four uninterrupted hours of music. As I went by, I smiled and asked, "Do you know Tokyo?"

2 Comments:

Blogger ClinkShrink said...

Here ya go, Loudon Wainwright III's MASH appearances and lyrics.

For me it was internship and Don't Worry, Be Happy. I was working on the ICU, and this song always seemed to come on the radio about 6:00pm on my post-call day. It was my signal that I was almost out the door.

July 21, 2006 5:38 PM  
Blogger On the Same Page said...

You are TOO cool, Clink!

July 21, 2006 8:49 PM  

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