The powers of bureaucracy had a hard time figuring out how to fit me into their paperwork, but the wheels turn, if but slowly. I was called into the small bland office of paper shuffling so a boring little man in a dull brown suite could tell me my fate.
I sit, he shuffles the papers in front of him, stacking them neatly he takes out his blue bic pen.
“Well good news, we have found a place for you at the MHRF.
At first I thought he had said that they were sending me to the Smurfs. Which confused me a bit as I didn’t know that San Francisco had any Smurfs. For a moment I had a vision of myself the lone white smurfett in a town of little blue men who all lived in magic mushrooms.
So yeh, that sounded pretty cool.
He hands me a nice little booklet:
The MHRF is located on the grounds of the San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center campus.
Our Mission is to provide long term care services to the sub-acute psychiatric population of San Francisco. While you are residing at the MHRF, you will receive culturally and spiritually competent services which include evaluation, diagnoses and treatment. The intent of our program and services is to help you become more independent and to help you to achieve your personal goals.
It is my hope and that of the MHRF staff that your stay here is beneficial and helps you move closer to fulfilling your personal goals and dreams.
Well isn’t that nice?
I am bundled into a small van and transported to the building next door. It is the sort of building that was designed to look good in a miniature model sitting on the architects table. Which is to say completely non offensive in its every carefully bland line. It’s only original feature was the statue of a whales tail out front.
Why a whale’s tale? I puzzled it. It must be supposed to represent the dive into the subconscious, I thought. It seemed to me that the whale was flipping me the bird. Inside above the reception desk another example of money spent on art intended to be soothingly cute. A ten foot long tile collage of kindergarten art in all it’s crayola glory.
I find myself thinking of a funeral I attended as a child. I was about eight or nine and one of the kids in my class had broken one of the cardinal rules of Maine living. Never, ever, try to cross the rural roads of Maine without checking twice for speeding trucks.
My grandmother had been concerned that the open casket funeral would give me nightmares. It wasn’t that, it was the music. They played the theme song from sesame street. The idea that grownups went to heaven or hell but children went to Sesame Street, well I never looked at a Muppets the same way ever again.
When Burt came down and introduced himself to me I almost started giggling. Smurfs and Muppets dancing in my head I enter the home of the mad.
First stop physical. Height, weight, blood pressure, a peek into my eyes and then the nurse shoves that ear o scope thingy into my ear.
Ohh my,you don’t have any ear wax at all.” The nurse says. Her tone is so complementary I expected her to pat me on my head.
“Thank you. I have always prided myself on the cleanliness of my ears.”
I took note of the event as the first and probably the only time in my life anyone would complement me on the condition of my ear wax.
The physical done I am moved over to the next event, the filling out of paperwork/ The nurse filling out the papers was Chinese and she had a bit of an accent.
She takes my basic medical history, medications, allergies, do I hear voices?
Again with the voices. I think about inventing a voice just to make them all happy. I shall call my voice Bob and he will be the old and cranky ghost of an Appalachian sin eater. He will be full of wonderful old hillbilly shaman wisdom and will be bothering me constantly to build him a moonshine still.
She asks me if I intend on engaging in any special activities while I was there?
Special activities? That sounded promising, but mustn’t seem too eager.
“Well I suppose that depends on what kind of special activities you have here.”
Now at this point I am imagining her passing me a colorful little brochure. Something like the learning annex for the mad kind of thing and I am already checking off things to try. (Basket weaving, yeh that has to be there and I’m defiantly signing up for that. How cool would that be learning basket weaving inside an actual mad house? Perhaps I would take up crochet again, make myself a crocheted straight jacket.)
I look up and notice that there was no brochure in front of me. Instead the little Chinese nurse seemed to be blushing.
“ well first you have to take a class on,, hmmm, safe hmm, practices.”
(right right, don’t run with the scissors, don’t eat the glue. As interesting as the how the use a seatbelt demonstration on an airplane but ok everyone has their useless little rituals.)
“Ok fine.” Now where was that brochure? She really was blushing, how odd.
“Then you have to ask the staff for the hmmm, errr, hmm, condoms.”
“Well hun, honestly, I was thinking more along the lines of crochet.”
We look at each other blinking in a moment of perfect cross cultural misunderstanding. Then the light dawns.
“OH you meant sexual activities.”
And I was really disappointed. Apparently there would be no basket weaving.
Just then I noticed a couple of male heads turning in my direction and the full horrifying implications of what was going on hit me.
This was a co- educational facility. Co-ed mad house + condoms= Ohh My God.
My hand slaps down on the table. The little nurse jumps back in her seat.
“NO! no! there will be no sexual activities of any kind. I’m not even going to be playing with myself while I am here, thank you very much.”
She shuffles the papers in front of her.
“If you should change your mind.” She says, almost hopefully.
“I’ll be sure and let you know.”
She looked disappointed; I think she really wanted to know what this strange perversion called crochet was. Something to write home to her mother about.