One Flew Over The Still Cuckoo-As-Ever Nest
I volunteered to come into work on my first day off this week in order to transport a severely and chronically mentally ill woman to the Oregon State Hospital over in Salem, our state's capitol city. Without betraying any deputy-patient confidentiality, I will simply tell you how this very interesting woman insisted we address her. I will also tell you that I obliged her on the request, but that it took me a while to get the name down. It's complicated. It's a formula. And it has to be said just so.
After months of languishing in a jail, she finally got a commitment order from the Court. She came in on what I like to call "the mentally ill person's criminal cocktail:" Disorderly Conduct (like disturbing the peace in other states) and Criminal Trespass II. What it boils down to is that she was being loud and obnoxious at the library and refusing to leave when told to do so by persons in control of the property.
Mrs. Doctor Attorney Jim Morrison is a very bright woman. African American, "born in Egypt," as she would cautiously disclose to me after many months, she came to jail because (and this was a no-brainer) she is bipolar. If you haven't spent any time with a person who suffers from bipolarity while they are off their meds and in their manic phase, then count your blessings. They never sleep. Rarely eat. And boy can they cuss.
On the way over to Salem, something happened that just amazed me about Mrs. Doctor Attorney Jim Morrison. She knew her music. She did not like my choice in radio (N.P.R.'s Morning Edition). Oh no. We had to listen to music. I selected an oldies station. When it began to fade as we stretched our distance from the coastal station, I changed the dial. In full-blown, pressured rant about God-knows-what, Mrs. Doctor Attorney Jim Morrison didn't break stride and quickly inserted, "Where's my Bon Jovi?" I was stunned. Had no idea she was even listening through the mental thickness of her own program. I guess I sort of recognized the song, but I was never a Bon Jovi fan. Not by choice, just by circumstance. I like Bon Jovi. I just don't know their stuff. But boy, she sure did. On one other occasion she was was talking 5,280 feet per 60 seconds and I said aloud, just to test the waters, "Boy, I have no idea who this band is." Nothing. Rant continued. So I changed the station and just like that, out pops, "That was Scorpion." Scorpion? "Oh, I said," and changed it back. A few bars into the continuing song she adds, "Scorpion is a German band."
Really? I haven't Googled it. I just believed her.
My point is this: Crazy is crazy. But I have always experienced, in clinical settings as well as in situations of incarceration, that there is a golden thread of sanity holding the mix together. Somewhere deep down in the muck of all the broken noise, human beings know they are crazy. They know their brain is not working right. And if for no other reason than that, they are always to be treated with dignity and respect.
I am glad that Mrs. Doctor Attorney Jim Morrison was taken off the street. But she doesn't belong in a jail. The de-institutionalization of the mentally ill is something this government needs to be ashamed of. I'm not advocating a resurrection of the old warehouse model. But something---ANYTHING---would be better than putting someone in a jail cell who really, when you get right down to it, is not a criminal. They are just ill. What if they put us in jail for getting the flu?
So we finally get to Salem. Building 50J. I escort Mrs. Doctor Attorney Jim Morrison through the double entry doors and, as usual, we just sit there. People with photo name tags come and go. I've seen it before. Not a single person stops to ask if we have been helped or if we need a drink of water or if we need to use the bathroom. Once you get there, you never know what to do next. You just wait like an insect somewhere close to trapdoor spider's hole. I have been to this facility a half dozen times and the same thing happens. Nothing.
So finally, a woman comes out through the iron mesh enclosure security gate and says, "Do they know you're here?" Ah. Relief. A nice person. I tell her that I never know what to do next when arriving. She says that she will call "up there" and then takes out her cell phone. She finishes the call and turns to Mrs. Doctor Attorney Jim Morrison, introduces herself and reaches out her hand. She got the response I thought she'd get---the smug look with cute African nose in the air and averted gaze. But this woman did a wonderful thing and for that I was appreciative. She welcomed my custody and smiled at her. She then told me she was the floor director. I introduced myself and she left. I got her name. I'm good at getting names.
Some minutes later, many people have come and gone through that security gate, none of whom asking if we had been helped. Eventually, a man and a woman came through the gate and sort of materialized out of the mist, becoming the people we were supposed to follow. I secured my weapon and magazines and entered. They did not utter a single word. I tried my best to get them to speak. I began to wonder if they were patients and not staff, but they had those photo name I.D.s on their blue shirts. I got the man to almost smile. Yeah, I saw the corners of his mouth start to elevate, but something reminded them not to move in that direction. And then there was that serious semi-frown they sported. I pulled out some of my best humor and he beat it.
After a minute or so, three more staff arrived. Same semi-frown. I introduced myself to them. They did not reciprocate. I had begun removing the belly chains and ankle restraints from Mrs. Doctor Attorney Jim Morrison without being directed to do so. I figured, well, if they didn't want that, they would tell me. After I cut her loose, I said, "So, are we done? Is that it?" I had to ask. I was told that we were done. "So I just go?" They nodded. There was so much I wanted to say. I had pertinent data. I knew this woman and wanted to tell them about her. I held my tongue.
I looked Mrs. Doctor Attorney Jim Morrison square in the eyes and said, "It has been a real pleasure knowing you, Mrs. Doctor Attorney Jim Morrison. I am so hoping we can meet after you are done being here." She just told me that she didn't like Jews and I told her that I appreciated her caring to share her opinion. Then I said so long, and left.
I drove across the street and took two cell phone pictures of the old Oregon State Hospital buildings. This is indeed where "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" was filmed. A security guy saw me in the cop car and approached the interior limits of the razor wired fence. I got out and walked up to him and in fine Gawpo fashion, introduced myself. He reciprocated. He was friendly. His name is Tom McD. He said that he began work at the place just a few months after the filming of the movie. "When it came out in the theaters, it was sort of funny because some of the patients were extras in the movie and it was like watching home movies." He said that the sink that was tossed out the window by "the big Indian" had been on display in the foyer of the main entrance until about a year ago. Tom said he didn't understand why they took it away, but that it is somewhere in storage. "Kinda crazy, if ya ask me," he said.
This is the east end of the old Hospital. Tom explained to me that the patients make pallets for large distribution companies. They put in a day of work and get paid for it.
The entrance to the old Hospital.
Just over the top of the car's roof are the double doors to some of the saddest examples of people in the business of helping others. They sure didn't help me. This is the new building.
Not long prior to his passing, a friend of mine saw Ken Kesey in a video store. Her continued staring was finally met with a knowing wink, "Yeah, it's me" it said, "thanks for knowing, and thanks for not rushing me for an autograph."
This video is 8 minutes long. You don't have to watch it all to get the idea. On my last trip over, though, I sure got the idea.