By John Saleeby
Nov 1st, 2002
Like the classic
movie drama, "The Snake Pit," John exposes the hellish
atrocities of our nation's loony bins.
I work the night shift at a psychiatric hospital.
That's right, I work at The Crazy House, The Funny Farm, The Looney
Bin, The Laughing Academy . . . I can't identify the hospital I work
at by name, of course, so let's just call it "The Crazy House",
"The Funny Farm", "The Looney Bin", "The Laughing
Academy" or any other funny name for a psychiatric hospital you
may like. Call it anything you want to call it, although take it from
me, if you call a psychiatric hospital "work" as in "I
gotta go to work" your life has gone horribly awry.
I have been interested in psychiatry ever since
becoming aware of the fact that I was completely out of my mind at age
seventeen. While not enough to prevent my dropping out of college and
becoming a stand up comic, this realization did dampen my interest in
learning to play the electric guitar which, considering that this was
in the late seventies, at least spared untold thousands, perhaps millions
of innocent people unimaginable pain and suffering.
I guess I could have become a psychiatrist myself,
but that would have required me to stay in college and NO WAY was that
gonna happen, man - Those people were crazy! So then I joined the Army,
became a stand up comic, and went just as crazy as those people I had
to get away from in college. I'm not crazy anymore, but undergoing psychiatric
care myself rekindled my interest in the whole sack o' clams all over
again so, here I am - Sitting in the dayroom of The Laughing Academy
drinking coffee and writing this article at three fifteen in the morning
as the patients snooze and the nurses have a knock down drag out fight
in the office. I know that was a really long sentence but it will be
another four hours and fifteen minutes until I get to go home, so I'm
in no hurry.
The ward I work in is an evaluative kind of deal
- Most of our patients are young black guys who have spent the past
few years running around on the street drinking and smoking anything
they can get their hands on and now that they are supposed to settle
down and be an adult - KABLOOEY!!! Generally speaking, they fall into
five categories - 1) Alcoholics/Drug Addicts, 2) Schizophrenics, 3)
The Mentally Retarded, 4) The Clinically Depressed, and 5) People who
believe The Strokes and The White Stripes constitute some kind of rock
and roll "comeback."
For example, a while ago we had an eighteen year
old kid in here who had stolen one of those stupid three wheel wreckreational
vehicles and then spent the next week smoking pot and riding around
in the woods all day and all night without stopping to eat or sleep.
After about five or six days of that it occurred to someone that it
was a little peculiar and he finally wound up in here with me every
morning telling him to wake up, make his bed, get dressed, brush his
teeth, and come on down to the dayroom to listen to me crack jokes about
whatever they are talking about on "The Today Show". After
a couple of weeks without marijuana and access to motor vehicles it
was determined that our boy was indeed a schizophrenic and sent off
to receive treatment or something, I dunno - I'm so sick of these characters
by the time they finally get out of here that they can ship 'em to Hershey,
Pennsylvania to work in the chocolate mines for all I care. But seriously,
some patients will be sent to drug rehabilitation centers, others will
go home to receive outpatient therapy, others will be permanently institutionalized,
and others will just get to go home - HURRAY!!! Sometimes they can't
cut the mustard (Excuse me while I use a little professional psychiatric
lingo there) and have to come back. That's a drag, but it's better than
one poor fool who got out and threw a little kid off of a bridge - Good
job, Doc! Way to go!
A Word About Night Work - "ZZZZZ".
Oh, that doesn't count as a word? When the kind of people who care about
those kinds of rules find themselves up at four o 'clock in the morning
after seven cups of coffee for reasons not having anything to do with
The Big History Mid Term you will find "ZZZZZ" in Websters'
with my picture next to it. No, wait - My picture is already in "Z"
Finally, Six AM shows up and it's time to make
the doughnuts. I mean, it's time to wake up the patients and, brother,
with the medications some of these kids are on it would be easier to
wake up the doughnuts. Some of those psychotropic drugs can really slow
the ol' metabolism down and it took a while for me to learn the difference
between a guy who is too lazy to get out of bed and a guy so full of
thorazine and valium he couldn't "Rise And Shine" if you put
him on a hydraulic lift in a C3PO Robot suit. Guys will quite often
say "Yeah . . . Yeah . . . I'll be right up!" with every intention
of getting a move on, but when I come back to check up on 'em a few
minutes later, there they are still in bed snoozin' away in complete
defiance of my authority as The 'Going Around Waking Up Patients Guy'!
It used to really make my blood boil but now I have it changed every
three thousand miles at the same Swiss clinic Keith Richards goes to
so I'm runnin' Cool and Clean - I am The 'Going Around Waking Up Patients'
Guy, kneel in awe before my mighty power! I used to go home and march
around the apartment in a Napoleon uniform until I started to remind
myself of John McCain and it wasn't cool anymore.
Have I ever been in danger of getting killed
by an outta control maniac? Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I have. But
when you are as big an asshole as I am, someone wanting to beat the
shit out of you is a way of life. The big problem with being an employee
in a psychiatric hospital is that, no matter how much a threat a patient
may pose, if I lay as much a finger on 'em I'm going to prison. Damn!
After an entire lifetime of training and practice I've transformed myself
into an internationally feared Black Belt Ninja Kung Fu killing machine
only to find myself in a job where all I can do when danger rears its
Leno head is turn around and run like a little sissy. I want you to
know this is totally alien to my nature - that whole "Turn Around
And Run Like A Little Sissy" thing. Listening to Crosby, Stills,
Nash, and Young on my car stereo while on my way in to work helps get
me into the right frame of mind. That and PBS.
Like, this one time, a really big scary black
guy got up in the middle of the night and decided he was going to kill
any sleepy little white guys who might have been pacing around trying
to stay awake. Well, as luck would have it, there was only one of those
around, the role of which was being played by the beautiful and talented
John Saleeby. Shelving more than thirty years' experience of two-fisted
tough guy street fighting hand-to-hand combat, I attempted to talk a
little sense into the misguided youth only to find myself backed up
in a corner with no escape route! Now, being a Hairy Chested American,
backed into a corner is where I do my best work, but as I rolled up
my sleeves exposing the dragons burned into my skin as I lifted the
red hot pot of corned beef and cabbage between my forearms on my way
out of the Shao Lin Temple, I realized that I wasn't back on the Mean
Streets that forged me into the solid steel man o' war I am today, I
was in the goddam psychiatric hospital! And then - As if in a vision
- the Spiritual Guru of America in the Twenty First Century, Former
President Jimmy Carter appeared urging me to "Run, John! Run like
a little sissy!!" And I ran, I ran so far away! That was totally
alien to my nature, I just want you to know. Ooohh, look! "The
Gilmore Girls" is on! I've gotta make Rice Krispies Treats before
Forbis gets here with the Gummie Bears!
The very worst thing I've ever seen was this
one poor bastard who got so violent and threatening that we strapped
him down on his bed by both of his feet, both of his arms, and by his
chest. Very unusual, and something that can only be done by Doctor's
Orders. The nurses injected him with all kinds of sedatives but you
can never predict how someone will react to a drug and, like a lot of
people on a psychotic rampage, it only made him crazier and I spent
the whole night sitting in a chair next to him going "There, there
. . . It's all right . . . " while he screamed and yelled "WHAT
ARE YOU MOTHERFUCKERS DOIN' TO ME!?! HEY!!! WHAT ARE YOU MOTHERFUCKERS
DOIN' TO ME!?!" Damn! But, like I said, you don't just do something
like that to a person any ol' way you want - We were constantly checking
the straps to see that they weren't so tight they cut off the circulation,
I brought him some water anytime he asked ("WHAT ARE YOU MOTHER-
Can I have some water?" "Sure!" "WHAT ARE YOU
MOTHERFUCKERS DOIN' TO ME!?!" "Here's your water!" "Oh!
Sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip . . . " "There!" "WHAT
ARE YOU MOTHERFUCKERS DOIN' TO ME!?!"), and every two hours we
let him up to go to the bathroom. Figure in all the paperwork involved
and you're talking about as big a project as your average appendectomy.
And to think just a few days earlier I was sitting around with that
guy watching "The Today Show" and making dirty jokes about
Katie Couric. And there we were a few days later doing the exact same
thing as if nothing had happened at all - Although I did notice that
Katie was wearing pants.
The very last thing I have to do is hand out
the breakfast trays and watch the guys eat in case a food fight breaks
out or somebody pukes. But half the time the breakfast trays don't show
up before it's time for me to leave so, instead of worrying about food
fights and puking I have to deal with being asked "When are we
going to eat?" and "Where is my breakfast?" about three
hundred times a minute until my eyebrows crawl into my ears to plug
'em up. Which is worse - Food fightin' and pukin' or "When are
we going to eat?" "Where is my breakfast?"? Beats me!
But either way - I sure am one happy hampster when quittin' time comes,
oh yes, I sure am one happy hampster when a' quittin' time comes!
I'm sorry, I'm working on a blues song about
my shitty job at the same time as an Acid Logic article about it. And,
if it's hard to understand what I'm saying, it's because I'm wearing
a rubber lizard suit from making a science fiction movie about it at
the same time as writing the blues song, the article, and a comedy movie
treatment with Chris Tucker as the "WHAT ARE YOU MOTHERFUCKERS
DOIN' TO ME!?!" guy.
SHITTY JOB RATING - On a scale of * (Shitty)
to **** (Really Fuckin' Goddam Shitty As All Hell), Working The Night
Shift At A Psychiatric Hospital only rates *. It's shitty, but I have
a lot of time to sit around drinking coffee and writing fun stuff for
Yeah, I'm doing great, man. Just great.
What do you think? Leave your comments on the Guestbook!
John Saleeby wrote
for The National Lampoon while he was in high school, was a stand up
comic in New York, and has contributed to the net humor zines Schmuck.com,
Campaign Central, and the legendary American Jerk. He's on medication
now so he's probably a little nicer now than he was when you met him
Email - email@example.com
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