I have to go to the mental institute today. Well nowadays they call it the State Hospital. I heard way back when they called it the “Lunatic Asylum”, but that was back before there was any type of sensitivity in the least about such “lunatics”. Oh and no, I’m not going because of my own state of mind, although there certainly have been times in the past I thought it could happen. I’m going to visit a long time friend, one that I’m hoping will have much better days soon. Since I’ve started these now biweekly visits, I’ve learned that I’d certainly never want to be there myself.
Seems like the last place I’d ever get better if I was sent.
When you pull your car in on the State grounds, you stop at the guardhouse. The guard comes out and asks you why you’re there, i.e. what business you have or who you’re seeing, and they take down your license plate and name, and make you sign a form, then give you a pass, advising you to lock all your possessions in your trunk, and lock all the doors to your car. The buildings are all brick and well just “institutional” looking, and they are as far as the eye can see. The grass is trimmed well enough, and the grounds are certainly clean, but overall it’s really just the landscape of a horror movie.
For some reason when I go it’s never sunny either.
There are random folks walking idly about. Can’t really tell if they work there or are patients. But most do look at you, probably curious about what you’re doing there and generally wondering about you. I guess there’s not much excitement around there generally. When you park and go up the walkway, grocery and other bags in tow, items requested by the “patient”, there’s an eerie silence. One can’t help but look up at all the windows of the buildings. It’s hard not to wonder who’s in there and what’s happening behind them.
Lots of windows looking down at you.
The “lobby” is open and a lady sits behind some glass. These buildings are from the 1940’s or 50’s, but this institution was located elsewhere before, probably for over a hundred years. There are no windows in here, and the lady behind the glass seems as if you’re interrupting her. She has a suspicious and unhelpful posture. I don’t take it personally of course. It must be from working behind that glass all these years. When she was a little girl she probably didn’t think this’d be it for her. Once you check in you’re pointed to the “ward” (like a prison eh?) and told to ring the bell. Once you ring, you just wait. Usually for too long. Often I ring it insistently right upfront, as I’m used to this drill, and think the insistency may bring someone quicker. A tired voice comes on the speaker asking, “yes?” and you state your purpose. Then after another too long time of waiting, you hear keys jangling, and they open the heavy double steel secure doors to a small vestibule, where they search your bags (for contraband), ask for your ID, and have you sign the “log” as they call it. Then they use their big key ring to open the interior set of double steel secure doors to the ward.
Doors all triple- locked; no one gets out.
Again no windows in here. How could folks be expected to get better if you never see any natural light? The fluorescents above are enough to drive a supposedly sane person over the edge. And the unnatural air doesn’t suit me well at all. That alone would encourage my own deterioration. Patients are walking up and down the halls. I’ve learned that pacing the halls here is a pastime. As a visitor, you don’t get too far down the hallway anyway, as they bring you into a side room with old tables and chairs and concrete walls. It’s the “family area” says the sign, where you sit and just wait for them to fetch the patient.
When the visit ends, you’re escorted out of the ward and to the front door.