“When we first broke into that forbidden box in the other dimension, we knew we had discovered something as surprising and powerful as the New World when Columbus came stumbling onto it.”
-- Ken Kesey
I’m sitting in Group Meeting at a mental hospital with a bunch of acutes, moderated by Nurse Ratched.
A patient named Cheswick is demanding cigarettes and refuses to sit, in violation of Group Meeting policy.
Ratched is trying to keep her cool, but is clearly rattled by having her authority questioned. With faux calmness she calls out to the black boys to restrain Cheswick and take him away.
Randall McMurphy, who is quietly seething, long fed up with Group Meetings (which he perceives as a peckin’ party), rises from his seat, storms over to the nurse’s station and punches the divider glass with his fist, shattering it, and grabs cigarettes for Cheswick.
All hell breaks lose with the acutes hollering and screaming and black boys scurrying around trying to restore order.
Twenty-minutes later, when the din has died down into a haze of muzak, a nurse taking roll call sits down beside me. “Excuse me,” she says. “Are you new here?”
I nod. “Yes.” I suddenly have a bad feeling about this. “I’m a visiting psychiatrist,” I add.
“Oh.” She pauses, all sugar and sweetness. “Visiting from where?”
I don’t answer.
“Does Doctor Spivey know you’re here?”
“Not yet,” I say.
“Or Nurse Ratched?” She looks at me with skepticism.
“Nope.” I shake my head. “It’s a surprise visit. An inspection.”
“I see.” She stands and strolls to the nurse’s station, where the black boys are still clearing shards of glass.
She whispers to another nurse. They both stare at me.
I wave and smile.
One goes off and returns a moment later with Nurse Ratched, who stomps right up to me. “Doctor…?”
“Smith,” I say.
“Doctor Smith. What a pleasure. How did you get in here?’
“I’m on a tour of mental hospitals nationwide.”
“Really? For what purpose?”
“To ensure that they meet the standards of the National Association of Mental Hospitals, for whom I work in Washington, D.C.” I say, trying my best to sound official.
“That is very interesting, Doctor Smith.” Nurse Ratched says nothing more, but continues looking at me, expecting me to fill the silence. “Have you met Doctor Spivey yet?” she finally says.
“No, not yet. I usually save such consulting until the end of my inspection.”
“I see,” she says. “Now that we know you’re here, would you mind if I take you to see him?”
I consider this and nod. “I was just about to look for him myself.”
“Excellent. Follow me.”
Nurse Ratched signals the black boys to accompany us and I realize she probably hasn’t bought my spiel.