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Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Creator: Frank L. Wright, Jr. (author)
Date: 1947
Publisher: National Mental Health Foundation, Inc.
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3  Figure 4  Figure 5  Figure 6  Figure 7  Figure 8  Figure 9  Figure 10  Figure 11  Figure 12  Figure 13  Figure 14  Figure 15  Figure 16  Figure 17

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Page 27:


Then the dishes are washed quickly, the tables are brushed off, the food trucks are refilled from the large containers, cups and spoons are set again at each place, heaps of cole slaw and bread and pitchers of tea are again placed on each table. Finding the tea running low, the patient in charge of beverages takes a pitcher of coffee left over from breakfast, adds two pitchers of water and a can of condensed milk, and serves four tables with it.


At twelve-thirty another disturbance -- this one in higher key -- is heard outside the door. When the door is opened, five hundred and sixty women overflow into every nook and cranny of the dining room. The serving process is repeated, only this time there are fewer attendants and more worker-patients, more mouths to feed and less room to do it in. Nevertheless, the dining room is emptied in just half an hour. Dinner is over.


The worker-patients clean up the debris, wash the food trucks and wheel them out to the cable-car. Dishes are washed and tables reset. A hose is used to clean the floor. The food trucks are returned to the kitchen. Supper will be loaded on them about an hour later.


The dietitian sits in her sunlit office and gazes with satisfaction at her neatly printed menu. She smooths out her stiffly starched white uniform as she reads it over again:


Vegetable-barley Soup
Beef stew, with onions, potatoes, and carrots. Cole slaw
Vanilla pudding with cream
Bread -- Coffee, tea, or milk


She knows that all the cream and milk were sent to the nurses' dining room, but she doesn't bother to change a minor detail like that. As the food trucks return, she signs her initials on the blank under the menu, where it says:


"Served as planned....................."


(Based on reports 538 and 576)


An anticipatory glint of competition came into McClintock's eyes as he watched the hands of the clock move toward twelve o'clock. His muscles tensed, he crouched on the edge of his seat as the hands moved closer together. He quivered with expectancy as a white-coated figure came out of a room down the hall and moved to the exit door. The clock hands closed together, and McClintock was suddenly electrified into action by the call re-echoing down the corridor: "Soup's on!"


Now, McClintock was an old bicycle racer. He spent most of his time sitting disinterestedly on the ward, but three times a day -- at seven, twelve and five -- he came to life and relived his days of glory on the track. Expertly he jockeyed for position among the scurrying patients. Soon he drew abreast of the white coat, where he held his position unchallenged until the white coat stopped at the steam table. That was the signal for the last drive down the stretch. McClintock opened up a wide lead over his nearest competitor before he slid into his seat at the table, breathing hard but grinning triumphantly.


The race, however, was not over -- it was hardly begun. McClintock seized a sloppy tray containing one boiled potato, with its peeling and a bit of the earth that nurtured it still intact; two slices of bread; a watery mass of boiled cabbage; a serving of corn starch pudding annointed with cabbage juice; and a cup of weak tea. McClintock snatched a spoon from his nearest neighbor -- that fellow always lapped up his food without aid of spoon or fingers anyway. Then he began to scoop in the food.


Two minutes passed. McClintock saw that the attendant was returning to remove the trays -- this was evidently to be a three-and-a-half-minute dinner instead of the usual four-minute job. McClintock gave up the spoon, leaned over into his tray and sucked up the watery cabbage. As the tray was being removed, he scooped out a helping of the pudding in his left hand and grabbed the bread in his right. The pudding had disappeared when the hall reverberated with the call: "All out!"


The patients filed by the white coat in single file. Just before McClintock went by, he crammed the two slices of bread into his mouth -- he knew it was against the rules to carry anything out of the dining room in his hands or pockets.


Once beyond the white coat, he took one slice of bread out of his mouth and began to munch the other one. Fellow patients jostled him mercilessly on the return trip to the ward. McClintock didn't care. The light of battle had left his eyes. Back on the ward, McClintock sat disconsolately on the chair opposite the clock. Not until the hands reached five o'clock would life again hold any charm for the mighty McClintock, cycler supreme.


(Based on reports 537 and 540)


"Don't let it worry you, son. In an institution as big as this, we're bound to have several cases of diarrhea. It won't kill anybody."


"Maybe not, doctor. But there isn't any reason why three-fourths of the patients on my ward should be in such a run-down condition. I know the milk is contaminated."


"You're imagining things. What makes you think so?"


"I've tested it. Three out of every five days the milk which comes to this ward is contaminated -- with human intestinal bacillus."

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