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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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That evening O'Toole noticed that Anderson was herding the patients into the bedrooms with some kind of weapon. He saw Anderson swing the weapon into a patient's bare back, and he called out, "Hey, what are you doing there, Anderson?"


"Giving these slow bastards the soft-soap treatment," Anderson replied.


"Well, cut it out. We don't go for rough stuff on this ward."


"You don't have to worry about this. See? I've got a square of soap in the toe of the sock. You can beat the hell out of these numbskulls with it, and it won't leave a mark anywhere. Watch." Anderson wound up and swung his soap-sock directly into the abdomen of the unsuspecting patient nearest him.


But by then O'Toole was on hand. He took the sock away and told Anderson to get off the ward. Anderson looked at him, disbelieving for a moment. Then he scowled: "Why you stinkin' prissy-pants, you! You let these patients run the ward, and then you try to order me off it."


"I run this ward," said O'Toole, "and I run it for the patients -- not for you. Now go down and turn in your keys while I call the supervisor."


Anderson sneered and walked off the ward. O'Toole reported the incident and went on putting the patients to bed.


Two days later, O'Toole was moved to another ward, where he worked entirely alone. Ward E was placed in charge of a man who was known throughout the hospital for his tough, brutal treatment of patients.


"Well," the supervisor explained, "we certainly couldn't have someone on that ward who couldn't get along with anyone else in the hospital!"


(Based on report 273)


As soon as Lucy came on duty in the morning, she hunted up a sturdy push-broom. From then on, every time she sat down, she had the broom within reach, leaning against her chair.


The patients could think of only two possible explanations for their new attendant's strange attachment to the broom: either she was very particular about the housekeeping on the ward, or she was afraid to be alone with the patients without a weapon.


As the day passed, however, both of these explanations fell into discard. In the first place, Lucy didn't pay any attention to the ward cleaning. Instead, she became totally absorbed in a game of solitaire, and made no comment when the working patients finished up the mopping and waxing. Also, she was completely unconcerned about anything the patients did. Their coming and going, their talk and chatter, failed to distract her in the least from her cards.


Then the patients found the answer to the riddle. The rattle of a key being fitted into the ward door was heard, and Lucy jumped to her feet and began to push the broom vigorously in a big circle around her chair. When she saw that the newcomer was only a trusted patient delivering laundry, she resumed her seat and the card game.


The patients smiled. Their new attendant would never be caught loafing.


(Based on report 765)




"A reasonably well adjusted employee, interested in his work, who sees its purpose, and knows the results, is worth a dozen who are merely carrying keys and collecting checks. To be successful, the hospital personnel program will clearly entail careful selection and placement."


Commissioner of Mental Diseases,
State of Ohio.


The clock on top of the Main Building chimed ten o'clock as Fred White made his way up the steps to the Nursing Office. As he looked about at the brown and tan walls and the massive furniture, he wasn't sure that his psychology professor had done him a favor by recommending that he work in a mental hospital for the summer. But, thought Fred, if I can get the job, I'll stick it out for three months.


"Can I help you?" The young girl behind the reception desk smiled up at him.


"Yes, if you will, please. I want to apply for a job as an attendant."


"Oh, fine!" The receptionist beamed at the prospect. "Will you fill out duplicate copies of this application, please?" Fred sat down and filled out the questionnaire: Name, address, work experience, circle last year of school attended, sign your name. Nothing more. Same thing on the other sheet.


"I think these are filled in properly."


"All right. Come in and meet Miss Green. She's the Director of Nursing."


The receptionist moved toward a little office off the corridor. She smoothed her dress, patted her hair, took a deep breath, and plunged in.


"Miss Green, this is Mr. White, applying for a job as an attendant," she said, handing over the application papers and excusing herself.


Miss Green glanced at the papers a moment. "Ever had any experience in this kind of work?"


"No, I haven't."


Miss Green looked Fred over critically. "Well, we can use you. Tell that girl who brought you in here to show you the way to North Building. You'll work there."


Fred murmured a tentative "Thank you" and retreated to the receptionist. "Friendly old girl, isn't she?" he asked sarcastically. "She told me to ask you how to get to North Building."


Fortified with his directions -- and nothing else -- Fred thanked the receptionist and started for North Building. He rather lingered over the smile the girl had given him. He had a feeling that it might be the last smile he would see for some time.

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