Saturday, July 16, 2011

In Which I Finally Pass Drunken Standardized Testing

In my first hour or two in the drunk tank last night, I had a colorful row with a regular drunk patient, who wore sunglasses all the time. He'd never seen me before, or, rather, he does not remember seeing me and immediately tried to test me.

"What is this? The ******* drunk tank?? I am not ******* staying here."
"Sir, you have to stay. You've been here often enough know the drill."
"I haven't been here in 11 years, you obviously weren't here so don't tell me what I know."
"Actually, I saw you last week. And I know that you know that if you get up, you will get tied down to the bed by security."

He made motions to stand up and leave. I looked him coolly in the eye and issued a final warning. He defiantly stood up, at which point, security came bursting through the door. Slinking back on his stretcher, he waited until they left to spew a series of curses, epithets and threats pointless to type out here for interpretive purposes with all the asterisks necessary to keep this story PG-13.

Then, he said, "now do your job and give me a m-f sandwich."

There was a time in the not so distant past that I would have been disgusted and upset. However, I had already met some of the wilier and more terrible patients, so I summoned the presence of mind to just keep my affect very flat, and replied, "Only if you ask politely."

"**** you. You dare disrespect me. I have to kiss your *** to get a ****** sandwich? **** you. I have diabetes!"
"Your sugar was checked as you were rolling in here. It was 115 half an hour ago."
"You smart**** ******* *******. **** you. You better watch your back. When you least expect it, you'll get what's ****** coming to you. My woman and I will give you what you ***** deserve. The city's a small place and one day, you won't see it coming, but you'll get your ******* mouth shut for you when we jump you after work one day."
"Well, ok. But don't get off that stretcher."
"Don't tell me what to ******* do, c***, **** you. You should learn your place as a woman, to respect men. I'm gonna kick your *** so hard and you won't know it's coming. Don't let your guard down, little girl, we're gonna get you."
"(sigh) I warned you not to get up. Now I have to call."
I reached for the phone. He stared, daring me to call, so I did. As security came through the door, Mr. Sunglasses scrambled back on the stretcher.

The conversation continued in a similar vein for a few hours. It took a lot out of me to keep it impersonal. When people lash out in these situations, I have found that they play good cop/bad cop, usually focusing on one person to treat poorly as an example to everyone else- today, that person was me. Every nurse, doctor, social worker that came in was told that I was a ******** ******** ******.

For example:
Doctor: so how did you hurt your head?
Mr. Sunglasses: Doctor, you're all right. I ******* hate her. (points at me) she probably was the one who did it because I don't like her.

Of course, such statements as this and others really helped articulate his irrationality much better than any report I could have given the doctor. Mr. Sunglasses obviously needed much more time to sober before any evaluation can take place.

Luckily for me, he described enough alarming symptoms to ensure his return to the main treatment area- chest pain, shortness of breath, severe headache, hypertension, hearing voices, uncontrolled diabetes, etc etc. So many apparent maladies... Unfortunately, none of them were deemed legitimate, because a little while later, after I heard his many loud curses protesting blood draw/urine samples/etc coming from the treatment area, he was back in the drunk tank.

"They want you to take his vitals, because I couldn't do it." The tech informed me.
"I don't like her," he said, pointing at me. He was noticeably calmer, so I decided to try my luck.
"Blow in this straw for me, Mr. Sunglasses, maybe your numbers are getting lower so you can get out soon."
He blew in the straw for me and after a bit of cajoling ("This is for your own health!"), he allowed me to take his vital signs.
I slipped a blood pressure cuff on his arm and he got a good look at me. Maybe he meant to intimidate me and make it look like he was going to remember my face in order to jump me on the street like he promised a few hours ago. Increased sobriety really calmed him down, however, and he was not as combative as before. (or maybe he received calming medication from the doctors in the treatment area... I'm not sure)

The nurses soon changed their minds again and wheeled him back to the treatment area for good. I felt a little giddy; I didn't let him get to me. It was the first time I officially passed the drunk tank test... and that's when Mr. Reen, on his 270something-th visit rolled in. To be continued...


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