Questionably skilled but consummately arrogant MD’s descended on the warehouse every couple weeks to examine residents. They depended on the charge nurse behaving like a shameless lickspittle, scampering behind them and juggling charts while they made their rounds. When the duo entered a room, the nurse informed the preoccupied doctor of the occupant’s condition and its progress or deterioration. (There’s nothing quite as pathetic as a wide-eyed simpleton striving to gain the confidence of an uninterested taskmaster.) While the nurse groveled in the background and scribbled notes, the doctor examined the resident and intermittently deadpanned statistics and generic comments. They both usually ignored questions posed by the resident.
The warehouse medical staff examined me on a fairly regular basis subsequent to my arrival. They understandably needed to evaluate and monitor my physical condition and provide appropriate (in their reactionary opinion) medical care. After roughly a year I’d reached a plateau of sorts. Though it sounds darkly absurd, doctors consistently pronounced me healthy. I mean, it did take ten minutes and an exorbitant amount of energy for me to prop my stupid body against a walker and drag myself forty feet; my entire right side was pretty much fucked in France and when I spoke it sounded like someone had crammed three fistfuls of marbles into my mouth. But other than that I was fine. I didn’t need or want some flummoxed charlatan poking and prodding me and then asking an elected toady about the frequency and quality of my bowel movements. I started to aggressively refuse examinations offered by medical personnel. Soon only doctors dared venture into my side of the room.
Around that same time I decided I wanted a typewriter, albeit a fancy one that previews text before it’s committed to paper.* I made a few phone calls and my out-of-state parents sent a Brother word processor boasting a built-in floppy drive to me. (For the record, I paid for it.) The word processor sat next to my bed on a tiny faux-walnut particleboard nightstand.
A few weeks later Dr. Hymann—the administration had recently assigned my case to him—sauntered unannounced into my side of the room. Since medical doctors are inherently superior human beings (like lawyers, the police, the clergy, and media celebrities) the administration expected residents to immediately drop whatever they were doing and display unconditional subservience any time one appeared.
Dr. Hymann’s bald scalp belied his youthful appearance. His strawberry blond beard might have compensated for the absence of hair on his head but it couldn’t camouflage his wispy frame. He impressed me as a guy whose favorite movie of all time is The French Lieutenant’s Woman. I suspected that as an adolescent he’d regularly posed naked in front of a full-length mirror with his wally tucked between his legs.
I sat on the bed hunched over my word processor. Dr. Hymann asked if he could examine me. I kept typing and didn’t turn around as I politely refused. (A resident had the legal right to refuse any treatment at any time for any reason.) He reminded me that “[he was] just doing [his] job” and advised me to take advantage of his expertise “for [my] own good.” I stopped typing, turned and faced him, then used a loud voice to slowly over-enunciate my refusal.
He beamed; he’d obviously concluded that he’d employed guile to capture my interest. He motioned to a Miles Davis cassette lying on my bed and tried to strike up a conversation:
“Do you like jazz too?” He eyes twinkled and he sweetly smiled. “My favorite is Kenny G.” The administration presumed that I should respect people like Dr. Hymann.
* I eventually acquired a prehistoric Mac with an ancient version of Word installed, but I never tapped into the Internet. Warehouse policy prohibited taking advantage of a computer’s capabilities—then again most residents desired nothing more than roll-your-own cigarettes, cheap half pints of liquor, and/or a color television.