Some psychologists associate John Wayne Syndrome with post-traumatic stress disorder. Other shrinks claim the Duke’s namesake pathology spawns testosterone-engorged megalomania and heavy-handed impulsive behavior. The warehouse administration used their interpretation of John Wayne Syndrome to blame a devoted night nurse for their unlawful neglect.
At any given time, two or three wit-challenged high school girls worked weekdays part-time in the basement laundry room. This schedule allowed them to attend weekend classes at LaBabette’s Academy of Beauty and dream of the butt implants they’d get when their careers as beauticians took off. Repeatedly my clothes came back from the laundry splotched with large bleach stains or permeated by the pungent reek of decay and old people piss. But I should point out: Mr. Gold treated them like retarded children, an extraordinarily foul aroma fomented in the plastic laundry barrels delivered by CNA’s, they slaved in a cramped and sweltering space. Those conditions wouldn’t have motivated me to do a bang-up job either.
After I’d lived in the warehouse a few years and normal awareness had long since returned to me, I heard semi-nightly commotions in the hallway; I eventually learned fires had been flaring-up in the laundry room. The fires sometimes proved dangerous enough that employees working the graveyard shift phoned the fire department. They must have also summoned Mr. Gold to the warehouse on those occasions. I’d grown accustomed to his treehouse-commander-cum-eunuch voice blaring over the PA during the wee hours, paging “Dr. Red” and then a few minutes later announcing “All clear.” I’m guessing he used the euphemistic name to avoid upsetting the residents. It worked. Most residents shunned common sense like it was soap.
A guy in his early twenties named Drew frequently served as first-floor night charge nurse. He unwittingly set himself apart from most nurses at the warehouse by cordially conversing with residents as equals, demonstrating an above-average understanding of his job, and displaying a quiet dedication to nursing as opposed to authoritarian ass-kissing.
One week, five early mornings in a row at roughly 3:00 am, I heard static-drenched radio transmissions and bellowing male voices coming from the hallway; laundry room fires had become a regular event. Drew happened to be serving as first-floor charge nurse the fifth night. Since the night staff had involved the fire department, it would be impossible for the administration to camouflage fire code infractions and the use of sub-par equipment. They needed a scapegoat and elected Drew. According to the administration’s official explanation, Drew set the fires himself so he would appear a hero for phoning the fire department. A fancy-sounding pathology—John Wayne Syndrome—lent weight to the allegations.
The administration effectively destroyed Drew’s nursing career. He’d likely be able to get a job in another nursing home—those places will hire anybody—but the administration’s fictitious account made it very unlikely that a hospital or privately practicing doctor would even consider employing Drew, much less discover his desirable professional qualities.
There were subsequently no more fires in the laundry room. I’m sure the administration’s newfound concern with fire safety stemmed from their determination to avoid fines and lawsuits.