For a few weeks earlier this year, I was confined to a reasonably secure facility while I regained my vitality, mobility and at least some of my sanity.
I had been stricken with atypical pneumonia that left me reeling. For several days I had no idea of who I was or what was going on.
They kept me in a bed with a built-in piercing alarm that sounded whenever I made a move to escape, which apparently happened occasionally.
They said the alarm was to prevent me from falling out of bed, but the truth is it would alert them that I had fallen out of bed again, not prevent me from doing so.
They said after my first fall I had been adjudged to be a risk so just deal with it.
I was accompanied everywhere — even to the bathroom where a young woman told me not to be shy. “You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.”
It’s probably me, but I didn’t find her words comforting.
I was surrounded mostly by older folk, some of whom made up stories about the area where we were staying. At least it is my belief that they made up stories. I suppose they could have been simply senile. But I do not buy that there are wolverines in the woods outside of Schenectady, sorry. I’m not that easy. Nor did I buy that St. Anthony was hiding somewhere in the institution. (Isn’t he supposed to help you find missing things?)
Anyhow, here’s what happened one evening. I can’t really say what time, though. I think of it as “middle of the night.” But wife Beverly pointed out that it could have been 9 or 10 p.m. because I retired early during my imprisonment — or “confinement,” I should say.
On this particular night, I’d descended into that semiconscious state where nothing and everything makes sense as you drift into the arms of Morpheus.
It’s eerily quiet and impenetrably black. Suddenly there is a jolt, and I awaken confused. I am rising and spinning at once and feel like a sausage on a string. And why is everything green?
My eyes are wide open now, and I realize that my arms are clasped together and pointed to the sky as my swing — maybe “sling” would be a better word — bobbles and spins slowly. I am a yo-yo.
I worry that whatever is holding me aloft will drop me and I’ll splatter like an egg. We seem to be on some kind of mini-crane as we head down the hall.
I can see light at the end of the dark tunnel. My sling is now bouncing merrily, guided by a man and a woman wearing uniforms. They assure me I’m in no danger. “It’s time to get weighed!” I recognize her as the woman who occasionally pops her head into my room to tell me she needs to check my bottom to see if I’m wet. I’ve never found out what that was about, but always wondered what she had been hearing about me.
We’ve arrived at our destination, a big linen closet where the door opens and my sling is pushed into a floor scale. Weight is recorded and — zap! — I’m back down the hall and in bed again.
I lay awake a while contemplating what happened. Will I remember this or only fragments of it that I’ll attribute to a dream?
Why do I need to be weighed in the middle of the night? Why in a sling? What’s with the green?
The next day, when my wife arrives to join me for breakfast. I’m all atwitter. At last something more interesting than cream-of wheat-for-breakfast to talk about.
The problem is she was skeptical, thinking I was hallucinating or dreaming.
I insist that I haven’t lost my mind, that the incident occurred exactly as I described it. She didn’t say so at the time but she later acknowledged that she wasn’t convinced.
Then, a few days later, she’s walking to my room and she spies it: A little crane with a sling and a swatch of bright green nylon in which the victim — patient, that is — is carried. She didn’t apologize for doubting me but at least she told me about her discovery of the Soylent Green mechanism that had ferried me three times to the linen closet.
I call it “Soylent Green” after the 1970s sci-fi movie where they were secretly making food out of people.
After quizzing a few staff members, I discovered they sometimes weigh you at night simply because they were too busy during the day. The sling evidently is the least risky way to do it. And doing it at night certainly affords more privacy, though that’s not important to me anymore.
Seen one, seen them all.