How I Make Friends:

IMG_7103New Year’s Eve, Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center in Dutchess County, NY, 1983, probably — I worked the day shift and had recently transferred up there from a LI facility, so, I was junior man on my shift. Evening shift is coming on and they do their routine head count before accepting the ward. Meanwhile, all the day people are heading out … except me, the junior guy. I have to wait until the shift head accounts for each patient and accepts the ward. As fate would happen, one guy was missing in action. George. He was out using his “Honor Pass” that allows him to have pretty much full access to the grounds … but, he was late coming back. I had to go searching for him to bring him back before I could go home. Boo-yah! Off I go to seek out the missing fella. It was getting dark, cold, and there was snow & ice covering the ground, but it wasn’t long before I spotted George in a telephone booth out in front of the Administration Building. His arms were flailing and he was very animated. “Hey George! Whatcha doin’. You need to get back to the ward. They’re waiting for you.” “Hey man, I’m talkin. to the effin’ FBI, man. Leave me alone. I have business.” I have no idea who George was really on the phone with, maybe it WAS the FBI, but, more than likely, it was a dial-tone. We argued back & forth, George insisting he had business with the FBI and I was pleading with him to cooperate. “George, c’mon, it’s cold out here. I just want to get home with my family. It’s friggin’ New Year’s Eve.” “F— You!” On it went — maybe 10 -15 minutes. I was out of patience. “George, we’re hanging up the phone, going back to the ward, and I’m going home. You can call them back tomorrow.” SLAM. I personally hung up the phone. With no warning, George leaped at me right there in the phone booth that we were both crowded into. We grappled and then we slipped on the ice out into the parking lot. Nobody was letting go. We just rolled around in the snow for what seemed like a very long time. “Oh great,” I thought, “here I am fighting for my life with nobody around.” Death seemed imminent – for someone. Then, out of the blue, I could hear the sound of shoes crunching in the snow coming toward us. I could also hear the rattling of beer bottles in a brown paper bag — it WAS New Year’s Eve, after all, and this was the cavalry. Thankfully, Jim, an evening shift guy – who I would work with later for several years on the Secure Unit – was a bit late for work. That was my good fortune. Between the two of us, we were able to restrain George and get him back to the ward. I went home, and Jim went to his ward presumably to celebrate the New Year with some beer. Jim and I, and our families, became very good friends for many years. He’s not on FB, but his wife and daughters are, so we are still sort of in touch. I would trust my life with that man, and I think he would trust his with me. That’s all there is to the making of good friends. Easy as pie!

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