“All available male staff …”

Off the top of my head, there were 3 times in my life that I was really – I mean REALLY – scared for my physical well-being. The first was the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was 10 or 11. Last time was September 11, 2001. Sandwiched in between was a much more innocuous event. I forget the year, probably ’85 or ’86. I know it was December 8 because that is my son’s, Adam, birthday and I was at work on the wards in a NY Psychiatric Center. There was a fellow there – a patient – named Tom. He was a huge, muscular guy. Powerful. He was usually a pretty good guy though … I don’t recall what he was in for, but he was no longer on the secure unit that I worked on. Despite the difference in our builds, I was able to hold my own against him at the front line of the volley ball net – spiking and receiving spikes – out in the courtyard. We had a blast! As with most of the guys, I got along pretty well with him. Well, this late fall day something occurred upstairs somewhere in the building and the call went out over the intercom system, “All available male staff …” I remember running up a flight of stairs or two to the scene with a few other guys. As always, we had little clue as to what we were going to find. Got up there and Tom had a floor stand ashtray in his hands – the kind that have their bases full of sand – the HEAVY kind – and he was swinging it around like a candlestick. By the time we got up there, we made a total of a dozen or so guys, but Tom didn’t care. He was furious about something. Something had set Tom off and he had a deadly weapon in those hands of his and was threatening to bash someone’s head in with it. “Alright, you MFers! Who wants to be first to get your effin’ head smashed in. YOU? You blue-eyed, MFer!!!”, he said right in old Don’s face. And he was just going on & on. Waving that killer “stick” around through the air. We gradually made a circle around him. I can vividly recall that my mouth was dry as sand and my knee caps were jittery – just rapidly quivering, I almost thought I could hear them rattling. I was so scared. I guess we all were, but no one backed down. Somehow, through eye contact and barely noticeable facial expressions we moved in simultaneously and swiftly and took him down. No injuries to anyone. It was hell carrying Tom to the elevator as he struggled. I was latched on to a thigh and holding on for dear life. I’ll tell you … we did not get paid enough!!

One comment

  1. I remember those days too. I was chased around with a shard of glass when I was 0 months pregnant, almost raped while 5 months pregnant with my son, then while pregnant for my daughter, a male patient tried to stab me in the stomach with a metal butter knife. I quit after that…Best job I ever had, but too dangerous.


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