Well, I always say you can take the girl out of the locked psychiatric unit but you can’t take the locked psychiatric unit out of the girl. I’ve witnessed many a display of out of control behaviour in my day. You name it, I’ve seen it. But yesterday was a first for me.

There I was minding my own business at the Intermarché caisse (that’s French for big chain grocery store checkout) with my bananas and tortilla chips. Of course I also had my Special K but I did not have my milk as fresh milk appears here sporadically which drives me right round the friggin’ pipe and is a story for another day. Anyway, I was enjoying the view of my favourite checkout lady (40 pounds of makeup, dangly rhinestone earrings, leopard print scarf over the supermarket uniform) when the great ruckus began.

One lane over a very large woman with platinum hair like a cotton candy helmet was ranting and raving. She was furiously banging item after item down on the conveyor belt in between torrents of top lung, top speed French. She was gesturing wildly and escalating rapidly. As each item was rung through she hurled it violently into her cart. I will give her this, she was extremely coordinated in the midst of her rage and I suspect this wasn’t her first public tirade. By the time her groceries were tallied she was screaming like a banshee and officially off the rails.

My glamourous checkout lady maintained her frozen fuchsia smile beneath her blue frosted panicked eyes. Everyone in the store seemed exceedingly uncomfortable except for me. I was ready for action and instinctively began planning how to manage the situation. Then it dawned on me that I had no army of experienced nurses beside me. Also absent were locked and loaded syringes of antipsychotic medications and the French phrases necessary to intervene. So that left me in the role of passive bystander with no recourse.

Perhaps this woman is suffering from something terrible but let’s talk more about me. I almost lost my own mind. See, I’m very nosy, a desirable trait in any psychiatrist. All I could think was what the hell was she saying? Was she upset about the rising cost of shrimp hence the need to throw bags of them about the store? Was her husband cavorting with the Intermarché lady? Was she protesting against fresh milk shortages because if so I’d have been happy to whack my chips at someone for that cause. Was she in the middle of a manic episode? WHAT?! WHAT?!

Oh curse this unilingual brain of mine. I didn’t have a prayer of understanding anything at that volume or pace. I wanted to help her but I’m smart enough to know that offering assistance in a foreign language was not likely to improve matters. Plus she was scary, I might have gotten a soup can in the head. Now I’ll never know what was going on. Honest to god I’m not sure how to live without the details, shrinks are suckers for those.

I suppose I might as well get used to being a civilian. No more secrets from the couch. No more being in the thick of a crisis. No more soothing the broken spirit. But also no more responsibility for people’s lives, no more daily threats of lawsuits and no more tangles in the bowels of an emergency department. Maybe being kept in the dark is a bright future indeed.

 

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