The first rule of the Nuthouse is no one talks about the Nuthouse.
(they give you papers to sign saying the Nuthouse is nobody’s business)
The second rule of the Nuthouse is that you can’t call it a Nuthouse when Anyone Normal is listening, but you can call it that very quietly in a corner of your mind while your teetering on the edge of completely inappropriate laughter.
At night the Nuthouse is guarded by a small woman with a platinum blonde beehive and bright red lips named Jean. If you want and if she’s not busy, you can chat with Jean, and she will tell you all about her son and his tours of duty, his divorce, and the Polish woman she hired to take care of her mother after the strokes, and how she was sometimes mean to her mother. Jean will ask you the secret ‘password’ that shows you know someone in the Nuthouse, and if you get it right you get bright yellow Visitor’s badge so everyone will know you are visitor and not a patient.
Jean will always be polite and basically cheerful,because the third rule of the Nuthouse is everyone is happy, or at the very least, smiling, pleasant, and healthy looking.
Once you say goodbye to Jean, you wait with other people who got the passwords correct and have bright yellow Visitors badges on until someone efficient and smiling and carrying a clipboard comes collect all of you and escort you through the sets of doors that lock as you pass them.
The fourth rule of the Nuthouse is only people with the Special Cards can open the very sturdy doors.
To visit at the Nuthouse all pockets must be emptied, cell phones and jackets turned over to the very polite and efficient staff. If you bring anything for patients the polite and efficient staff will inspect it and if it is acceptable, bring it to the patient. You cannot keep the bag in the Nuthouse, also you cannot have drawstrings in your pants or shoelaces in your shoes.
You can visit for an hour at the Nuthouse, sometimes twice a day, but only if you know the password. When you visit be sure you don’t laugh too loudly or the polite and efficient staff will come and ask if everything is okay. The fifth rule at the Nuthouse is everyone is calm during visits.
And then it is time for you to go home, and you wait for the person with a Special Card to escort you through all of the sturdy doors, and only when you make it outside, and that tiny part of yourself that wants to laugh until you cry is poking at your sleep deprived brain with a sharp stick, do you finally mutter out loud “The first rule of the Nuthouse is….”
and on the way home they will play Brain Damage on the radio because the universe is not without a sense of humour.
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As always, the line between the inmates and the visitors is very, very thin. See you tomorrow. I await more stories. Sorry you have to learn all these lessons.