The elevators at the Upenn Psychiatric Behavior Science Facility are very strange (yes, I can write about depression forever unless I am depressed, during which time I lay in bed forgetting everything except sometimes the dog’s name and who is winning the republican primaries).
The waiting room is always full and always appears to have people who appear to have been shoveled off the streets of Philadelphia and into the room with the torn flyers and pamphlets advertising such things as yoga that the people shoveled off the streets have never done or considered doing.
It is very important for me not to mumble when I’m in the waiting room, having finally figured out the elevators after traveling up and down via some invisible pullies and weights in an elevator shaft inside the building of Upenn’s Psychiatric Behavior Science Facility for a good 15 minutes so that I began to sweat about missing my appointment and thus missing my meds and thus having to go down the white halls to the rubber room that I imagine still exists like the Clockwork Orange movie I saw when I was 22.
So I don't mumble because I am not crazy like the people shoveled off the sidewalk even though I am late and couldn't figure out the elevators. I enunciate my words carefully and throw in a few extra complicated words that I’m not even sure I know the meaning of but I am pretty sure the receptionist doesn’t know the meaning of either so it doesn’t matter anyway. I believe I have an appointment with Dr. Christanchio for the purpose of descrying my future situation, and my co-pay is…
I am an intelligent depressed person so I don’t mumble.
But the elevators. You push one button and …
Along with the people shoveled off the streets of Philadelphia, there are a few people wearing white coats. The very smart people. They work at Upenn’s Psychiatric Behavioral Science Facility and I would like to have one of those white coats. I would like to have one so much that I consider for a moment finding one hanging on the back of an office door and stealing it. I think about this for one very, very short moment until I experience a flash of anxiety because it occurs to me that the thought might have come, not from my own brain, but from a voice that is other than me which would mean that when the psychiatrist asks, because he always does, if I ever hear voices telling me this or that, I will need to fess up that yes, on occasion I do. And then would come the white hall and the rubber room.
But the elevators. There is a lit up screen. It has the numbers of every floor in the building and when you push one of the buttons an arrow appears that directs you to the correct elevator that takes you to the correct floor of UPenns Psychiatric Behavioral Science Facility. In the bank of 8 elevators, each elevator is designated for a floor, so that it doesn’t stop on any other floor except the one that the arrow directs you to. I am supposed to go to floor 4.
This is unfortunate.
There are 12 floors in the building and I notice that all of the people in the white coats are pushing the button for the 10th floor. There exists in front of the screen for the 4th floor a cluster of people who have been shoveled from the streets of Philadelphia. They take turns pushing the button for the 4th floor. I do not want to push that button and be like the shoveled people. I do not want to mumble. I push the button for the 6th floor instead. I will go to the 6th floor and then take that elevator down to the 4th floor so that no one will see me when I arrive at the receptionist area where the shoveled people sit mumbling.
I imagine the 6th floor is for the really smart people and contains rooms with rats with electrodes embedded in their skulls and important people with lab coats peering into cages and writing numbers on spread sheets and then going to computers with reams of paper and abstracts of previous studies that are informing the studies being pursued on floor 6.
I used to peer into cages with rats and electrodes too. I used to write abstracts about longitudinal studies of patients with schizophrenia. Once I wrote a paper titled Backward Masking in Patients With Schizophrenia. I had a spreadsheet and waited in a room for the patients and then had them sit in front of an instrument called a tachistoscope and tell me what they saw. The patients mumbled. They were shoveled off the streets of Queens in New York City.
The place where I did the experiments is now one of those places where kids go Urban Exploring and post photos of their explorations on Instagram. Back then, if I wandered down the wrong hallway there were shower stalls where they hosed down patients and dressed them in elastic clothes with no ties and put them in rooms with gray paint halfway up the walls. Now those hallways have pigeon crap and upside down chairs and peeling lead paint. I wonder if the patients ate the lead paint and then heard voices coming from closets and under beds and out of pieces of toilet paper, or if they heard the voices before they were shoveled off of the streets of Queens into Creedmoor State Psychiatric Institute.
When I get to the 4th floor there are people there who probably know what the word descrying means, which I find comforting, although they likely did not take the elevator to the 6th floor and then try to get to the 4th floor and realize they couldn’t do that so they went back to the mezzanine level and pushed the button for the 4th floor anyway. They are probably secure and confident and feel no need to do this. I like them but I have no right talking to them or sitting next to them. I also don’t belong with the shoveled people. I hover in the middle somewhere.
I wish again that I had a white coat.
I go down the long hall to my psychiatrist’s office and he looks at his computer and writes my prescriptions and I leave and go back down the long hall. I push the button for the mezzanine level and pull out my iphone and text my friend about her really good soup and try not to look at the other people in the elevator and keep looking at my phone and the elevator stops and I make my way out the revolving doors of the Upenn Psychiatric Behavioral Science Facility and onto the sidewalk with all of the people going wherever they’re going.