Liquid Straightjacket Works Every Time



Bellevue Hospital, 10016

Neighborhood: Murray Hill

It’s 1983; I’m on the job ten years and have received my first promotion.

Yesterday as a firefighter I carried an axe and fought fires; today as a Fire Marshal I carry a gun and fight crime.

In most departments around our country, the title Fire Marshal denotes a person who performs inspectional duties.

In NYC, that title identifies an arson investigator with full police powers.

The task of the Bureau of Fire Investigation is to inquire into any fire declared suspicious by the firefighters who extinguished it.

A team of marshals is dispatched to figure out the cause and origin of these fires and if it is determined to be arson, a criminal investigation is initiated.

It was during my tenure as a marshal that the most subtle yet horrible act of violence I have ever witnessed took place.

It wasn’t a multiple murder in some run down shit hole of a tenement, rather it was a medical procedure in a municipal hospital emergency room.

Earlier that summer Saturday evening, two marshals arrested a suspect for arson.

Immediately upon being handcuffed, the suspect started complaining of difficulty breathing so his next stop became a well-known city hospital for medical evaluation and treatment.

The triage nurse took one look at the prisoner and knew he was full of shit, which put him at the bottom of the list to be seen by a doctor.

This was exactly what the perp wanted; he’d rather spend this Saturday night sitting on a chair in an air-conditioned emergency room people watching instead of watching his back while sitting on the floor of a sultry cage in Central Booking.

For a dedicated watcher of exotic people there is no place that can compete with a city hospital ER on a summer weekend night, but after six hours of waiting the two marshals had had enough of people watching and just wanted to get out of there for a while and get a bite to eat.

Enter my partner and me, we are the meal relief.

It’s our turn to people watch now.

Circulating around the room is one seemingly normal individual completely garbed in hospital-issued patient attire, slippers, pajamas and bathrobe.

He’s smiling, shaking hands and chatting with anyone who will listen; it appears to me that he’s campaigning to become mayor of the emergency room.

Spotting us, he approaches.

Hello police.

Hello patient.

Looking at our prisoner he asks, what did he do?

Before I can answer, a nurse is standing beside him and she says, “Time for your injection.”

Instantly he turns pale and begs… No, oh please no, I’ll sit down, I’ll be quiet, I won’t move, please, please no.

With a barely discernible nod of her head, she summons two large orderlies who take hold of the mayor, one on each arm and then lead him towards a an unmarked room. She follows.

Looking back over his shoulder at us, I see his soft begging is now accompanied by tears as the door closes behind him.

Moments later the door opens, the orderlies reappear and depart the room, the nurse emerges next and she holds the door open for the mayor to exit.

However, what comes out of the room isn’t what went in.

Moments earlier the mayor was a human being, he was smiling and talking, then he was terrified and begging but he was alive.

What came out was…a walking corpse.

The nurse guides him to a chair, seats him and walks back into the treatment area.

Curiosity has gotten the better of me so I go over to the mayor and ask him what happened; he just stares straight ahead as if I wasn’t there.

Now I had to know, tracking down the nurse I ask what had just taken place. She replies, “He does not like the police and he was about to give you trouble, I will not tolerate trouble in my ER, so I stopped it before it began.”

How did you do that?

I shot him full of Thorazine.

What’s that?

With a big smile on her face, she says, “We call it liquid straightjacket and it works every time!”

How can you get away with that?

Have you ever heard of medication over objection?


Well, once admitted to a psychiatric institution and a doctor proves to a judge that a patient is incompetent to make a decision I get to make his decisions for him, and I decided it was time for this guy to sit down and shut up!

Holy fucking shit!

In the Soviet Union, this type of treatment was called psychiatric imprisonment (psikhushka), and was used to segregate political prisoners and then break their wills.

Shortly thereafter, the arresting marshals return and my partner and I bolt for the exit.

Taking a last look back over my shoulder I see the perp grinning at the world, he has played the system and beaten it.

I also see the mayor, who, staring intently at nothing has become the latest victim of the same system.

As the door pivots closed behind us, I realize that the movie One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest…isn’t just a movie, it’s a documentary!

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