Dr Hindley’s Bookcase Part 4
Memoirs of a consultant psychologist.
New York, New York it’s a wonderful town, or at least it was certainly a place of good fortune for me. I was lucky enough to be the beneficiary of a WHO funded exchange there at one time, and my assistant, Miss Bloomsbridge and myself spent a most agreeable month ostensibly seeing how the colonials treated their home-grown lunatics.
If truth be told there is hardly any difference between someone ranting in an American accent and someone dribbling down their shirt in broad cockney, and the treatments were also similar. The trip also provided a great deal of free time to sample the tourist attractions of that fair city, one of which is of course the Statue of Liberty which was a contributing factor in my receipt for some years of a Christmas hamper from Macy’s department store.
My American counterpart, who was supposed to be showing us around his clinic, was a certain Dr Weissburg, a nice chap but somewhat rigid in his thinking, the type that would always make sure that he was wearing his underpants before he put his trousers on, you know the sort.
However, one of his patients was a woman from Brooklyn with a most interesting history. She had convinced herself that she was the embodiment of America and would dress up as the Statue of Liberty complete with crown, book, torch and make-up corresponding to the colour of the weathered copper on the real thing. Thus regaled she would wander the streets of New York where she attracted little notice, as the somewhat insular citizens of the place generally assumed that she was some form of street artist and would avoid her in case she asked them for money.
Other than the occasional ignition of hanging flower baskets from her flaming torch there was no great problem or need for the health authorities to become involved, as she was neither violent nor a nuisance. That was the case until a tourist, better educated than most and knowing the history of the Statue of Liberty, addressed her in French. As the patient was aware that the Statue of Liberty had been given to New York by the French and therefore should have French as its first language, her inability to hold a conversation with the tourist seeded strong doubts within her mind as to her chosen persona and she subsequently fell into a deep depression for which Dr Weissburg was attempting to treat her.
I saw at once that it would be more advantageous to have a happy delusionist rather than a miserable member of society who would spend the rest of their lives swallowing medication and questioning themselves as to why they had spent so much time in fancy dress. Therefore I offered to spend a couple of sessions treating the woman. In next to no time I had her convinced that she was indeed the embodiment of America and the problem of the inability to speak in her mother tongue was down to the fact that, although she had been born (or constructed) in France, she had spent very little time there and had passed the years since 1886 living in the States and would have forgotten any French she might have started out with.
Initially Weissburg was horrified that I had reversed his patient’s personality, but once I had explained to him that his patient would still have to remain under his guidance and that in the interest of health and safety she could be equipped with an electric torch, rather than the open flame one she had previously used as an advertising aid to local businesses, he saw the logic in it and came round to my way of thinking.
And it proved to be a quite profitable little sideline for Weissburg, who by way of thanks for my help, arranged for the annual dispatching of my Christmas box from Messrs Macy & Co.
Alas all good things come to an end, and when the hampers suddenly ceased after four years, I called up my American colleague only to be informed that the advertising angle no longer functioned as one of his other patients had abducted the ‘Embodiment of America’ from the entrance of a West Side deli and sold her for scrap.
A great shame really as it took years before he was able to convince another of his patients that they were Superman rather than simply someone suffering from male erectile disorder.
As soon as he realised his mistake, the patient was of course killed instantly.
Gary Moore “Churchmouse”