41: Inappropriate

41: Inappropriate

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses


The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.

~E. E. Cummings

I had come from working a year on night shift at the pediatric unit to second shift on the mental health wing. Needless to say, I had a huge learning curve.

I loved it from the first day, when Lester swung his invisible sword over my left shoulder to protect me from an invisible dragon attack. He was one of the sweetest men I’d met. But as I quickly found out, many of the men were not as kind.

When mental illness, medication reactions, or withdrawal affect a person, incredibly shocking and unsavory things often get flung the nurse’s way. And with me being the youngest on staff and infuriatingly prone to blushing, I became a really easy target.

At my six-month evaluation, my manager encouraged me greatly by saying I “belonged” as a psych nurse. To be counted among the best, and weirdest, nurses I’d known was an honor.

But when it came to discussing obstacles, I admitted my biggest was handling sexual or inappropriate comments from male patients. So she made one of my yearly goals to be “more self-assertive and upfront in setting appropriate verbal boundaries with patients and advocating respect” for myself.

So, fresh with new empowerment, I walked to the nurse’s station for report to find I was assigned a disgruntled and unhappy man who had been very rude to the staff all day. He had a heavy lisp and supposedly did not like women, so I was told to be firm and listen carefully.

He stayed in his room most of the evening. The shift had been calm and we were all gathering our nightly meds when I saw him charging around the corner with a deep frown, furrowed forehead and a blanket draping his shoulders.

He stopped just short of the door and put both hands on his hips. His eyes locked on mine as he angrily blurted, “Can we have sex tonight?”

I thought, “Deep breath, here’s your chance. Calm the blush down.”

“Sir, that is highly inappropriate and you cannot speak to me that way,” I said with my best faux-confidence.

His face twisted with anger and his voice got louder as he shouted incredulously, “But we had sex last night!”

I squared my shoulders, set my jaw. “We most certainly did not! I’m going to have to insist you speak to me in a respectful way. You are being very inappropriate.”

The vein in his forehead started to throb and I thought I’d have to call security, he was so livid.

“Fine by me,” I thought with some pride. I had stood up for myself.

He threw up his hands and shouted so loud I jumped, “What in the world is inappropriate about popcorn?”

I stopped mentally patting my back long enough to ask, “Wait, you said ‘sex’ right?”

“No!” he bellowed. “Shnacks!”

Oooh. The lisp. The evening movie night. Accompanied by the evening popcorn.

All that earlier empowerment disappeared as the cackles of my fellow nurses dissolved into fits of uncontrollable laughter. My face darkened five shades and I sputtered, “Sir, I’m… I’m so sorry… I thought you were asking for sex… not snacks.”

He stood up straight, took the dragging corner of his hospital blanket and whipped it around his shoulder like an indignant Zorro as he raised his hand and pointed at me. “Now that, young lady, is inappropriate.”

Then he stormed off, Orville Redenbacher in hand.

~Cassidy Doolittle

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