During my first inpatient psychiatric experience as an adolescent I discovered that snack time was a crucial part of the day. Not only did snack time break up a monotonous schedule but it created an experience for patients in a hospital setting to enjoy, even savor the moment during a time in people’s lives they will probably choose to forget. One such experience would forever change my understanding of snack time.
It started off like any other snack time. Casual conversation about how rounds went, possible discharge dates, and changes in medication. Lemon cake was served plentifully because in those days patients could get a second helping without begging the nutritionist for an extra piece of lettuce or a packet of sauce.
That’s when I observed my table-mate turn to anther person and say: “Can I spit in your lemon cake?” Not yet shocked and partly amused I thought little of the comment.
A few moments later: “Can I spit in your lemon-cake?” this time louder and with underlying aggressive intonations of the speech. At that moment I observed the guards move in and surround the table.
Fearing snack time was heading towards an unfortunate early dismissal I shoveled some lemon cake into my mouth and listened to four huge men inform this patient he had to stop inquiring if he could spit in his table mates cake.
“Can I spit in your lemon cake?” he replied to their demands. “No” was their response as they dragged this gentleman out of the cafe, forced him on to his bed, and restrained him to it without blinking.
Now I’ve seen many a restraint in my day but never over dessert and never over what can be done with it aside from eating it. Snack time was always precious to us all. We loved it. There were so many things going wrong in our lives but during snack time those problems were all forgotten. Ultimately like all things, snack time will have to suffer the same fate as all great things interrupted by daily bullshit and misunderstandings about cake.