Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Funny Running Into You Here

I'm coming up for air and a quick blog post. For the last couple weeks I've been codestorming, lost in a flurry of flow-control statements, if-then and for loops, switch blocks, dropped semicolons and variant datatypes (cursed be he who invented the variant datatype for to such belongs the world of sloppy programming). After 18 months waiting for the bureacracy to give me a regional information system I can use I finally gave up and built one myself. It took two weeks. Meanwhile no one in my department has ever been able to use the system we're supposed to be using. It's enough to make a taxpayer cry. Anyway, my personal system is pretty much done except for minor cosmetic tweaking.

But that's not what I was going to blog about.

Today I wanted to talk about what happens when you run into your patients outside of professional hours. In my case, it can be interesting.

I went to the post office to mail off my taxes and I noticed someone standing toward the front of the line who looked awfully familiar. Thanks to my recent accident I've been meeting a lot of car salesmen lately, so I was thinking it was maybe some business person or a public defender type. Then it hit me---a former inmate. He either didn't recognize me or was reluctant to acknowledge me, which was understandable. In a public place you just don't strike up conversations about your former incarceration, much less about your mental health care even if you haven't been locked up.

Generally meetings with former inmates are fine if I run into them on the street. Usually they recognize me first since I get thrown once you take someone out of a prison uniform and put them in street clothes. I usually hear about how things are going "on the outside", whether or not they've been able to get mental health care, how long they've stayed clean and how much time they have left on parole. They seem happy to see me and I like hearing about how they're doing. Even when they're not doing so well they seem happy to see me. The most awkward meeting was coming across a former patient a the time of arrest, handcuffed and prone on the street in front of my parked car. "Hey doc! I'm going to need your help!" he said. I reassured him I'd be there when he got to the institution and reminded him how to get in touch. He said he would.

Overall I'm grateful I only work in men's facilities. It kind of spares me from thinking about running into former patients in the locker room at the gym.