A claustrophobic in a closet

Yesterday I wrote about the challenge of figuring out when to enforce household rules with Jay and when to make exceptions based on particular circumstances (like when he’s sick).  Last night I was reading The Pale King and I came across a funny passage that fit with the day’s theme:

‘It was on either Twilight Zone or Outer Limits– one of those.  A claustrophobic guy who gets worse and worse until he’s so claustrophobic that he starts screaming and carrying on, and they trundle him off to a mental asylum, and in the asylum they put him in isolation in a straightjacket in a tiny little room with a drain in the floor, a room the size of a closet, which you can see would be the worst thing possible for a claustrophobic, but they explain to him through the slit in the door that it’s the rules and procedures, that if somebody’s screaming they have to be put in isolation.  Hence, the guy’s damned, he’s in there for life- because as long as he’s screaming and trying to beat himself unconscious against the wall of the room, they’re going to keep him in that little room, and as long as he’s in that little room, he’s going to be screaming, because the whole problem is that he’s a claustrophobic.  He’s a living example of how there has to be some slack or play in the rules and procedures for certain cases, or else sometimes there’s going to be some ridiculous foul-up and someone’s going to be in a living hell. The episode was called ‘Rules and Procedures,’ and none of us ever forgot it.’

Related posts from Growing Sideways

A heightening of specificity


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