by Hal Collier
My last few Ramblings dealt with death and was pretty depressing. I purposely avoided describing really ugly suicides and decomposed loved ones. These were memories that I have spent years suppressing. This Ramblings subject is dealing with the mentally ill, although a monumental problem in America, it can also have a lot of humor. Having worked Hollywood for over thirty-three years, I thought I was an expert. Hollywood is said to be the Entertainment Capital of the world. I disagree–it’s the nut capital of the world. I honestly believe they bus them into Hollywood to make my day more interesting.
I once surmised that the nuts have a roll call just like the cops. The head nut gives out assignments: Larry you take off all your clothes and stand in front of the Pantages Theater as the show is exiting. You get an extra desert for every grey haired lady you
kiss. Paula, you climb a tree in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, during a movie premier, and spit on anyone wearing Levis. Jimmie, you and Marty go to the Hollywood Police station. Enter at different times and ask to speak to the Watch Commander. When the Watch Commander comes to the front desk, get into a fight on who was there first. Make sure the desk officers have to use force to arrest you both. After booking, ask for an extra jail dinner. Heather, you’re working the phones tonight. Call into the police station front desk and report a UFO sighting every thirty minutes and include one kidnapping by extraterrestrials. If the desk officer hangs up on you, call back and ask to speak to the Watch Commander, then spend 30 minutes describing your own abduction. “OK, let’s go to work and be safe out there.”
5150’s is a well known term used by police officers throughout California. 5150 WIC is a section of the California Welfare & Institution Code (WIC) which allows an officer or doctor to involuntary hold a person who is a danger to himself, others or is gravely disabled. You can hold a 5150 for 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation. In layman’s terms, that means he’s/she’s crazy and dangerous. See? I’m not politically correct anymore.
Lunacy comes from the word lunar and a full moon. There’s not a cop alive who doesn’t go out for his shift and see a full moon and goes back to the equipment room to get an extra set of Taser darts and full canister of tear gas. The full moon really brings out the crazies, don’t ask a scientist, ask a cop or ambulance driver.
Police Officers deal with 5150’s on a daily basis. I’ll bet every cop I know has a half dozen stories about some 5150 they encountered in their career. Some were scary, some brought a tear to your eye and others were just plain funny. Almost all could be dangerous.
I won’t go into the causes of mental illness, because I don’t think anyone, including the experts, know. The theories run from not being breast feed as a child, to getting the wrong order in the drive-thru at McDonalds. My knowledge is based on my personal experience. I do know that some symptoms can be treated with proper medication or therapy. Others have to be treated with some sort of body restraint applied by the local police officer.
Ok, I said they come in different forms. Let’s start with the sad ones. They are the gravely disabled. Most are aged and their body has out lived their mind. These are the ones who will bring a tear to your eye. They don’t know their names or where they live. If they’re still living outside a care facility, they wander away and can’t find their way home.
I once had a lady talking to parked cars in a carport in Hollywood at midnight. She said she lived at an address on 52nd street a good fifteen miles away. I said no way, but found out she did live on 52nd St. She lived with her daughter and often walked away. She wasn’t even reported missing, even though she had been gone for two days. That one was easy. Others don’t know their name or where they live. It may take hours to identify them and get them home. If you can’t identify them, they end up at the mental ward at USC County Hospital.
Another time, we had a little old lady run a red light. When we stopped her she was lost and couldn’t find the house she had lived in for 50 years. She had been driving around for hours. My partner drove her car home and I followed. The lady had peed on her driver’s seat, my partner needed to change his uniform pants.
The ones who are placed in care facilities also walk away. They usually have wrist bands with their name and where to return them. Easy, unless they don’t want to go back. Ever fight, with a ninety-three pound lady in her nightgown on a city street during rush hour?
Speaking of rush hour traffic, remember the sixty-year old woman who took off her clothes in front of her rest home during morning rush hour traffic. She entertained morning traffic by showing that she hadn’t concealed her medication in a body cavity.
These are the sad ones and bring a tear to your eye. We all hope that our own parents don’t end up causing a traffic jam.
Next I’ll describe the dangerous 5150’s. You usually see them as breaking news.