By Dr David Laing Dawson
Danny was a short stocky young man who had suffered a head injury and was intellectually challenged. He was impulsive, talkative, and socially intrusive. And he passed through phases that were either hypomanic in origin or perhaps simply derived from child-like exuberance. He could also be helpful and endearing.
He did not have sufficient skills to live independently, at least not without getting into some kind of trouble, and he had been expelled from his most recent group home. Rather than readmit him we opted to put him up in a local motel while we looked for a better solution. It was close to Christmas after all, and he did not want to come back into the mental hospital. He viewed that as something of a failure.
I promised to visit on Christmas Eve, and to bring him some clothes and food on my way home from the hospital. The weather was good that day, the sky clear but cold, and it was dusk when I drove to the motel with the promised clothing and food. This was, of course, a cheap motel, a single floor designed as a U around the parking area, an office and entrance at the front.
And there I found Danny and another man, standing, posturing in the parking area, threatening one another, shouting insults and promises of violence above the very loud music coming from the open door to Danny’s unit.
I got out of my car and approached them. They were in shirtsleeves, the other man clearly a customer of the same motel. The issue seemed to be Danny’s very loud music.
I summoned up my best school principal voice and shouted at the second man. “Sir,” I said. “Go back to your own room or you will be spending the night in jail.”
He stopped and looked at me, and for a second hesitated. It was in that second that I realized, that I had a clear vision, of being in a brawl in the parking lot of a cheap motel on Christmas Eve. Perhaps spending the night in jail myself, or the emergency department.
But the man stopped, muttered a final insult or two, and proceeded back to his own unit.
I carried Danny’s clothing and food and followed him into his room. I convinced him he didn’t have to play his music that loudly, that he should keep his door closed. I shared a drink of something with him, and watched the pleasure in his eyes, the smile on his face, to be visited by “Docker” Dawson on a Christmas Eve.
The pleasure was mine.