It is not there are no signs at Bootham Park Hospital in York, but they are certainly a joke. Let me tell you about my recent adventure there.
It is our local hospital for those with mental health needs. A member of my congregation is a patient there and I set off to visit.
I am a church minister so over the years I have used the church leader’s privilege of being able to visit outside of normal visiting hours as that is when the patient is most able to chat and pray with a minister without their other visitors present. This time though I visited during normal visiting times which beings at 4:30pm. I arrived at 5:30pm.
I have visited patients there before. On arrival this time though things were different. There is obviously building work taking place and the way in was blocked off with builders site barriers. “Where to go?” I thought. I knew I wanted Ward 1 but had no idea how to get there. I followed an old sign pointing to Reception.
I found myself facing a large closed door. All seemed shut up. I tried the door and I appeared to be locked out. After fiddling with the door handle for a bit at this unwelcoming entrance I got the door open and I entered.
Whether it is Victorian or Edwardian I do not know but it is a grand inside with a lovely antique tiled floor. All was quiet and all appeared deserted. What looked like a reception was shut up and the whole place had the feeling of some horror film where life has vanished due to some sort of plague or recently marauding zombies.
I noticed a door into a corridor was slightly ajar and from beyond I could faintly hear a voice. I went through the door and walked toward the voice.
You must remember that I am a church pastor making a visit. While I care about the person I was visiting, I was not a distressed relative. I am not a carer that has carried the weight of responsibility over many years supporting someone with mental health problems. But I could have been.
I found it – the voice that is. It came from a room with a door slightly open, an office I thought. I knocked, pushed the door open and looked in. A lady was speaking on the telephone.
“I’ll have to call you back later,” she said as she turned to me. “Can I help you?” she asked. She seemed irritated by my appearance.
I smiled. “Excuse me,” I said, “I am trying to find the reception.”
“The reception is closed now!”
“Right,” I said, “It is just that I am trying to visit a patient in Ward 1 and I am trying to find it and there are no signs. I am his minister”
“And how do you know they are a patient here?” she asked.
“Because his mother told me,” I replied.
I was feeling a bit sorry for the lady. I think I had caught her at the end of her working day. She had her coat on and had been standing as she spoke on the phone, and was still standing. Perhaps she was wishing she was already out of there. So far she had sounded grumpy.
“And who are you exactly?”
They way she said it I started to feel I was slipping back into other memories. Had I stumbled into a head teacher’s room of long ago? Had I encountered an aunt of Bertie Wooster? They way she enquired who I was was entertaining in its jaw-dropping rudeness. Ah, but I was not a distressed relative.
I told her my name and that I was the Senior Pastor of the Elim Pentecostal Church in York and that I was trying to visit a patient in Ward 1 and that I was also complaining there are no signs.
“Don’t complain to me!” she said with a raised voice. It was then I placed her, I was in “The Importance of Being Ernest” and it sounded like the voice that had just exclaimed, “A HAND BAG!?”
Looking back I wonder if she felt vulnerable. Perhaps that explains her manner. Being a man it did not occur to me at the time, though I spoke to her nicely and smiled, I realise now she could have felt insecure. I could have been anyone. It does beg the question of security in that place.
I waited and she told be I would need to leave that building, walk along a path and turn right until I came to a glass door and that was the way in. I thanked her and followed her directions.
I saw a door that looked like a back entrance, but it was mostly glass. there were still no signs to direct me, nor anything to identify the door as some sort of entrance to the public. I went in.
I found myself in a small lobby with a door before me and a glass partition to my right. I rattled the door but without success. At that moment someone walked toward the glass partition from the other side of it and it slid open. Duh! It was a sliding door and not a partition after all.
I had arrived. I asked where Ward 1 was and the man gave me directions. At last!