Us Cripples

How much therapy does a person need?

First year I joined the faculty at Wayne State Medical School the Dean called me in the first day and said, “Erickson, there is a senior student… when he was a sophomore he lost his leg in an automobile accident. He wears an artificial leg. Before he lost his leg he was an outgoing, sociable personality . . . always friendly, outgoing, a hail-fellow well met. With the fitting of his artificial leg he became withdrawn,lost all of his friends, unresponsive.”

Then the Dean said, “And please don’t say the word ‘leg’ in his presence. He overreacts to it.”
And I said, “All right, I’ll take care of that.”
I waited ’til the students got acquainted with me. It took about three weeks. And then I selected Jerry, Tom and Joe. I told them, “You spread the word that I’m going to pull one of my, uh, classical pranks. And you don’t know what it IS. Just spread the rumor that Erickson is up to something.”

And the next Monday morning, “Jerry, you go to the fourth floor and hold the elevator up there. And Tom you stand at the head of the stairwell and look down on the ground floor. And Joe you be on the ground floor pressing the elevator button and cussing because the janitor is keeping the elevator up so he could get his mops and pails down.”

The rumor having been spread, of course EVERYBODY was there at 7:30 . . . even as I was. And I walked in, acted surprised to see them all at 7:30. We stated a few words of chit chat about the weather, I said, “Why don’t you punch the elevator button Joe?”
Joe said, “That damn janitor is keeping it up on the fourth floor I suspect. He is worried about getting his mops and pails down.”
Still further chit chat, began to suggest to Joe he push the elevator button.

And at about five minutes to eight the lights lit up on the second floor. I turned to this hyper-sensitive student with an artificial leg off in one corner and I said, “Let’s us cripples hobble up stairs and leave the able-bodied to wait for the elevator.”
So us cripples started hobbling upstairs. Tom saw us, signaled Jerry, Jerry released the elevator, the rest of the class came up on the elevator.

At the end of the hour that withdrawn student had resumed his social attitude. All I had done was alter the way he LOOKED at things. The way he SAW himself. I lifted him out of the status of a cripple and I identified him with a professor who ALSO had a limp. That gave him a new status.

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