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Mental Health Stigma Meets Its Match

by Kathi Stringer

 

It was a cloudy day as the silver bird emerged from the clouds into a flight pattern. The aviator flipped the switches to prepare for landing. He checked his altimeter, leveled out the machine and touched down after a smooth decent. It was a perfect landing. The engine sputtered as he taxied down the runway. With experience and ease the aviator manipulated the rudders until the plane swung next to a hatch.

This story took place in a small peaceful town. Most of the residents knew each other on a first name basis. However, that day there was a problem. The sheriff responded to a call concerning a vagrant loitering on a city bench. He had seen his kind before on routine patrol. On occasion his task was clear up the bothersome vagrants when they appeared. The city just didn't put up with the unsightly trash and his job was to keep the city safe.

The man looked disheveled and worn. His face sprouted wiry hairs in contrast to his sunken eyes. It appeared he was dazed or perhaps lost in thought. Either way, he looked impaired and that made him dangerous. He had to go.

The law inquired as to the identity of the demented. He responded, "Howard, my name is Howard Hughes." The sheriff chucked, "Yeah right, I'm the Easter Bunny." He opened the rear door of the squad car and ran him in. The man continued his resolve as to this identity. It wasn't going to well. He must be drug addict or completely psychotic. The man was put behind bars to keep the town safe.

A few hours later a sheriff's friend rang his office for a friendly chat. In passing the sheriff rolled his eyes and said, "You won't believe who I have here today, Howard Hughes." It was a good chuckle for both of them. On the uptake his friend thought he might have a look at the stranger anyway. I mean after all, he was the junior vise president for a small satellite division of Hughes Aircraft, which was the main employer in town. It should be entertaining regardless.

Art Kemper, the Hughes executive arrived. Nicely groomed and professionally dressed, he looked at what appeared to be a homeless nobody. His wrinkled clothes matched the man's foul appearance. Art introduced himself as a Hughes Aircraft executive and the inquired as to his name. The lost soul glanced up from this bunk and replied, "I'm Howard Hughes." Art admitted he had never seen Howard Hughes before, but he did have one additional question that would clear things up. Art humorously asked, "Well now Howard Hughes, that is if you are really Howard Hughes that is, who do I work for? The vagrant's eyes became focused and steely as he replied, "You work for Dan Ferguson, and Dan Ferguson works for Hal Thomas, and Hal Thomas works for Ed Mason, and Ed Mason works for Noah Dietrich, and Noah Dietrich works for me." The sheriff grinned as he turned to look at Art. However, Art was not smiling. Something looked wrong. He looked financially terrified in response to stranger's reply. The words did not come as his eyes motioned to the sheriff there may be hell to pay. "My God Mr. Hughes," said Art in all sincerity. "It was an oversight. I'm so sorry! Sheriff, you had better let this man out of jail. If he wanted to, he could lay this whole town to waste with the flick of a pen." Stunned, the sheriff was stunned.

The vagrant climbed into his plane and with the turn of the switch power surged into the engine. He was Howard Hughes, a record-breaking aviator, inventor, playboy and billionaire. He was one of us.

Jan 9, 2003

Compliments of Kathi Stringer
Kathi's Mental Health Review
www.toddlertime.com


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