I don’t much like written policies and procedures. I’m no anarchist, but behavior should be based on a larger principle and focused on getting things done right for everyone involved rather than simply doing what’s been done before. What principles? Here are a few to choose from:
“Don’t do stupid stuff.”
“Don’t be mean.”
“Treat other people the way you’d like to be treated.”
“Leave things better than you found them.”
None of these can be applied in a lock-step manner, but they do help guide decisions, as opposed to written policies and procedures, which handcuff decisions—and often get broken when folks need the most guidance. For example, if a sober house has a procedure that says, “Any crime, or potential crime, will be immediately reported to the appropriate authorities,” that sounds very reasonable. Until . . . . Let’s say Tony, out on parole, comes to a staff person and self-reports that he’d taken $5 from an AA meeting collection to buy a pack of cigarettes. Tony feels guilty and wants to know the best way to make amends. Following the policy, the staff person should report this to the police, and watch Tony be set back into a locked halfway house, or even returned to prison. Most of us would say that’s unjust—Tony is seeking help to do the right thing. But consider the staff person: if she reports the theft, she is unjust; if she doesn’t, she should be fired for not following procedure. The written word, as Socrates showed Phaedrus, keeps on giving the same response no matter what question is asked of it, a sure limitation of writing. Instead, an appeal to any of the principles above would lead to a more just outcome for everyone.
Now that I’ve clarified my feelings about written procedures, I must admit a personal exception. This exception, this single policy I’ve ever disseminated and implemented, came to me years ago, and it has been effective.
I have a fear of ghosts, or, better, I have a healthy regard for the dangers of ghost infestation, an underreported problem that must be addressed. The following policy has prevented any known ghost outbreaks in all the places I’ve run. While I can’t explain its effectiveness, I can testify to it—if you do this in your organization, ghosts will not bother you.
Ghost Infestation Preparedness
We must prepare for the unlikely, the impossible and the inevitable.
Beginning today, we will practice a drill that will prepare us to deal with the death of a resident or staff and the resultant ghost infestation.
- If you notice a dead body in the room, please notify a staff person as soon as possible. (NOTE: If it is a staff member who is dead, you must inform another staff person, not simply inform the corpse of his or her current condition).
- While waiting for staff response, please check for signs of life using the traditional methods (e.g., tickling, poking, kicking, and mocking the deceased’s family).
- A staff person will determine actual death by placing a dry cleaner bag over the deceased’s face for at least three minutes. If the deceased struggles (making him or her temporarily non-deceased), the staff person will increase the pressure on the deceased’s face and begin timing again. At the three-minute mark, the attending staff member will call out “Done,” but continue to maintain pressure on the dry-cleaning bag to prevent ghost leakage.
- Once the staff person has determined death, all present will sing the chorus of one (1) of the following songs:
“Stairway to Heaven”
“Another One Bites the Dust”
or (if the group needs some cheering up)
“I Like Big Butts”
- As current scientific research suggests that most ghosts escape through the nose or mouth, the attending staff person should maintain pressure on the deceased’s face, while two volunteers drag the deceased by the heels out onto the porch.
- Once the corpse is safely on the porch, the attending staff person and the two ankle draggers should leave the corpse, chanting “Ghosts, ghosts, go way. Come again some other day.” Allow the wind to blow the dry cleaning bag away.
THIS ENDS THE DRILL
And any problems with ghosts.