It's true what they say - it takes all sorts of people to make the world go 'round. I'm always astounded by the vast array of different personalities I come across in my work and social lives. And some of these people are just so darn entertaining.
Her permed curls bobbed cheerily as she squeaked across the hospital ward floor towards my grandfather. My grandfather's face is affected by Parkinson's disease, and his face at rest is set in an expression of solemn contemplation. He seemed to regard the cleaner warily as she bore down upon him.
"Hello my POPPY POP!", shrieked the cleaner, with a look of glee on her face. Grandpa's face moved slowly into a bewildered smile, as the woman leant closer.
"How are YOU, Poppy Pop?", she yelled, as if speaking to a person who was another room away.
Grandpa smile widened. He glanced across at me and I knew he was thinking exactly what I was thinking: 'This woman has escaped from the Psychiatric Unit and has nicked a mop and begun cleaning'. Well, perhaps he wasn't thinking exactly that, but his look was amused and surprised and conspiratorial.
"She's got her own nickname for you, Grandpa", I teased, in a quiet undertone. Apparently the cleaner had very keen ears, even if she assumed no-one else did.
"Oh, I call them all Poppy Pop!", the chatty cleaner chirped, as she bustled about replacing a bin liner. "Why, what do you call him?", she queried, sounding surprised that Grandpa wasn't actually called Poppy Pop.
"Hmmm, Grandpa, hmmmm", she muttered in response to my reply. It seemed clear that she considered 'Poppy Pop' to be a far superior name.
"There you go my Poppy Pop!" she cried, as she fixed the bin liner onto his tray with two pieces of sticky tape. The cleaner stepped closer to my still-handsome, grey-haired, fleecy-vested grandfather. Her grin was stretching her face into previously unseen dimensions. She laid a hand on each side of Grandpa's jaw, and lowered her head until her forehead touched Grandpa's.
"I just want to ADOPT you!" she shouted.
The other men in the four-bed room began to laugh out loud. Grandpa's shoulders began to rise and fall as he chuckled uncontrollably. I sat in my visitors chair, stunned - not just at the cleaner's offer to become Grandpa's legal guardian, but at her sheer volume. I swear my ears were ringing and I was a full two feet further away.
The laughter did nothing to daunt our boisterous cleaner - if anything she seemed to become more effusive. "You're just so GORGEOUS!", she crowed, vigorously pinching Grandpa's cheeks. Grandpa's eyes began to leak tears of laughter, and he and I kept sneaking incredulous glances at each other as we both struggled to suppress our mirth. Just when I thought Grandpa's laughter might trigger one of his coughing fits, the cleaner bustled away. "See you tomorrow, Poppy!". She stalked away, and the four men slowly wiped the tears from their cheeks, chuckling quietly to themselves.
She may be bordering on certifiable, but that cleaner made those elderly gentlemen laugh like kids. And I don't know any sweeter medicine than that.
It takes all sorts alright.