Fact Check

Windows of Your Mind

Hospital patient yearns for the bed by the window?

Published Jul 6, 2001


Glurge:   Hospitalized man yearns for the bed by the window.

Example:   [Healey & Glanvill, 1996]

A friend of a friend worked in a hospice where two elderly bed-ridden men shared a room. One of them had a bed next to a window, and would sit and describe in loving detail to his friend the children playing in the sunshine, the dogs loping in the park and any really nasty street fights. Though he loved the descriptions, the other chap soon became sick with jealousy.


Window pain

went on for months, until one night the man by the window suddenly groaned and called to his pal, "Ooh, you've got to ring for help, I don't think I'll last the night." The other fellow reached for the alarm, but then thought, "If he goes, I'll get the bed by the window." So he lay back and ignored the moaning.

Sadly, in the morning staff found the poor old bloke stiff as a board, but they reassured his pal that they'd soon have some more company for him. "I must have the bed next to the window!" he snapped. The nurses explained it would be easier if he stayed put, but he angrily insisted. So they lifted him to the other bed. Expectantly, he levered himself up and peered through the window - to see a solid brick wall.

Origins:   The plot of this "legend," originally a short story penned by Allan Seager and published under the title "The Street" in Vanity Fair magazine in September 1934, is so beloved of fiction writers that it was included in a 1946 round-up of shopworn storylines, 101 Plots Used and Abused. As for how well-liked this tale is, 101 Plots Used and Abused notes that during one eight-month stretch roughly ten years after the debut of the original Seager story, no less than six versions turned up in a variety of U.S. magazines.

101 Plots Used and Abused summarizes the tale thusly:

Two seriously wounded veterans occupy adjoining cots in a hospital. One, whose morale is good, is near an open window. He recounts things of interest he observes through the window. What goes on outside holds the attention of the other man who, suffering from melancholia, listens and is so fascinated he forgets his troubles and gradually improves. . . . The man near the window dies. When his body is removed his friend begs for his bed, which is given to him. Attendants move him that same night and he can hardly wait for daylight to look through the window. When, early the next morning, he does look, all there is to see is an ugly, blank wall.

Different writers add different flourishes to flesh out a tale. When this story is circulated as a legend, it includes a plot element of the envious man's doing something to cause the end of the window-gazer's life in order to gain the window for himself. (Alternatively, he fails to summon help when the window-gazer experiences a medical crisis.) When served up in this legendary fashion, the story becomes one of retribution: The wondrous window only existed through the eyes of the now-dead man, and the action (or inaction) of the envious one thereby cost him the very thing he hoped to gain.

For those who might care to read the original version, it was included in Seager's 1950 shory story collection, The Old Man of the Mountain and Seventeen Other Stories.

Barbara "yet another disappointed windows user" Mikkelson

Last updated:   11 March 2007

  Sources Sources:

    Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill.   Now! That's What I Call Urban Myths.

    London: Virgin Books, 1996.   ISBN 0-86369-969-3   (pp. 28-29).

    Young, James.   101 Plots Used and Abused.

    Boston: The Writer, Inc., 1946   (p. 53)

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