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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Speedwagon Rides Again

If I understood everything that went on in my brain-- every calling, every craving, every interest and every inclination-- I think I'd be a goddamned genius. Either that or I'd be a twitching, incomprehensible, foul-smelling, eye-booger-eating societal reject who finger-paints on the walls of his cell with his own diarrhea.

Fortunately, I'm neither a genius or a... that.

I made the decision that, when my contract at my small non-profit is up in August, I will return to the streets as an emergency medical technician.

Last night in the kitchen, my wife, looking very nonplussed, I am relieved to say, said in reply,

"Can I ask why?"

"It's been calling to me," I said with a shrug and an assuredly earnest look in my eye. "It's been calling to me ever since I left."

And it has. And I don't know why.

She looked at me with the same love that has been in her eyes since we 2003 and said,

"Then you need to do what you need to do. And I love you."

There are so many things that I miss about the job-- the pride of putting on a uniform. Being of service to an organization and to a people. Taking charge and taking care. Driving an ambulance, lights on or off. The back-and-forth with dispatch. The indescribable feeling you get when it's time fo flip on the auxillary battery and turn those red lights on. The smiles people give you when they see you come in for a cup of coffee, that coffee sometimes free. The feeling of importance, of meaning. Of applying knowledge that I have, of getting my skills back. Of being able to say, "I am an EMT" without having to add, "but I don't work on the street anymore."

I worked from May, 2005 to February, 2007 and they were some of the best months and worst months of my entire life. I remember the day my first steady partner threatened to kill me, throwing a clipboard at me in the front of the ambulance, shattering the windshield instead of my face. I remember the day I got him fired. I remember transporting suicidal alcoholics and paranoid schizophrenics and homeless people with City Paper underwear and cardboard shoes. I remember bringing leftover slices of my wedding cake to my co-workers at base. I remember educating my Ukranian coworker about the Holocaust in the parking lot of a hospital. I remember busting my supervisor's balls, moving his van while he was inside the base taking a leak, and changing the radio station from country to classical, and placing a male urinal on his gearshift lever. I remember sitting next to the same man in the same ambulance every single day for thirteen months. I remember the patients-- the obese ones, the severely malnourished ones, the diabetics, the congestive heart failures, the addicts, the prisoners, the women in emergent labor. I remember the one neonate I transported, and I remember how petrified my partner and I were that we would kill it. I remember driving down I-95 with my lights on, going 40 miles per hour, fearful that every pothole would break its brand new ribs.

I remember careening down that same stretch of road with my siren wailing, in a desperate attempt to get a fire-fighter to the hospital after he had collapsed at the station of a heart attack while lifting weights. I remember his wife in the seat next to me, sobbing and thanking me as I drove, sweat pouring down my brow.

I remember a lot. And perhaps I remember too much, and perhaps I remember it in that skewed way in which we remember unpleasant things after some time has passed. I remember reading "The Passing of the Armies" which is a memoir written by Brevet Major-General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain about his time rising through the ranks during the Civil War. He writes about war in a sympathetic, eloquent, flowing, almost romantic way-- the battles long cleansed of the blood and brains, smoke and horror over thirty or forty years. Maybe that's how I remember life on the street.


But, after a long time being chained to a desk, I find myself longing for an opportunity to jump into my car and roam, even if it's just to go to the post office to pick up mail from the P.O. Box. I would never call myself a wanderer, but I know now that I need to be out there, whatever "out there" means.

And, oh, I'm out there alright.

But I think you know what I mean.

For years and years I've struggled with what it means to work. Does a job need meaning? Does a job need to align with your perceived status or education level? Do you have some sort of familial or religious or societal obligation to seek a white collar job if it's what your parents sought, or your wife's family sought? Does being in possession of a Masters of Education degree obligate you to teach? Well, no-- just as my undergraduate degree in Theatre doesn't obligate me to whore myself out in the world of off-off-off-off Broadway or appear in local car commercials smiling while receiving the keys to some piece of shit Ford Focus.

I've come to understand that you've just got to do something, and it might as well be something interesting, engaging, rewarding, and maybe a little bit fun, even if it doesn't pay the best and you may run into elderly ladies who tell you they're going to "fucking kill" you as you're strapping them snugly into a stretcher and covering them with a blanket.


  1. Completely agree. When you start to look forward to going to the bank - and not even for yourself - it's time for a career change. Seriously.

    I also believe that your work should have meaning. At least to yourself. Everyone else can kiss ass.

  2. I am so happy for you! All the exciting touching things you mentioned may not happen all in one shift but they happened! As I have said before,your EMT stories are my favourites and just remember BEND your knees when lifting heavy women up 2 flights of stairs!
    EEEEEE yay!

  3. I like my job, I like the actual work I do, it's the people I work with that I struggle with. And short of killing everyone I'm not sure I can fix that. ;)

  4. This makes me very, very happy. Good on you. I'll be over here counting beans. When that fatass with the Mickey D's habit finally kicks it, I will think of you. :)


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