The following is an excerpt from my everyday blog
that doesn't normally deal with fire/rescue stuff. A couple of my readers asked me to talk about that side of things so I did. Not sure if they are glad or sorry, but it was kind of a dark weekend to do it.
I took a couple of extra duty sections this week, I'm ten calls away from 100 in a year and grabbing a weekend here and there frequently enables you to practice skills that are not called upon on Wednesday nights. But I guess I need to back up.
It has come up now and again, in passing, in the comments section of other people's blogs, that I am a firefighter and an EMT. I have never talked about it much, in fact, I set up a separate blog for it, because about 95% of the time, stuff that happens is not funny. And this is a humor blog, si? Okay, once in a while it is funny. Drunk people (not the dead kind) are funny. Sometimes, crazy people (not the dangerous kind) are funny, but even that is treading on shaky ground. For every person who'd get a chuckle out of my responding to a full-blown psychiatric emergency on 'Dickens of a Christmas' festival day, all decked out in my best imitation Mrs Cratchit complete with elaborate Victorian hairdo, and no doubt heartily contributing to said patient's psychiatric emergency, there is someone who has been there, has coaxed a bug-eyed relative out of the barricade fashioned out of dining room furniture, full of the same assurances we had, that the neighbors are not trying to poison her because they secretly hate retired math teachers. So for funny I'm basically left with the first time I ever responded to a fire call, wherein I fell over while trying to get into my boots and banged my head on a forty year old engine parked across from my locker, left behind with my throbbing skull in the empty garage littered with hastily cast off sneakers and workboots, lone witness to some sort of municipal rapture.
There is a unique brand of juvenile hilarity that one participates in, doing this job. A bystander, likely a pinched-up one who doesn't laugh at much, might call it immature. A rough game of king of the hill played on the snow piled at the corner, across from the firehouse, the guys looking like overgrown children, cigarettes dangling as they tumble down, laughing and swearing. Practical jokes where carelessly parked bicycles are lashed to chains and winched into the rafters, where they dangle over the head of the clueless owner who is endlessly talking, not seeing. "Shit, that was funny. Remember the time....." and the story is told. We need this. The same guy who does a maneuver he calls 'Fat Guy Freestyle'-- a crazily awkward but surprisingly high side-vault with a clicking of the heels off the end of a stretcher, a railing, someone's shoulder, (with points given for a flash of buttcrack) can also tell you about the patient so badly tangled in a wrecked car it took an hour and a half to extricate her, mostly intact, her broken legs folded up over her shoulders. Half an hour of wisecracking in a circle in the garage might seem like a waste of time, but we need it.
Then I can go home and do The Ritual.
Its simple; dead patient, gotta wash my jacket. The death doesn't have to be messy. It doesn't have to Get On Me. But if it happens; if there is talk of lividity, that low, animal wail from the living room when the relatives are given the 'Nothing More We Can Do' speech, the turning off of monitors, phone calls to county for the cadre of cleaners-up, I know I'm going to do it. I go home, peel off all the layers, clean out my pockets, zip it up, and throw it in the wash. There is an element of relief, of 'There, that's over'. It comes out of the dryer soft, its navy surface uniformly dark and reassuring. All is reset to zero, the good zero, the 'time to try again' zero, not the 'asystole on two leads/no response/ 1-1-1 on the Glasgow scale' kind of zero.
Suicides kind of mess up my schedule. I want to write about how nice the leaves are, with pictures. I want to muse on why I keep inadvertently running over squirrels. I toy with sly and amusing political humor, ultimately rejecting it in favor of keeping things non-partisan here in my little corner of the northern outpost. But Saturday morning at 2:35am I knew it was going to be another jacket washing day and I was right. I'll write about it later. (On the other blog, where the dark and heavy stuff usually goes when my boundaries aren't all blurry like they are today.)
Just this, and I'll leave you with it. You are out in the world, wherever you happen to be, surrounded by people who are fragile as crystal and carrying heavy burdens. Be kind to them.