I was challenged recently to write something a little less, bleak. Something hopeful, or uplifting. I am almost ashamed to admit how hard that task has been for me… Whenever I sit down to write, it is usually because something has been gnawing at me from the inside, and if I don’t release it, it will wreak havoc within me, and torment me into screaming silently within myself. It’s almost a form of cathartic therapy for me, to write, but the challenge or prospect of writing something less depressing is both a challenge for my writing skills as well as it is for me mentally. When I was first challenged with this, I responded with a simple chuckle, and a polite brush off. Since then however, it too has been gnawing at me, but, in a very different way. I want to see if I can do it, so, here goes…
This story takes place in the very first few months of my release from the military. It was early into the autumn, and I had just arrived for my first shift on ambulance as a working member of the team as opposed to a mentee. My partner, a seasoned paramedic by the name of Chris. He was a brilliant medic with a comforting aura of modesty about him. Although I was admittedly nervous about the shift, I was somewhat relieved in knowing that my partner for the next few days was going to be Chris.
I was working for a small-town ambulance service in rural Alberta. This was my first job after releasing from the forces, so, I was still adjusting to civilian life again, and I was about as fresh-faced as any medic could be. I remember walking around addressing each one of my colleagues as Sir, or, ma’am, just as I had done in the army, all the while appearing as though I had something prickly and uncomfortably yet, securely planted within my ass. I was nervous, and awkward. Thank God for Chris though…
Chris was the class clown. He was able to take the edge off of almost any situation, and he quickly did so by cracking a few jokes, and then whisking he and I away in the ambulance on a coffee run. A coffee run that I did not know I was paying for. Rookie tradition I suppose. The way Chris moved around, bounding with a goofy gait, and joking with almost anyone that happened to cross in front of his path, made me feel more and more at ease. He also had an intensely contagious laugh, so whenever he would snicker at the end of one of his own jokes, or at the reactions he was causing from them, it was almost impossible not to join in. Soon, I felt like just another guy on the truck.
Our shift was four days long. It was a series of two-day-shifts, followed by two-night-shifts. Over the following days, we would respond to a handful of calls, none of which I recall all that clearly now but, I assume that they went well. I know that at the very least, I watched and soaked up all the knowledge Chris had to offer while on calls together. He is one medic I would feel comfortable having work on any member of my family.
It was into our second (last) night shift, and we were standing in the ER of the local hospital, readying for a transfer of a patient. The Patient needed to be taken into the city, and we were the crew assigned to do it, so, both Chris and I were happy. Firstly, because we knew this was a standard, low acuity transfer so, not much was needed from us, other than to taxi this person from the sticks, to the urban sprawl of the city. And secondly, because we could now have our pick and choice of all the best coffee shops around. While stuck to our home base station in town, coffee was either procured from either the gas station, or the local diner, neither of which was stellar but, coffee was coffee, and coffee is the lifeblood of any good medic.
Just prior to leaving, Chris was hurling flirtatious banter at one of the ER nurses. She was indeed pretty, so, the reasons behind his willingness to engage with her was not something that needed much justification. She informed us that at the end of her shift, her, and a few of the other nurses, were going to be having a house party in town. She said it was for a pre-bachelorette party, and if we were back in town, we should swing by. Even though we were still going to be on shift, we felt like should the EMS God’s allow for it, we would love to oblige.
The transfer to and from the city went without a hitch, as did our acquisition of a decent cup of coffee. On the way back into town, from the city, Chris was singing badly out of tune with the radio, and I was sipping my coffee through a permanent smirk that had wiggled its way onto my face. I must say, I think it was there for most of the four days/nights that Chris and I worked together. It was a great introduction into the world of working with a partner. Through an uncoordinated bobbing of his head, Chris quickly flung his hand towards the volume dial of the radio, and silenced it while simultaneously speaking aloud, “Matt, Ohhhh, Matty, I got an idea kid!”
“Oh yeah, what’s that?”
“Ohhh Matty, buddy–“ This statement was followed by a billow of mischievous laughter “Let’s swing by the house where the ladies are at, and get on the loud-speaker-“ He paused while staring at me through the childish grin of a mastermind, “Let’s get on the speaker like the cops do, and we will tell em all to come out with their hands up! Fuck, I’ll squawk the sirens and everything, ohhh yeah, let’s do it buddy! …” I don’t think he was actually awaiting my approval, more so just to loop me in on the plan that he had hatched while driving at highway speeds, and singing purposefully out of tune. I simply laughed out loud and spoke my agreement to his plan. After saying sure, he brought his coffee cup to his lips, and began to sip from it while giggling to himself.
We got back into town a little after sun down. As Chris pulled onto the ramp, he stopped the tuck, and allowed me time to dismount and hurry to the rear of the ambulance, to guide him into the ambulance bay. The autumn air had a crisp bite to it, but it wasn’t too bad. My fleece work jacket did a good job at combating the chill night air. The beeping of the reversing ambulance, stirred the attention of the other crew from inside the station. They had come to see how the trip went, and before I could even begin telling them, Chris’s voice broke through “Boys! Get dressed, we’re goin’ to a party!” I looked at the day crew and watched as the look of inquisitive confusion washed over them. Chris went on to explain his master plan, and it was of course told with his flair so, in turn, it was met with a laughter of agreement.
The day crew threw on their fleece jackets, and scurried to their awaiting ambulance. It was around this time, that the door to the inside of the station burst open, revealing a triumphant Chris, with his arms extended into the air, and ear to ear smile, he looked at me and said “Rook’, I have peed, and it was hearty pee, a good pee, a pee to rival all other urinary excretions, I am ready to ride!”
“Ok sir, –Sorry, Chris, let’s go” I said as my shoulders jostled with laughter. Chris climbed into the driver side of the ambulance, and after pressing the green button to the ambulance bay door, I took my place in the passenger side of our rig.
The ambulance started pulling forward, and as it did, Chris’s laughter morphed from snicker, to jovial excitement. He was like a big kid. On calls though, he was calm, cool, collected and as I said, brilliant. The mix of the two was perfect for this line of work.
As I said before, this was my first job so, I was new to this whole thing, including this tiny little town. That did not matter though, Chris seemed to know all the streets and back roads by heart, and he navigated the ambulance with precision around each corner and down each bumpy road.
Eventually, we would pull up to a quaint house planted on a residential street. The lights to the inside were on but, the blinds were closed. Occasionally I thought I could see the silhouette of figures moving within but, I was unable to make out who, or how many people were inside. I looked in the passenger side mirror in time to see the day crew ambulance pulled up behind us. Chris must have noticed also, and once he felt as though they had settled into position, he looked me dead in the eye, the corners of his lifted high towards his brow as his cheeks were inflated with coast to coast smile, he picked up the mic and prepared to speak into it. I’ll admit, my heart was beating with quickened pace, as though we were about to pull off a prank of epic proportions, as well as housing a slight mix of anxiety, not knowing how the girls inside would take it, and wondering how they would handle it from Chris, and his rookie. No matter though, it was too late now, Chris was on scene, and had his mind made up, I was along for the ride no matter what now. As my apprehensive smile began to widen, my eyes made a shocking discovery. One that I had to quickly inform Chris of…
As Chris held the mic in his right hand, his thumb hovering atop the PTT (press to talk) button, my eyes followed the cord that spiraled from the bottom end of it. I followed that coiled piece of cable from the mic, all the way to the centre console of the ambulance, that was not where the loud speaket was plugged into… My discovery was that Chris, was holding the mic that is used to talk to central dispatch. If he was to press down and begin speaking, he would be speaking directly to Alberta dispatching centre. My eyes widened and my jaw lost all muscle tone and dropped, forcing my mouth to dawn an ‘O” shape. I regained control and began to speak, to try to tell Chris that he was holding the wrong mic! “Chris, Chris, that’s the dispatch mic-“ No sooner after saying that aloud, Chris turned to look out the window, towards the house that was the intended target, the look of an immature mastermind still plastered all over his face, and reflecting back at me subtly from said window, I watched as he pressed down with his thumb, and heard the slight ‘click’, and then listened through shock and awe, as Chris began to speak loudly into the now live mic – “Ladies, ladies inside of the blue house, we know who you are and we know what you are up to, PUT DOWN THE DILDO’S AND COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP!”
“Chris, dude, the mic–“
“This is the Barrhead police department, I will not tell you again, PUT THE DILDO’S DOWN, THE SEX TOYS ASIDE, AND COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP!” Chris returned his gaze towards me after noticing no movement within the house, “Did you hear anything over the loud-speaker” he asked through an obvious confusion as to why his plan was not working. I watched as he looked outside the window one more time and while pressing down on the mic he began to recite his unrehearsed comedy routine again “Ladies–“ I quickly cut him off with an audible interruption of speaking his name. In doing that, Chris looked at me, before peering down at where the mic to the loud speaker was. It was then that he noticed that there was a mic securely latched onto its locking mechanism. Now as the look of further confusion washed away his once jovial expression, he began to piece it all together. First, he looked at his right hand, the hand that was holding a mic, the mic he had been shouting into. Next, he looked down and followed the cord, just as I had done, and began to realize exactly what I had noticed also. His head now snapped from the window, to the mic, to the centre console, over to me, and then back to the console. This was repeated several times until finally he spoke his first words since the ones he had spoken into the mic that he had assumed was the loudspeaker “… That’s what you meant by ‘dispatch’…”
“Well… I mean–“ As he was beginning to speak, a sudden and startling knocking sound came from his driver side window. It was a member of the day crew, their face concluded what he now feared, he had indeed spoken his commands about dildo’s and sex toys over the line to dispatch, and everyone in a multi-mile radius had heard it!
I looked through the window to the hysterically jubilant expression of the day crew medic’s face. In seeing his expression, while hearing the muffled sounds of laughter break in from outside, through the glass, my smile shamefully grew wider. I was doing a good job at remaining somewhat sympathetic to my partner’s mistake until…
“Medic one. Medic one, this is dispatch… uh… are you trying to reach us?” A hollow voice crackled in through our speakers, and upon hearing that, and while looking at the laughing medic outside, as well as watching Chris grapple with the reality of this prank gone wrong, I could no longer contain it, I started howling. I was laughing a deep belly laughter so continuous, that it robbed me of all air. I was now laughing silently with the occasional wheeze that escaped my collapsing lungs.
“Shit! Matty, brother they heard it!” Chris spoke aloud what we all already knew. As he was struggling to come to terms with what had just happened, he began to lower the window, and while doing so, that same hollow voice that we had just heard came echoing through the speakers once more “Medic one. Uh… Medic one, are you, alright? Do you need police assistance? Please respond” Both myself and the medic outside of the truck laughed in harmony while Chris tried to regain enough composure to respond to dispatch. At this time, we heard the distant sound of a house door opening, we looked to see where it was coming from, and to my surprise, it was the house filled with nurses. See, they had indeed heard Chris’s demands, but not over the loud-speaker… What the nurse had failed to mention, was that she was “on-call” so, she had the hospital radio, which was set to the main dispatch channel!
As the laughter continued, the shocked expressions of the girls added fuel to the hilarity of it all. “CHRIS!!!!” one of the nurses barked, this sent all parties, including Chris, into a free fall of gut-twisting laughter.
As we were all laughing and imitating Chris on the radio, the nurses had now joined the day medic outside of Chris’s door, and watched as Chris turned a bright shade of embarrassed red. He began to shush everyone, and while speaking through continued chuckles, he said “Matty, you gotta talk to dispatch, they are gonna send police if they think we are not secure” At first, I thought he was continuing the joke and making light of the situation – he wasn’t, he was serious…
It was now I, who held the mic, and fighting off ‘the giggles’. I tried to mentally prepare myself to press the button, and speak into the mic, informing dispatch that we were fine, but all that happened was “Dispatch, this is Medic O-“ I got to there before I spit through a heavy laughter. This once again sent us all on a descent into immature laughter.
We would eventually clear things up with dispatch, and although they never admitted to hearing what Chris had said, we all knew they had. For the remainder of my time spent with that ambulance service, this remained the running joke.
Chris went on to work for a fire/medic service, and I was hired o n with the city, so although we never worked together again, we saw one another in the hospital hallway’s quite often, and each time we did, this story would come up.
This is a story I remember clearly, and it is a story I wrote while sitting in coffee shop, snickering and bouncing my shoulders as I pressed on the keys of my laptop.
“LADIES, COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP!” Haha, classic Chris…