Importance: The truth about a crappy job.
On the Bus
(an EMT story)
by J.C. Bennett
I think of the ambulance as a bus, a small bus that I want to get off of.
The Ramones, "I want to be Sedated", plays softly on the radio as the LA wind blows down congested freeways and over smokestacks, casting particles into the throats of asthmatic, poncified cretins.
I'm sitting with nothing to do but let the dry heat creep to the stomach and
commence with tiresome nausea, and feel the fatigue brought on by idleness and
heavy drinking. My partner, Carlos, I call him The Los, nods in and out. I spoke
with him earlier regarding movement from Sector 4 to Sector 5.
"I hear things are better in Sector 5. They have dancing girls on all the rigs and instead of saline, jars of pigs feet and pickled herring line the shelves," he says.
But no, I tell him, I was in Sector 5, paired up with a madman, an EMT with 32 years of dullness inspiring his lunacy. He scrawled rhymes on the coma victims, "Sector 6, pick up stiffs," "Sector 5, are you alive?" and talked incessantly of moving up the farm, up the farm to Sector 7 where we all end up one day, for Sector 7 is really heaven, and the rigs are permanently parked.
This mad EMT, he couldn't make it through the fire academy. He hauled 100 lb dummies and sucked a tennis ball through great lengths of rotten hose. "this one's a winner for sure, look at those man tits!" said the fire chief, but he failed the knot tying test. Later wept on his mothers apron. Well she knew, she knew, and she struggled to unfasten him so she could once again tie his shoelaces.
I pretend we are on the trail of The Aborigine, a purveyor of stolen urine to
alcoholic pilots and wired UPS drivers. He is perched atop the pyramidal garbage
can, giving me the finger, but I must wait, for this is the in between time.
The long wait for his false move, when one is a sea in undrinkable waters, waiting
and waiting. The Aborigine is as silent as only The Aborigine can be, but his
silence informs me greater than any voluminous tome. I see him behind café windows,
passenger windows, windows in airplanes and ER doors, through the portholes of
hyperbolic chambers, through forbidden keyholes and as a steam emerging from
under manhole grates. For what do I follow thee, Aborigine? For what do I follow
your shit stained trousers?
The hangover is taking a toll, and I'm plagued by last night's dreams of botched
transports for triple bagged (one on each kidney and a Foley catheter for piss)
cancer victims. "The lines are trapped!" They snap clear, tearing off chunks
of dilapidated flesh as urine blinds my eyes. A wad of chewing gum blocks the
valve for the canula and I am incapacitated with fear.
|"...but a siren is always screaming in LA, a helicopter is always overhead, and someone is always on the verge of death."
Now white knuckled, The Los eyes me suspecting the worst, and he is correct. I am completely incompetent, cannot read the maps, and the constant "beep!" and "ting!" of the various tracking devices The Company has installed give me the jitters.
The dispatchers know not only the location of the bus, they also know its speed, the rate at which it accelerates, stops, and goes over curbs or potholes. Through a connection with the Highway Patrol, they know if an EMT is lying when he says there is a delay due to traffic. The dispatchers, sickly and delirious in the communications center, have all lost their hair and grown pale behind the five monitors each one has at his disposal (all technical data bona fide).
"I need O2," I tell him, and scurry to the back to alleviate some of my headache.
"Beep! Emergency! Beep, I say, Beep!" The onboard computer uses sound effects from Star Trek during routine business, but on a 911 call its true voices emerges: that of a nasal, chiding, hag.
It would have been easy enough to get to but for the noonday sun, the strobes were practically invisible.
Six lanes of unbudging traffic on Imperial Highway, a road like all others in Los Angeles, choked with an inexorable tide of angry, shattered minds. The siren screamed, but a siren is always screaming in LA, a helicopter is always overhead, and someone is always on the verge of death.
"No one's moving!" I yell.
"Jesus, roll up your window!" says The Los.
"Do you see this?"
No one pulled over, but a few panic stricken drivers did stop altogether, forming a barricade. I swerved into oncoming traffic. A smirking Starbucks barista, I could see his shirt, pulled in front of me into a left turn lane and I slammed on the brakes.
The edge of my shoe caught the accelerator and we surged forward, a nightmare of doom through inertia.
The shriek of metal as the passenger side ripped a great gauge into the '91 Hyundai of a Certified Nursing Assistant named Esmerelda on her way to the convalescent home. She was pleased, as I explained later to the supervisor that it was entirely my fault.
It is the practice of all jalopy driving Angelenos to travel in the blind spots of company vehicles so as to facilitate just such a windfall.
Yes, I had failed, and now have returned to San Francisco, to pursue yet another job which will affect your life. Meat inspector, perhaps, or possibly working in a carnival, on the bungee jump. I've also been thinking very seriously about a career in elevator repair.