Thursday, June 3, 2010

You gotta love small towns!

OK, so it’s one of those National Holiday 3 day weekends in the pleasant season of the year. This day happens to be the holiday itself and many of our active members are out of town doing the ‘parade thing’ which is great because I am not with them. I hate doing parades, not really sure why. So we’ve kept a couple of Officers and critical people in town to provide coverage (which isn’t really that hard because apparently I am not the only one who doesn’t enjoy parades). So we have some fire apparatus and one ambulance out in the public eye, which leaves plenty of fire equipment in town and one ambulance at the station on the north end of town.
We did a little pre-plan and there is another EMS officer and myself ready to respond until we are back in full service. I have some chores to do that will take me around town and I consult with my partner for the day and tell him I will take the rig over to top off the fuel and make my few stops before bringing it to my house so that we can get out quicker. Holiday weekends can bring heavy call volume and some bad auto accidents. Earlier on this particular weekend we ran nearly continuous calls for a 6 hour period.
So I went over to the north station and traded my pickup for an ambulance. Before I even got out to the main road (about 3 miles from the station), I saw the Chief coming down the road in my direction. I knew he would wonder why the rig was out and I could see him slowing down to talk. I pulled up even with him and said “hey Chief! How do you like my new fly-car?” He laughed about the running joke we have, we’d like to get a Rapid Response car but the guys with the money just don’t see why. Still the Chief asked ‘what was up’ and I explained the plan for the day and that it just made sense to keep the rig handy as I did my errands. He thought that was a great idea, wished me a happy holiday, and told me he would be around if we needed him. We both went on our errands.
On my way to the filling station I stopped at the local coffee shop for a fresh cup, for some reason the previous 6 cups didn’t seem sufficient. When I was leaving the store a gentleman walked in and asked in a loud voice “Who is the person here with the Podunk ambulance parked outside?” I looked the fellow over and could see that he too was headed for a parade somewhere in his VFW uniform. I figured he had a question in connection with parade routes or something so I confessed that I was indeed the operator of said Ambulance, “What can I do for you?”.
He said “well, my Mom passed away about 6 months ago and a friend of the family had sent a donation into your agency in her name, but the post office returned it because of address issues.” He held out his hand with an envelope in it and continued: “I have been carrying this around for months trying to catch up with one of your members to make sure you get it. It’s only a small donation , but my Mom always talked about how nice you people were to her and how well you took care of her in her final years, no matter what time she called you.” I hear often lot around town, so I asked him who his Mom was and when he told me I realized she was the nice old lady who lived down the road and was my patient on several occasions. I had actually taken her to the hospital on what turned out to be her last trip for a twisted swollen ankle. She passed a few weeks later because she had decided she was tired and it was ‘time to go’. I knew her other son well, but had never met this son. As we talked he started to get a little choked up and I took the opportunity to tell him that his Mom was a wonderful and thoughtful lady that was always a pleasure to assist. He thanked me and asked that I pass on his thanks to the rest of the crew, and off he went.
OK, so I have this check and letter, I had better drop it off at the main station, so I stop there and run into to slide it into the proper mailbox slot. Good, in and out without running into anybody, now to get some fuel. I head off down the little side street and pass another member coming up the hill and when he sees the rig he put his hands up in the universal sign for “What’s up?” and gives me a quizzical look. I pull over and he turns around and comes back. We chat on the side of the road and I explain the plan for the day. He agrees it makes sense and I comment that it is turning out to take longer than I thought to just get fuel and I am rethinking just driving around town. We both laughed, got in our vehicles and went on our way. I finally get in and fill up. The attendant at the fuel station wants to know what call I am returning from “I didn’t hear the siren go off this morning” he says. “Nope, we didn’t have a call, just running errands and trying to keep the rig handy in case it gets busy again like the other day”. Back in the rig now and time to pop in on my folks and make sure all is well, they are just around the corner from the filling station. I back the rig up their long driveway where it looks down on the road and I can drive straight out if I need to. I spent about a half hour or so with them and then headed home to park the rig in my driveway. All along the route I see the occasional head turn as if trying to figure out where I am going or what’s going on. Some of these heads belong to the less active members that are always listening to a pager or scanner, but only come out for the big calls. I smile and drive on. As I am backing into my driveway I wonder how many phone calls I will get from the people who drove past my folks house when the Ambulance was parked in their driveway, or indeed, when it was parked in mine. I know full well that for the next couple of days people will stop my wife or I in local stores and ask ‘what was going on..’ on Monday.
For sure they will ask about all the sirens they heard around mid afternoon that day for the call we did get, more on that in the next post. But for now, I’m just saying, you gotta love small towns.

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