Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life - Neil Strauss (2009)
Part V. RESCUE
My dick, size of a pumpkin.” The ambulance stereo blasted the Mickey Avalon song through open windows. “Your dick look like Macaulay Culkin.”
Francisco and Rob sat in the front in uniform, shouting along to the lyrics. “If you work with us, you gotta sing,” they yelled back to me. It was my second day running 911 calls as a ride-along for my EMT certification.
“My dick, bench-pressed three fifty,” Francisco and Rob were shouting out the window, now at a blonde in a black Mustang.
Rob flipped on the siren to impress her.
The stress exposure Alwood had promised hadn’t exactly materialized. So far we’d been to a retirement community, where an elderly woman was experiencing shortness of breath. We’d been to a bus stop, where a plus-sized twelve-year-old had wiped out on a skateboard. And we’d been to the home of a schizophrenic teenager in a Def Leppard jersey who said she felt like someone invisible was choking her.
Though I’d practiced my new skill set by controlling bleeding, administering oxygen, strapping on a spinal collar, and attaching EKG leads, the experience exposed me more to human nature and suffering than to stress and adrenaline.
“What’s your dream call?” Francisco turned and asked as we drove away from the hospital after dropping off an elderly man who’d passed out in his bathroom and defecated all over himself.
“It would be amazing to deliver a baby,” I said.
“I’ve done that a couple of times. But my dream call is a bus full of Hawaiian Tropic girls crashes, and I have to triage all of them.”
On most of the remaining calls that shift, we learned that the Rolling Stones were right when they sang, “What a drag it is getting old.” Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, the suffering, humiliation, and loneliness of a human being can now be extended for years.
And perhaps that’s how it’s supposed to be. In my EMT class on delivering babies, as if I needed any more evidence for my Fliesian beliefs, I’d learned that one way to make sure a newborn is healthy is to see if it’s grimacing. If we come into this world smiling, something is wrong with us. So we might as well leave life just as miserable as we enter it.
This may sound cynical, but all the talk I’d heard of apocalypse, war, murder, cannibalism, and genocide over the last few years was starting to get to me. It’s hard to be optimistic when you know you’re going to die.
Though I enjoyed speeding through the city’s backsides to find people who needed our help, all I really learned from the experience was that living to the end of my life span—77.8 years for the average American—will be a lot more pleasant if I’m surrounded by people who love me than if I’m alone. So, in addition to fitness and health, I’d have to add family to my survival stockpile. Though, unlike my other supplies, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to have one set in Los Angeles and another in St. Kitts.
On the way to class one night, I saw a motorcycle lying on the shoulder of the highway with a man slumped next to it. Every car blew past, paying him no attention. I pulled onto the shoulder, called 911, unzipped my bug-out bag, grabbed the emergency first-aid kit, and raced to his side. He wasn’t badly hurt, so I pressed a two-by-four-inch piece of gauze against his arm to stop the bleeding, then secured the gauze with a roller bandage while waiting for the paramedics.
Something in me was beginning to change. I’d never stopped to help a stranger before. I’d always assumed someone else would do it—and better than I could.
Despite this, I still lacked the stress inoculation I needed. Maybe I’d just chosen the wrong ambulance crew to ride with. So, before our final EMT skills exam, I asked the guy who sat in front of me how to join his search-and-rescue team. Maybe with them I’d get the experience I needed.
Later that week, I finally received the e-mail I’d been waiting over a year and a half for. “Your application for citizenship has been approved,” Maxwell wrote, “and we are now submitting your title document to the ministry of finance in order to obtain your citizenship certificate and subsequently your passport.”
I couldn’t believe it had finally happened. Tears of relief rushed to my eyes. If he was to be believed, and this wasn’t just another stalling tactic, the backup plan I’d set in motion well over a year ago was nearly complete. I was almost a citizen of St. Kitts.