The only thing I take seriously is my Freedom. And Bacon.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Unleaded Gas In The Diesel Ambulance

"Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way."-Les Brown

My first day on the job as an EMT in Quakertown (Medic 108) the Chief calls me in the office and says, “Why don’t you take the ambulance out and drive around the town and familiarize yourself with the streets.”
             “By myself?”
            “Is that a problem?”
            “Well. No.” I had really really wanted this job. I’d been working in an office, vomiting every morning before I drove to work because I hated it so much. When the call came to work for Medic 108 in Quakertown (three months after I’d put in my application), I felt I’d won the lottery.
            “Take 108-4. The keys are in the garage.”
            “Sure. Sure.” I start to turn around and he stops me.
            “You HAVE driven an ambulance before, right?”
            I’m facing the door. “Well, no." I confess. "But you never asked that when you interviewed me.”
He doesn’t respond so I turn around; his head is face down on a pile of papers on the desk, and he starts softly pounding his head on the desk. Finally,  he lifts his head just enough so he can speak to me, “Just take the rig and drive very carefully around town. Do you think you can handle that?”
            “Sure. Of course. Not a problem.”
            So off I go, driving around the small town, thinking how much better this is than sitting at a desk and watching the second hand tick away the most boring moments of my life. After awhile I feel very confident with the big rig, and pull into a super market parking lot to get a bottle of ice tea and a yogurt.
            As I try to squeeze between a van and a station wagon, I accidentally hit the station wagon.
            My father’s voice calmly speaks to me, “Park somewhere else, wait for the driver to come back to the car, and explain what happened.”
            So, I glance around to see who was watching. No one.
            I back up, move a few rows above the car and park where there are no cars. I walk to the station wagon and am totally relieved that there isn't a dent or scratch. God Bless strong, sturdy, old cars.
           Now I'm torn. Should I wait for the driver? No dents, no marks, no harm, right? 
           But I was taught to be honest - and what if someone saw the bump...what if it's on a camera? I'm sweating. This is my first day on the job. I quit an office job that I hated so much I would pull over and vomit on the way to work. I hated being confined. I hated how boring it was. This was the job I never thought I'd want growing up - but now that I had it, I could think of no place else I'd rather be. 
            I don’t want to lose this job.
            I bargain with myself, “I’ll go in, buy my lunch, and if I come back out and the car is still here, I’ll wait for the driver.”
            I turn my father’s voice off and walk into the grocery store with a pounding heart, sweating hands, and every person I see I try to figure out if they belong to the station wagon.
I stand in front of the dairy section for about ten minutes. The radio I brought in with me squawks…it’s my Chief.
            “You making out okay? Are you lost?”
            “No, I’m fine. Just getting lunch.”
            “Okay, stop at the gas station and fuel up before you come back."  ”
            “Sure, not a problem.”
            “Don’t crash!”
            Now I’m thinking he knows. Could someone have called the station to report me? He’s testing me to see if I’ll tell him about the accident. Maybe he’s thinking, “If she’s just honest with me, we’ll give her another chance.” But the radio goes silent.
            I grab a yogurt, even though I know I won’t be able to bring myself to eat anything, and a diet ice tea and head to the check out. Even though I could easily have looked out the front windows of the store to see if the station wagon is still in the parking lot, I keep my head down, staring at my two little items as they move along the black belt.
            Outside the sun blinds me and I hold my breath as I scan the parking lot.
            The station wagon is gone. But there the knot in my stomach grows larger because I know it could be that someone saw me and will call the station.
             Of course, then I stop by the station to fill the ambulance up with gas. 
             I barely make it half a mile on the road before the engine starts to sputter, choke, and just as I pull it to the side of the road, the ambulance seizes, sighs, and dies. 
            The Chief and mechanic show up. 
            No one had told me that the ambulances take Diesel gas. 
            I had used unleaded gas. 
            Just as I thought destiny had opened the door to EMS, I wondered perhaps if these two stupid mistakes on my first day were signs I wasn't meant for EMS...but I refused to believe that.
           In my gut, I knew I was in the right place. 
           Sometimes were given signs to tell us we're on the wrong path...and sometimes were given obstacles to test our determination, our faith, our confidence. 
      In the next 4 years, I'd have many obstacles - my faith in myself, in my choices tested many times, but I after that first day, I never doubted I was where I belonged. I spent the next 4 years of loving a job so much I never once bitched about getting up at 4:30 in the morning to be to work by 6.  4 years of fighting over protocols and patient treatment and who's turn it was to clean the bathroom. 4 years of late calls and bullshit calls and doctors with attitudes and nurses who were bitches.  
I loved every minute. 

 Excerpt from Girl Medic: Confession of Chaos and Calamity Behind the Sirens.