My old partner has finally gotten his transfer to Florida. He moved to this area from New York fifteen years ago when he first met the woman who would become his wife. Now that they have divorced, he says he has no reason to stay up here. He loves Florida and the sun – he is a nudist, and has always hoped to live out his golden years in the Sunshine state. He’s a few years short of Medicare eligibility, so his plan is to work for our company’s Florida division for a few years until he is eligible for insurance, then he can stop punching the clock and hauling stretchers.
We were regular partners for several years – and had many an adventure together — and have often found many occasions to work overtime together. Since he doesn’t have a regular partner in his current shift, I have been filling it in recent weeks.
He tells one of the triage nurses today he is going to Florida, and I crack that he’s finally gotten into the Golden Acres Manor. “A Bed, a roof over my head and three squares a day,” he says.
From the look on her face, for a moment the nurse seems to think he is serious – that maybe he really is ready for the Manor. My partner picks up on her reaction and disturbed, says, “I’m only kidding.”
We are sent to a nursing home to pick up a dialysis patient. They dispatch another unit to give us a lift assist. It’s a big patient. We get there first. “Let’s go in and do it,” I say. “We don’t need any help.”
I’ve picked this guy up before, but that was when I was working with a smaller partner. My old partner and I can handle it. In the old days we never needed a lift assist and we don’t need one now. We walk down the hall to the guy’s room. We look in. My partner looks at me. “He’s as big as a house,” he says.
I’m looking at the patient now too. Damn, he looks bigger than I remember. He looks to be about 500 pounds. “Yeah, maybe we should wait,” I say.
“In our younger days we would have done him,” he says.
“No doubt,” I say.
“No sense in getting hurt.”
His last day arrives. I’m glad we are working together, but I admit I am depressed. These last two weeks have been sort of a farewell tour. People who see him and know he is going, give him hugs or handshakes and wish him well. He says he has no reason to stay, but he is an institution around here. Nearly everyone knows him — in the hospitals, the ambulance companies, police and fire. He has a large extended family here, even if it is only a family when he is at work.
“I’ll be losing a lot of great friends,” he says.
“We’ll all be here. You know you can come back anytime.”
“I hope I’m doing the right thing.”
“You’ll do fine.”
In a week he’ll be unhitching his trailer and setting it to stay at his campground. The monthly park fee is reasonable and clothes, of course, are optional. Even though he will be making four or five dollars less an hour, his expenses shouldn’t be too bad, he says.
I do worry about him. He is very set in his ways, and it may be hard at sixty-two to fit in with a different way. He will be the new kid at the ambulance company down there and have to be on best behavior.
Last night we were driving down a dark street. A car was parked to the side of the road and a man leaned into the window. He was hard to see, and while my partner didn’t come close to hitting him, he was a little startled, so he jammed on the air horn and swore at the man. As we continued down the street, I prayed a bullet wouldn’t zip through the ambulance and go through my back, then out my chest, leaving me a few moments to realize I had been shot and was about to die because my partner had finally pissed off the wrong pedestrian. But the bullet did not come.
Today there is a young EMT at one of the hospitals — a cute girl maybe 21, who has heard about my partner and me, but has never met us. When she hears my partner has been working in the city fifteen years, she tells him she was in kindergarten when he started.
Later outside in the ambulance, one of my partner’s first partners sees him and comes over. He is a cop now — ten years on the force and now a detective. They commiserate about ex-wives, and then the cop says he has remarried, has two kids, owns his home outright along with both his cars, and is looking forward to retiring with a big pension in ten years when he is 47.
Waiting in triage, my partner and I were fooling around with the automatic blood pressure cuffs. My reading was 114/74. My partner’s was 177/98. He was bothered by that. Later back at the same hospital, we take our pressures again. I am 112/70. He is down to 138/92. I can see the relief in his face.
After work tonight, he brings all his uniforms in to operations and hands them to the guy who checks the run forms to see if we have filled out the billing properly and gotten all the necessary signatures. That guy was on the road for years himself, until he hurt his hip too badly to work. They shake hands and wish each other well. My partner also hands in his fob and ID. There is no supervisor there to say goodbye. We shake hands and I wish him well, and we say what a great time it has been, and what a good man you are. We hold the handshake a little longer than you normally might. Then he punches out and leaves.
Every morning we worked together, my partner would insist on checking the oil, then grumble about how many quarts the car was down. “Guess what?” he said on the last morning. “It’s my last day. I’m not checking the fucking oil.”