There is a message for us on the board at the office telling us to no longer park in the lot of a chain drug store when we are posted in a particular area of territory. It seems the manager complained about the presence of our ambulance in what is a fairly large parking lot. When I parked there I often went into the drug store to get something to drink or a magazine to read, or a power bar or needed toiletries. I’m sure other employees did as well.
I find it hard to believe every time something like this comes up. We are the good guys. You would think a business would welcome our presence. Besides the extra business, it certainly guarantees a quick response should any misfortune befall one of their customers or employees.
We use system status management so our ambulances are always on the move, so we are spread out to decrease response time. System status management is fairly controversial, and has some downsides – the discomfort of being cramped up in an ambulance all day. It is particularly hard for me at my height – six-seven and a half. I used to six nine, but I have started to shrink. Sometimes when I get out of an ambulance, it takes me several strides to straighten my spine. Still, I can’t argue with the logic of being in the ambulance, ready to respond. Instead of sliding down a pole and jumping into a truck, we are already on our way. That is if we get dispatched efficiently. Sometimes the PD gives the call to the fire department well before us, and the fire engine is already whoo-whooing by us, with all the fire guys waving to us before our number has even been called.
Years ago when I worked at night, we used to all park at a gas station that had a national doughnut chain in it. It was a great location, right off the highway. You could get anywhere from that location. We bought a lot of doughnuts and coffee and the management let us use their private bathroom. They loved us there because, while they were always getting robbed, they never got robbed when we were there. All they asked was that we move the ambulances when the doughnut delivery truck pulled in at four in the morning. No problem. I stopped working nights so I don’t know when it happened or why, but all of a sudden we couldn’t park there anymore. Maybe they got new management.
One day I parked in the lot of a church. It was during the week and there was a single car in the lot. It was empty. I was there about ten minutes when the priest came out and looking very agitated came out and said I couldn’t park there. “This is private property!” he said. I didn’t say anything because frankly, I didn’t know what to say. I was a text book case of being speechless. I thought later of all the wise-ass things I could have said to him to make him think about what a man of the cloth was doing harassing good Samaritans, but I am not a wise ass.
I think sometimes the problem is I do see us as good Samaritans. I mean you call 911 and we respond. No questions asked. Just like police and fire. We are all there together for the public good, standing shoulder to shoulder as they say. But because we are a commercial ambulance, some few may see us as something less innocent.
We used to park downtown across from another doughnut shop. Sometimes we’d have to park up on a curb, so we could run in and grab coffee and a doughnut (or in my case, a diet coke and a bagel) and still be able to make a quick exit if a 911 call came in. One day a cop wrote a ticket and stuck it on one of the ambulances. Not a typical gesture of public safety solidarity.
(I used to go to the Symphony. Well, actually, I only went once, but I was going to go again. Then I heard they offered free tickets to a performance for all public safety personnel, but since we worked for a commercial service, even though we did 911, we weren’t included. Another medic who likes to go to the symphony told me this. Only police and fire got the free tickets. No ambulance. The symphony people call me every year asking for money, and every year I tell them not to call me again. They ask why, I tell them. They keep calling. I guess the message hasn’t gotten through.)
Yeah, my feelings get hurt when they tell us they don’t want us. No admission to the symphony, no red carpet to the parking lot, move along buddy, move along.
Still there are lots of places to park in the city. Everyone has their favorite spots. An old partner of mine liked to park across the street from the secretarial school just before three in the afternoon when all the young secretarial aspirees got out of class. Another partner liked to park down behind the railroad tracks by the cement plant where there was a natural whiffle ball field. There is a great parking spot near the YWCA with easy access to the highway. There used to be a great clover patch there where my partner and I found many four leaf clovers, but she was anything but a conservationist, and I don’t know if any survived her onslaught.
At night cozy partners have been known to park down by the creek behind the college in the large unlit lot. One not so savvy crew parked in another lot that was monitored by video cameras. While the video tape did not to my knowledge make it on the internet (which was in its infancy Pre-Paris Hilton days), it was passed to the director of operations who counseled the guilty partners to seek employment elsewhere.
There are several nice parks where you can spend some time while waiting for the call to come in, particularly in the spring and summer. You can sit outside your ambulance, radio on, enjoying the air, the smell of flowers and the laughter of children playing in the fields or by the ponds. You have to be sure and turn your diesel engine off though. I always do.
Yesterday I bought some jerk chicken with stew chicken gravy and rice and peas from a Jamaican restaurant, then drove up the avenue and parked in an abandoned car dealership under a giant billboard. It was a nice day, and I rolled the window down and ate my chicken and read the paper, while my partner studied for her psychology test. Nobody bothered us.