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.


  • ktm says:

    The community I live in also has a private ambulance company that works in association with government fire and I can tell you the ambulance personnel are not treated that way. It’s a shame that you guys are. I have a gripe along the same line…I am a dispatcher for the fire department (started my career as an EMT on said private ambulance). Dispatchers are not entitled to the same disocunts as the field personnel. There is a coffee house that will serve 1/2 off to field guys but not to dispatchers. They told us “We don;t give disounts to secretaries.” I wanted to explain we are up all night, missing holidays and such with our families too. We get the call first and send the help out. we3 have sarcastically joked that we hope their building doesn’t ever burn down. We may “forget” to send someone! 🙂 Anyway, thought I would sympathize with you. It’s cool to read your posts, I miss being in the field.

  • Eric says:

    Peter – I referenced this post in my blog – see the photos on where we post…

  • EMT-RN says:

    I understand the frustration that comes with private vs public EMS. I have worked in both arenas and private EMS is not looked upon favorably..even though we do the same work. I am presently working in the private EMS field that responds to 911 calls as well as the training coordinator for said company. Some of this negative opinion towards the private company may come from the different type of EMTs we employee. Private does not have the same physical requirements as public so our EMTs tend to be less physically fit when compared to the public crew members. I know I look at a few of our crew members and I am amazed that they can even fit into the medic trucks or even do patient care in the back. Members of the community look at us as medical taxis, even though we do 911 calls. But our crew members do not help this situation. A few, not all of them, either bitch whenever they have to get off their butts to do a run. For example, an intermediate the other day was heard loudly complaining that she does not know why a certain patient has to be a medic trip. Now that this intermediate has a medic partner, she is complaining about this same patient being a medic trip because she has to take it now. We have crew members who nick name patients, tators (tator toting), rotten crotch, the amazon, etc. Then you have the crew members who are very well endowed in the abdominal area and those who do not wear their uniforms proudly…untucked, unbuttoned, wrinkled, too tight, etc. And dont get me started on attitudes. The lack of professionalism is terrible. Not all private services are like this but they all have a crew member who can fit into at least one if not all of the examples given here. I can say that we do have quite a few members who belong to city fire departments that act appropriately. They respect the job, the company, their fellow crew members and most of all the patient. Have we forgotten why we have these jobs? Its the patient. I am not here to better my career as an instructor or EMT or even a nurse. I am here to do what I enjoy…making someone feel better even if it is for a few seconds, a few minutes or even a couple days. If we could just get all private service crew members to change their negative attitudes to positive ones, then the communities’ negative opinions will change to positive. Is it unfortunate that private is looked upon differently then public? Yes it is and its a shame because how much of this have we brought upon ourselves? When called upon to do my job at an accident scene, overdose, MI etc., I do what I was trained to do. Trained by the same school that trained the local fire department medic. Just because someone chooses to work in a private EMS service does not mean they are inadequate in their skills. I am too old to see myself running into a burning building or hazmat area again…I did that when I was younger. Sorry about the soap box…one of those days where people are complaining about not having enough training, then complaining that they have to go to training and then the topper was the stupid nurse at the local trauma hospital who called my partner and I an ambulance driver! Oh please shall I show her my licenses and certifications again to prove that not one of them says ambulance driver?! Be happy with yourself and what you do. Try to change the negative opinions by being positive and professional about your job. Hopefully everyone else will follow suit.