I left my keys in the ambulance the weekend before last. Couldn’t find the damn things no matter how I looked, until I finally decided I’d better go check the ambulance one more time. By that time, it was Wednesday and I’d been without them since Friday.
Problem solved, right? Ever have something lousy lead to something fairly cheerful, only to have that bright spot get bruised and dark and lead to humiliation?
I’ve been driving an ambulance for a couple of years now. I work for a small semi-volunteer ambulance company that covers several small towns and a lot of countryside; we’re a BLS service, which means we provide “Basic Life Support”—we don’t have Paramedics like Ambulance Driver on every call, and we can’t administer most drugs. I’ve been carrying a pager for this service, which has worked for me most of the time. I live just beyond shouting distance of the shed; I can actually walk or run to calls and beat most of my partners arriving in cars from greater distances, if I hang around home when I’m on call. I don’t even keep a blue light in my car; I just haven’t really had a use for it. But there have been times when I thought it would be nice to have a two-way radio so I could call in to the 911 dispatcher that I was responding. That way she might not get antsy and page everyone again, making everyone wonder what’s going on. On the other hand, radios cost money, and I just didn’t have it lying around. All that was solved last Wednesday when I went to the shed to pick up my keys . . . . with me so far?
I picked up my keys, and my boss was there with radios and a sign-off sheet. The company had bought everyone two-way Kenwoods so we’d all be able to communicate. Pretty slick, I thought. My day was looking up. I had my keys back, I had a radio . . . sweet. I signed my name, promising to commit ritual seppuku if I lost, broke, submerged or otherwise dishonored My New Radio, and headed home. The whole family was in the van, and Kane immediately snatched up the radio and began playing with it. Later I would realize that this was my last memory of seeing the device anywhere.
We went home and I forgot all about it since I wasn’t on call until Friday night, three days later. By Friday morning, though, I was wondering what I’d done with the thing. The house is cluttered with all the construction going on, and it’s not uncommon for things to disappear and turn up, so I wasn’t too concerned. I found my old pager just in case. When I can home that evening, and it was nearing time for my shift to start, I still couldn’t find the radio. Now I was annoyed, but I turned on my pager and started looking for the radio. I still wasn’t too worked up about it. Then my phone rang. . . . . it’s a long story from there.
The short version is that I found out that the old pagers had been deactivated somehow, so I had to have my new radio. I looked and looked, but when I went on call, I had to go to the station and sign out one of the spares, because I’d looked everywhere three times and it just wasn’t there. It didn’t seem possible, because in addition to the radio, there should also have been a large charger/base and a book of instructions. Where had they gone? Eventually, I got a call from one of the medics, who told me to go to my supervisor and ask him for my radio.
“No, he doesn’t have it. I know for sure that I picked it up on Wednesday, so it’s here somewhere. I just don’t know where!”
“No, Don, trust me. Go to him and ask him for your radio.”
Here’s what I know:
Someone found my radio, with my call number written on it, lying on the side of the road a few blocks from my house, but not between home and the ambulance shed. They turned it in to the police department on Wednesday night. Another employee (we’re a very professional bunch) had let his grandkids play with his radio and break it, so the head of our board of directors was at the PD to get that radio repaired when they handed him mine. Could that get any more humiliating? Well, maybe if the head of the board was also my 7th grade English teacher many years ago. I was told that he handed the radio over to one of the other medics with simple instructions.
“Whoever this belongs to,” he told them, “make him sweat.”