Drive Time

Ambulance service is like medical care insofar as you get what you pay for. A resident in a private nursing home that needs transportation via ambulance to a hospital can expect intelligent, polite, well-trained attendants. The same dumbasses who initially conjectured that recreational drugs and a botched suicide attempt caused my stroke abandoned me in a public warehouse. Like nearly everybody on a state-run medical facility staff, low-rent ambulance attendants delude themselves that they’re “health care professionals” though they’re amazingly stupid, lack even the most rudimentary social skills, and are less conscientious of their work than poorly trained chimpanzees. The ambulance attendants with whom I interacted presented themselves without exception as bumbling dolts.

Low-income hypochondriacs accustomed to taking handouts, neighborhood organization-affiliated young men recovering from nasty gunshot wounds, and “mentally-challenged” homeless bums who would have benefited more from a good scrubbing and a boot in the ass than from therapy, made up most of the warehouse population. They concentrated on mooching tailor-made cigarettes and collecting a paltry government stipend every month that kept them in half-pints of cheap liquor and roll-your-own menthols for a few days. But periodically a resident genuinely afflicted with a chronic malady—physical or mental or both—needed an ambulance to whisk them to a hospital. Often a vague but foreboding pain necessitated the trip. Other times residents suffered heart attacks or strokes with which the staff weren’t equipped to deal.

I insisted that the door to my first-floor room remain closed to the lowlife drama that daily took place in the warehouse. But I couldn’t help but hear ambulance attendants park their collapsible gurney and chat while they waited for the elevator across the hall outside my room. Invariably the clever idea of knocking on my door would dawn on one of the two attendants. When I answered, the attendants would stare straight ahead and pretend they hadn’t knocked. Occasionally they made eye contact and giggled. I’d imagine them outside releasing bursts of pent-up laughter while high-fiveing and congratulating each other on pulling off such a wildly funny ruse. Grade school children who wear helmets display a similar wit.

After delivering a resident, ambulance attendants fairly often took unofficial breaks and relaxed in the basement cafeteria where they sometimes met their colleagues also taking unofficial breaks. One day in the basement six of them and I piled into the elevator. The five male attendants were literally tripping over themselves trying to stand next to the sole female. The doors to the elevator closed and it started to rise. One of the guys scrutinized me, smirked and asked, “You want a kiss?”

Everybody in the elevator silently regarded the woman and waited for her reaction. She started to guffaw, then the five perennial adolescents directed their stares at me and followed suit with mocking laughter. I invited the inquisitive attendant to play with my balls. My suggestion elicited noticeably louder guffaws from the woman. She playfully punched the inquisitive attendant’s arm, which enraged him though he forced a grin for her sake.

When we stopped at the first floor everyone strolled off the elevator except me and the attendant who’d asked the snotty question. My retort had clearly pissed him off; he blocked my path to the hall by planting his scrawny frame in front of me. His face contorted with anger while he glared down at me and attempted a snappy comeback: “Well at least I can walk, you dumb retard cripple.” What a genius.

In subsequent months, budget ambulance attendants proved themselves subhuman incompetents who most likely had to fellate their supervisors to secure their jobs.

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