The urban city life is far behind me as I take the off-ramp from the freeway to my quiet neighborhood. I’ve outdistanced the commuter train and the only traffic at this time of night are the workers who got held late in the city and are only just now returning to their bedroom community. I see the late night basket ball game at the well lit community park; black, white, asian, and middle eastern players all having a competitive game in racial harmony. I smell the water in the air as I pass the manmade waterfall that signifies the entrance to my master planned community. A mini-van has pulled over to the side of the road and a woman is taking a night time picture of her children standing in the lights with the waterfall at their backs. I chuckle at the van parked at the side of road as I feel the weight of the night lift and flappy paddles drop the gears down for the turn into my cul-de-sac.
Making the final turn into my house I push the button on the rear-view mirror that activates the garage door. The cleansing light of the garage washes over me while the horizontal shade of the door slides up to the ceiling. The turmoil, dirt, vomit, blood and death of the day are washed away replaced by the anxious squeals of the dogs who await my opening of the door and the multitude of interesting smells on my uniform after a day in the hood.
Having just left Jimmy in the ED – cashing in the last of his frequent flyer miles – I am more than ready to go home. I have some paperwork still left to do but I don’t care at this point; we’ve already been held over by an hour and I just want to clock out so I don’t get another call.
Lester, our favorite dispatcher, clears us to go home and I jump in the driver’s seat and tear out of the ED, through the hood, towards the freeway. If only my ambulance had flappy paddles! Kevin is beside himself with happiness to be done with the day. “Yes! We are finally done!” And everything stops working…
The lights are dead, the engine is off, the power steering is off, the brakes are gone, and we’re doing 45mph down a residential neighborhood deep in the hood.
It always comes in threes…
I put all of my weight into the brakes while torquing the steering wheel for all I’m worth just to coast into an empty spot on the side of the road. There we sit, dead rig, stuck in the hood – parked on the side of the road with tennis shoes adorning the phone lines and random hooded bangers walking the streets. I look at the dash and see that the problem is obvious; the odometer reads 213,356.7 miles. This rig has served it’s time and is ready to cash in it’s own frequent flyer miles for a retirement spot in the corner of the back lot of deployment.
A phone call to the supervisor and to Lester to let them know where we are makes me feel a little better. The supervisor tells us the tow-truck will be about an hour and we should just hang tight until they show up. Another unit, who was posting close by, comes over for moral support and parks next to us – safety in numbers. Twenty minutes later our supervisor shows up. Two ambulances and an SUV are parked in the hood and colleagues get a chance to decompress from a long day. I finish the day getting a chauffeur driven ride back to deployment with a nearly toothless tow-truck driver – at least I’m able to finish my paperwork by the time we arrive.
I open the door from the garage to the house. I’m bathed in the bright light of a happy home and three dogs eagerly vying for my attention. My wife gives me a huge hug with a kiss. “Welcome home love.”