1 : a pole or stake set up to mark or indicate something: a pole that marks the starting or finishing point of race
2 : the particular place where someone works: where a soldier is told to be for military duty, usually as a guard
3 : to leave an electronic message on a website
4 : After; later: postmodern
1 : mental concentration; careful consideration: a thought or an opinion resulting from such consideration
2 : a manifestation or result: His achievements are a reflection of his hard work
3 : a symmetrical transformation in which a figure is reversed along an axis so that the new figure produced is a mirror image of the original one
Driving into a cemetery with an ambulance always seems a bit strange to me, since most of the people here are way beyond needing any help a paramedic can provide.
It’s a large cemetery in the foothills of the big city but I think of it as more of an oasis in the midst of chaos. The gang violence and inner city turmoil seems to stop at the gates of the cemetery. No one rolls through here with shiny 24-inch wheels on a crappy Buick, bump’en rap on over modulated speakers and the hookers stay to the more frequented areas off the main streets. Just outside the gates I can see high traffic, an all-in-one check cashing/liquor/nail salon with a security gate that covers the store front, and three women in short shorts with a seemingly disinterested young man standing just across the street, subtly watching everything they do and everyone who approaches them. But here inside the gates, there is peace, serenity, and well-maintained lawns dotted with plaques, tombstones, and mausoleums.
We have been assigned to a post that’s within a mile of here, but it’s safer for us to post in the cemetery than at the actual designated post. Posting locations are fixed places, but as long as we are physically within a mile of that place we’re perfectly OK, and this cemetery is within the allowable radius.
Posting the cemetary is also convenient. It’s a sunny day and starting to get hot in the city but there’s a lot of shade here and easy access to a bathroom in one of the small churches on the grounds. We park in the shade, turn the EMS dispatch radio down and take in the serenity.
It’s a slow day for EMS calls but that’s something my partner and I won’t actually acknowledge until the end of shift. Superstition and Murphy’s Law dictate that immediately upon verbalizing how slow it is we will get back to back calls for the rest of the shift. It’s happened to everyone so often that there’s an unspoken understanding that we just take the down time when it comes, silently thankful.
As we drove here from the last post I had the mental images of previous calls go through my head; forever associated to the street corners, store fronts, and houses where they occurred. The restaurant takeover invasion just two blocks away at the Irish Pub. The 11 year old boy shot in the back in a random drive-by while he attended piano lessons one block away. The chest pain call at the assisted living high-rise five blocks away. The drunk driver who T-boned my ambulance just outside the gates to the cemetery. The young man shot by police on the elevated train terminal just a few miles from here. It’s strange to think that over the last three years I have become a participant in the inner city urban landscape of this county.
A fat woman walks by the ambulance with a fat basset hound whose belly bottoms out on the grass, his ears touching the ground as he sniffs. I pull out my iPhone to check the latest news on the trial. A few hundred miles away a jury of twelve men and women will make a decision in the next few days that will likely turn my city upside down.
As I read the latest news the dispatcher sends another unit towards our post. She’s a good dispatcher (surprisingly not all of them are) and she knows we haven’t had a break today. In theory we get two half hour breaks every day where we are not interrupted for system calls. In practice we’re lucky if we get one a day and even more fortunate if it’s not interrupted. Five minutes later the dispatcher comes up on the radio clearing us for a Code-7: lunch break. The other unit is within zone to cover us while we take some down time. We thank her on the radio and say that we’ll take our C-7 right here. My partner and I always bring our own food as we can never guarantee that we have time to pick anything up.
As I’m browsing the news feeds I think of the recent training we went through to prepare for the expected civil unrest; caring for tear gas and pepper spray exposure, dragging techniques for fast extrication of victims from hot zones, various levels of organization to attempt to cope with an overloaded system. I have already purchased body armor and an external vest with various medical supplies in the pouches and I’ve been issued a gas mask with a riot helmet. All of these new items are in my bag just in case today is the day.
This city is on the verge of full scale riots even on a good day. If the football team wins the locals roll cars over and disrupt traffic. A loss will lead them to set cars on fire and smash store fronts. I can only imagine what the verdict in this trial will incite. It really is the perfect storm in the making; the police are about to lay off 10 percent of the force due to budget cuts, it’s a long holiday weekend, and any verdict the jury presents is likely to touch off the chaos. Much like a similar trial 18 years ago involving racial tension and police use of force that plunged Los Angeles into riots, this could get ugly.
A woman walks by pushing a double stroller typically used for twins. The kids look to be only a few weeks old and she seems to be attempting to work off the postpartum pudge. Many people use this cemetery for exercise – taking the paths all the way to the top of the hill is quite a workout, but with a big payoff. The view up there is spectacular – bridges, water, the city. I went to a car fire at the top last year. Someone stalled at the look-out point and tried to get his faulty carburetor to work by pouring gasoline in it, of course it got on the hot engine and turned into a fully engulfed car fire. I was posting right here when another motorist drove by and told us there was a fire at the top. Upon driving up there and seeing the fire we called our dispatch center and had a fire engine sent to our location. No one was hurt so my partner and I watched the firefighters put out the fire while we finished our lunch. Dinner theater: EMS style.
As I finish up with the news feeds on my iPhone the dispatcher comes up on the radio telling us our C-7 is over and we are needed in another part of the city. As my partner drives to the next post I watch the urban landscape slide past and wonder what the next week will bring. What new associations will be assigned to corners and storefronts that I will respond to in the coming chaos? I am truly a participant in the events that constitute life, death, and everything in-between; and it all makes me feel incredibly alive!