My son has been obsessed every morning with putting his hair in a mohawk. He's only six. Yet, even at such a young age, appearances seem to mean a lot 'round these parts. Of course, the look works for him. He's a cute, precocious blonde haired, blue-eyed boy whose mother dresses him in the usual upper-middle class spec uniform straight outta Denny's Children's Clothing Store each day. So, while the hair says 'Billy Idol', the clothes say 'I live near Starbucks'.
I'm sure that this mohawk thing is just a phase. He will change as he grows. Hopefully in good ways. But alas, it has been said by men wiser than I, that 'the more things change, the more they stay the same' . So true indeed, especially in our Volunteer Emergency Medical Services. Mind you, I pondered all of this even before I got my morning coffee at Dunkin' Donuts; but the idyllic nemesis confronted me in the D and D parking lot nonetheless, in the form of a huge, gas guzzling black truck bearing the logo of one of the agencies for whom I volunteer. My chief climbed out of the truck, donning a high quality shirt and vest to which only chiefs were entitled, bearing his name and agency logo- all paid for out of agency funds (i.e., YOU- the taxpayer). The black monster truck was nice and shiny, equipped with a few tons of emergency lights- enough to set a small village into an epilleptic fit. Oh, and did I mention the custom coffee cup holder on the dash? Two baby seats in the back, camping equipment, and some suitcases. I was using my personal car at the time, wishing I had me one of those cool coffee cup holders. "Where'd you get that?" I asked him. He had no idea who I was. Sure, he was one of the department chiefs, with a shiny cool black truck. But of all the calls I have responded to, he wasn't at a single one. "It was a custom order for the truck" he proudly responded.
Another man came out of Dunkin Donuts with his coffee. "Hi." He said to the chief. "I just want to say thank you for what you do. And you don't even get paid for it!". "My pleasure," responded the chief. "Well," he turned and proclaimed to me, "duty calls", pointing to where he was headed to get his cup of joe. "I'm gonna need a jolt to rip through the work day. Taking the family camping upstate later on."
I was on my way to work too- my law office. I had a suit and tie on. My last rescue call had complications, so I didn't get home to shower and change on time, and as a consequence, I had missed a meeting at my office already. I didn't get a thank you from that man coming out of Dunkin' Donuts. A chief of my own department didn't realize I was a riding member. I didn't get the fancy custom cup holder, nor the shiny truck with all the lights, nor did I get any money for gas to go from home to work (everyday), not to mention the gas money to go upstate camping, or to take my kids to playdates or doctor appointments, or with me on personal errands. I didn't even get the embroidered shirt. All I got to do was to stand near the chief of my EMS department and watch him cavalierly accept the thanks of a passerby, all the while letting that man think that it was all being done with a dash of bravery and another of volunteerism. That, after all, is what it appeared to be to to that passerby.
I didn't get thanks. But neither did the passerby. As a taxpayer, he helped pay for the chief's facade. I guess the chief forgot to get the guy's name and address to where to send the thank you note. The next time you see the chief, make sure you give yours to him. I know why I volunteer doing EMS, and none of it has to do with a truck, or gas money, or embroidered clothes. I would feel better saying that the chief volunteers for these things. But he doesn't- otherwise he would actually show up on EMS calls. To be sure, though, I have absolutely NO idea why the passerby helped pay for the custom coffee cup holder, and all that is attached to it.
My pager went off- a respiratory distress call nearby. I responded directly to the call location, since it would be silly to backtrack to the station house just to then start out to the call location which was only a few blocks away from where I was already. The ambulance crew would have another set of EMS turnout gear for me when they arrived. I could hear the man wheezing from the front door. He let me in, and I set up my oxygen tank and non-rebreather mask for him. His demeanor reminded me a lot of my deceased father, who's soul I feel closer to every time I treat a patient. "Hey,", the man jokingly prodded. " Thanks for coming so dressed up for the occasion in your suit and tie. You look like a lawyer or something!". This man wasn't my father. But pictures of his kids and grandkids were displayed all over his living room- he wasn't my father, but he was a father nonetheless. "No sir," I assured the wheezing man. "It is I who should thank you".