I decided that there has been too much sadness. And then on top of the sadness, contention. And more sadness. And it’s just too much. So before any more of it goes on. Or before I cry myself to sleep in fire camp for 100 reasons and one more night, I decided that it’s time to laugh. Laugh the way we used to about the Most Ridiculous Things. Wherever we can find the joy.
Working in the medical unit on a fire is a pretty boring job. Or at least everybody hopes it is a boring job because if it’s not, then somebody is hurting and probably, somebody is going to be in trouble. But usually it is a boring job, where we sit around, either in camp, or, more often for the majority of us, in a vehicle out along the black edge of the fire somewhere, listening to the radio and perking our ears to everything that sounds like “medic”, “medical”, “emergency” or “injured”. Those words come infrequently, unless you have 16 medics on a fire and an anal-retentive medical unit leader who demands three daily radio check ins, which results in no fewer than 44 over the air callouts of medics in various locations with various numeric designations. On this fire, my paramedic partner Melissa and I happen to be Medic 8. Which my division safety officer, also bored, deemed reminiscent of “Medicaid” and refers to us as such now at every opportunity. The medical unit leader asked me which number I wanted and I said 7, but since it was taken, and he said that 17, 27, 37 and 77 were all out of the question, he finally relegated us to Medic 8 and told me to stop being difficult, which is truthfully my main occupation in the medical unit.
There is an unspoken rule in fire camp that the medical unit is also supposed to double as the comedy unit. I think it has something to do with laughter being the best medicine, and the morbidly humorous people that EMS attracts, and the fact that if the communication unit tried to be funny, probably people would end up getting hurt. Case in point was a medical “scenario” that some of the Powers That Be decided to run the other day without telling anyone it was a mockup. Naturally, all hell broke loose in the commo unit and out on the line, and a couple of people were reprimanded severely for driving too fast (in the wrong direction, perhaps) to a life threatening emergency scene that they didn’t know was just pretend. All in all, a terrible idea.
The other night one of the medic guys walked into the tent carrying a bag of ice. It was nearly bed time, and for the most part, ice acquisition occurs during the morning cooler restocking ritual on the way out of camp. One of the other guys commented curiously on the bag of ice he held in his lap and his witty comeback was: “I was missing my wife.” It was well timed comedic greatness at it’s finest.
This morning, I got back from briefing, and my partner was finishing up an evaluation on a patient with a severe case of homesickness, which we usually treat with an inordinate amount of synthetic sympathy and gushing attention, which seems to bring patients around rapidly. Melissa asked me how the knife fight rematch at the meeting turned out, and I replied that the Other Guy won but I had been able to stop the bleeding after a few minutes. Her patient looked pretty uncomfortable and decided to go check on the physical welfare of his crew.
I am fairly certain no one in camp thinks us medical people are as funny as we do. But there is an odd amount of assorted overhead that lingers around our tent for an inordinant number of chapstick tubes and Kleenex packages. I am drumming it up to our hilarity, myself. And the single clean outhouse with a “DO NOT ENTER - MEDICAL USE ONLY” sign that people in our inner circle like to use. So far we haven’t had any run ins with HR, which is pretty shocking considering our behavior.
Today, during another long and boring day on the line, my partner decided we were doing a “card workout”. At first I heard cardio and my instinctive response was no, no and oh yeah, heck no. But she pulled out a deck of playing cards and made a cute face. I had already refuted her fitness advances repeatedly on this assignment, but I had made the critical error of mentioning how great it would be to lose some weight before I die of morbid obesity; so miss bubbly 110 pound cuteness has made it her personal mission to remind me about the pitfalls of EVERYTHING I eat and challenge me to absurd death-defying workout routines. Like a “card workout”, wherein each suit of card represents a different exercise, and the number on a given card determines repetitions. For example, hearts are ten second planks, so the 10 of hearts is 100 seconds of planking. My first question was “why?” which she didn’t dignify with an answer, my second question was “the whole deck?” which she benevolently offered to cut in half for me, and by that time I was out of questions that wouldn’t just make me look belligerently lazy and totally pathetic.
I made it through what I would consider half of the deck – although by objective standards I guess it was the lighter half. It was apparent pretty quickly that 100 seconds of planks was only going to work for me if I switched sides, and she also had to settle for girl pushups due to some pretty lame excuses about a torn rotator cuff and nerve displacement.. I am not totally convinced she wasn’t hoping I would have a heart attack or something so she could use her rusty ALS skills on me. I turned the cards for her as she finished the deck, continuing to make lame excuses and point out obvious factors to justify my laziness, like our difference in age and how I really wasn’t going for the six pack look these days. Smartly, she tuned me out and made me feel guilty enough to join her whenever a diamond popped up and dictated a rock press up, since my rock was somewhat smaller than hers anyway, and my arms CLEARLY need the help. I am not sure why I listen to her at all, since she’s the kind of person who gets up before 5 AM to go running, and I think that is an idea straight from the pit, but sometimes she shares the celery from her lunches with me, so I put up with it. Apparently celery is on the approved list of foods for Liv. Snickers bars are not, so I had to sneak around to the back of the truck to eat it without judgement.
It kind of sucks to know how sore I will be tomorrow for my half-deck workout, but it passed a few minutes of a very long day and alleviated a little bit of the Snickers guilt. I would love to pretend that exercise was My Favorite and that it Brought Me Life and all that jazz, but I will have to contend that the Snickers bar was far more satisfying than the 5 burpees I flopped through. I read a Women’s Health magazine today and it is always disappointing when I set the issue down and remember that I am not lithe and in yoga pants. And I set all these goals in my head for when I get home, knowing full well that daily pilates will be replaced with cleaning Aspen’s bedroom and substituting in Special Ed at the school. It’s never as easy as it should be. But maybe it’s gonna be a whole lot easier this year. I think so. Especially if we remember to laugh. And avoid Burpees.