The EMS staging area was the same as it’s always been—50 yards, dead center, behind the last row of concert-goers. But something was very different though—or at least very different from the last time I worked EMS standby at a rock concert some 20 years earlier. (Yes, I said 20 years earlier. Now shut up and read on.) Was it something in the air? Although the familiar aroma of cannabis was wafting through the lower atmosphere, I also smelled Vicks VapoRub with a hint of chardonnay.
It was then that I looked closer at the vast ocean of craniums in front of me. Gasp! An infinite number of exposed occipital skin and gray hair had filled the arena. More horrifying was the sight of bald men sporting low-lying ponytails, which I can only assume they donned in an attempt to pull back and support weak anterior facial folds.
Glancing to the sides of the stadium, I saw row after row of Porta Potties. As usual, it was prime real estate, with waiting lines extending 20 people deep per pot box. However, what was unusual was the ratio of men to women. Usually one sees five women to every man in line, but here it was evenly split. Even more unusual was a Flomax banner strategically located nearby.
As I was contemplating my own potentiality for prostate enlargement, a white-bearded man tapped me on the shoulder. He didn’t look too good. "Acid, man! Too much acid."
Whew! I thought. At least the type of calls I anticipated at these events hasn’t changed. I asked, "How much acid did you take?" as I pulled out my BP cuff and stethoscope.
Puzzled, the aging hippie said, "I didn’t pop any acid, dude. What I need is to pop some antacid. I’m pretty sure it was the brats and sauerkraut. But hey, take my blood pressure anyway. I’m on some new hypertensive meds and lately I’ve been I getting a little dizzy while playing air guitar."
I turned to ask my partner for some Rolaids, but she was treating her own walk-in patients. With her back still turned, she asked, "Did we bring a lot of oxygen for this standby?"
"No. Why?" I asked. "Do you have a respiratory depression issue secondary to a narcotic or ETOH OD?"
"No. These ladies want to know if we can refill their portable O tanks so they can make it through at least one encore performance."
Before I could answer, a liberally tattooed mosh-pit attendee approached. He had hyper-flexed and hyper-extended his C-spine to the beat of the music. As I palped his neck, I tried to make out the faded and somewhat sagging images long ago inked on his posterior neck. It was at that point that I decided if I ever got a tattoo, it would be Gumby so no matter how my skin gives way secondary to Newton’s first law of motion, it would still be recognizable due to Gumby’s stretchable characteristics.
As more fans searched for handicapped parking (including the groupies, who now travel by chartered buses) I found myself humming the Jethro Tull song, "Too Old to Rock Ân_ Roll, Too Young to Die." The reality of aging rock Ân_ rollers was being made painfully clear as each patient made his way to the EMS tent (some by means of body surfing).
It became evident that the portion of die-hard baby boomer rock Ân_ rollers who still yearned for a nostalgic return to their youth were ironically aging, at least physically, faster than the rest of us who drank Coke instead of snorting it. You can’t mistake them; they look like your grandparents except they’re the same age as you.
It was the rock celebrities of the ‘60s that set the standard for self-absorption, alcohol absorption, drug absorption and the current need for adult-diaper absorption. It’s no wonder stools are now on stage for many crooners to sit on lest they fall and can’t get up. Many sun-ripened performers still insist on not wearing any upper apparel or continue to sport tight-fitting pants. It’s for this reason I suggest you don’t bring binoculars or reading glasses. Many of these performers even have their own EMS teams on standby, which makes you wonder whether that high-pitched guitar riff isn’t actually the tones from an AED charging up.
Still, I can’t help but admire true aging rock fans who still refuse to yield to those yelling from their lawn chairs, "Down in front!" They prefer to stand, clap and gyrate to the same music their great grandchildren now listen to. They refuse to sip wine, buy luxury booth tickets or purchase fashionable concert memorabilia. And you would never hear them whisper to each other, "If we leave now, maybe we can beat the traffic."
Ozzy Osbourne said it best, "Whazittallonggizcabwhittonglonchuwa."
Until next time, rock on! JEMS
Steve Berryhas been a paramedic for the past 25 years in the southern Colorado region. He’s the author of the cartoon book series I’m Not An Ambulance Driver and invites you to join him and others of the EMS community to ride in the 2009 National EMS Memorial Bike Ride (www.muddyangels.org). Visit his Web site at www.iamnotanambulancedriver.com to purchase his books or CDs.