‘Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance.’—Proverbs
I remember when I decided to leave what I thought was my preordained and highly respected career of teaching the deaf for prehospital care. I had been waffling between a profession that offered stability, great health insurance, summers off and an excuse to talk with only my hands and a job that could only guarantee me PTSD, minimum wage, insomnia, stained clothing and (ironically) hearing loss secondary to siren overload. I was struggling as a rookie, part-time EMT to fit into this closely knit family of providers when a seasoned and highly respected paramedic named Dave sympathetically invited me to attend an EMS party.
It was deep within a secluded wooded compound. As Dave navigated the narrow, winding road, a partially clad and painted human form leaped on the hood of Dave’s car, laughing hysterically while howling at the moon—even though there was no moon. As I began to assess myself for incontinence, Dave said, “We must be getting close.”
What followed can only be described as surreal. I saw paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, police officers, nurses and ER docs running amuck in a self-contained world of mayhem and pine needles—oh, the horror, the horror! I loved it. I knew then that I had to be a part of this dysfunctional family regardless of the consequences. God help me!
Now I’m not implying my fellow lifesavers lack moral fiber whilst expressing their zest for life. But society cuts us little slack, and rightfully so, when it comes to letting off steam regarding the 9-1-1 stresses we confront on a constant basis. (Even though that steam often makes the geysers at Yellowstone National Park pale in comparison.) Partying is an essential part of the EMS social support system, creating urban legends to be retold for centuries. Such social gatherings allow one to loosen the stethoscope around their neck and provide an opportunity to show the fun side of their personality—assuming that personality isn’t that of an #@$%!
I am, however, beginning to wonder if this tradition of degrading ourselves among our peers is going by the wayside. Is it because we’re more stressed or preoccupied with our lives outside of EMS? Do we have less loyalty to our employer, or have we simply grown up and become more responsible and mature?
For me, I must admit age and degenerating organ faculties may be a factor. Indeed, conversations at EMS parties I’ve attended certainly have changed over the years.
1984: “Who’s dating who?”
1988: “Who’s getting married?”
1992: “Who’s getting a divorce?”
1993: “Who’s getting married again?”
1994: “Who’s on light duty from injury?”
2003: “Who died?”
I know I cannot party all night and proceed directly to a 24-hour shift anymore. I remember a time when employees (not me, of course) would start a line on themselves and administer a cocktail of vitamin B, dextrose 50%, 4 mg of Zofran and 2 L of normal saline at the beginning of a shift following an EMS party.
One thing for sure is that the best parties are the informal parties not sanctioned by the company. Let’s be honest here. An office party is still an office function requiring a professional demeanor. Whatever happens at these parties doesn’t stay at the party, especially when digital cameras, cell phones and managerial associates are present.
But if you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to change your career path, I suggest the following conversation with your supervisor at your next office party: “Yo, boss. Thanks for finally throwing a party with an open bar. Time for some serious pounding of brewskies and tequila shots. I guess we know who’s gonna call in sick tomorrow though, eh? Ha! Ha! Still, I’d rather get a bonus than be here eating this antiquated food. Speaking of antiquated, when are we going to get some new ambulances? I have some suggestions on improving your bottom line—assuming I get a raise, of course. Ha! Ha! Boy this music is lame! Kinda like the door prizes! Did you know the competing ambulance service is giving away weekend getaways to Vail? Speaking of prizes, do these award presentations have to drag on so long? We already know who the suck-ups in this company are. Ha! Ha! Whoa! Your wife looks hot. Where’d all these security dudes come from?”
Until next time remember, as Kelly Cutrone once said, “When you’re the most happening person at the party, it’s time to leave.”