One particularly cold and cloudy Friday evening in October, I find myself sitting in the training room of Clearview Volunteer Rescue Squad with my best friend Olivia. We grab a seat near the front, being the eager students we are, and carefully lay out our pens and paper. One light flickers incessantly in the corner, giving the already dim room lighting worthy of a B-list horror flick. I look around the room, and I am surprised to find that other than one instructor, Liv and I are the only women. "Christ," I mutter under my breath as I scoot my chair closer to the desk. I'm suddenly feeling as though a tank top and jean skirt were not the best wardrobe choices I had ever made.
Our instructors make their way up to the front of the room, hands folded across their chests, giving us all skeptical once-overs. A large binder is dropped in front of each of us, as a particularly gruff man begins to speak.
"Welcome to your Emergency Vehicle Operators Course for Class II vehicles." I wonder to myself if perhaps I should have started with Class I.
"This course is better known as EVOC. If you successfully complete this class, you will be granted the privelege of driving an ambulance in the state of Virginia." He introduces the other instructors and says "I'm Frank Lloyd. I am a Virginia state trooper, and if you piss me off, may God have mercy on your soul." I swallow hard and look at Olivia who is equally as dumbfounded. We sit up a little straighter in our chairs, and I slide a sweater over my bare shoulders; I'm not taking any chances.
Frank appears to be about 65 or 70, and he looks like he could take you down in one fell swoop, given the opportunity. He goes on to detail exactly what kind of behavior he will not tolerate: no talking; no smokeless tobacco; no showing up for class hungover; no showing up for class late; no disrespect of any type. He put his hands on the table, looks me square in the eye and says, "If any of you even look at the lights and siren, let alone touch the controls, you will be out of this class so fast your head will spin." He stands back up, looks at his class and smiles. "Any questions?" Yes--why the hell did I sign up for this class, again? Oliva giggles, and I put my head on the desk; tomorrow is going to be the longest day of my life.
The next day, I wake up at an unbelievable 7am. I am a college student, and I have almost forgotten that anything takes place before 10am. We were told last night to arrive at 8:30 in the morning; after Frank's tirade about not being late, Liv and I decide to be there at least thirty minutes in advance. We stumble out to her car, griping about how cold it is outside, how early it is, how tired we are, etc. We have plenty of time before we have to be at the station so we stop at the gas station for donuts. These donuts are not for us, mind you, but for our instructors. Like I said, I'm not taking any chances.
From 8:30am until 3:00, we are taught about ambulances. We are told how to turn them, how to brake, how to back up, how to go through intersections, how to use the controls, and we are most emphatically taught about 'sirencide'.
Frank makes his way back up to the front of the room, essentially pushing the other instructors aside.
"When you get behind the wheel of that medic out there, you will feel invincible. You can run through red lights, and cars will move for you. Hell, you can even go down the middle of the road if you want. But I will not let any student of mine suffer from sirencide." I look at Liv, and I see her writing "sirencide" down in that loopy script of hers.
"Sirencide is that feeling you get that you are the all-powerful ambulance driver. Other cars MUST move for you, lights MUST turn green for you, and you MUST go at least twenty miles over the speed limit." He pauses, takes in a deep breath and says, "If I EVER catch you doing this, you will have your license revoked, and you will be kicked out of this rescue squad so hard you'll land in the middle of next week." I quiety wonder how many cliché threats he has up his sleeve as I write "sirencide=death" on my notebook.
The next day is test day. We have to take a written test on everything we have just learned, and we also have to drive the ambulances. I finish my written test with no problems, wondering if driving the medic is as easy as the book makes it out to be. We drive to the parking lot of the pork packing plant a mile away and get out of the car. I immediately gag, as I am greeted by the smell of pigs, both dead and alive. I am fairly certain that I will not make it through the day without vomiting. We walk towards the two ambulances in the center of the lot, and Frank gives us instructions.
"Get the orange cones from the truck, bring them here and don't talk." In the constant rain and thirty-something degree weather we're having, the ten of us jog out to the truck to do as we were told. We bring back all the safety-orange cones to the center, and the other instructors begin setting up as Frank speaks. I am shivering despite my windbreaker, but I attempt to remain still; I don't want Frank to think I'm a wimp. He tells us about the different obstacles we will have to go through today. There is the one where we have to drive straight through a set of cones, and back up the same way. There is another where we will have to weave in and out of cones. There is the 'J-turn', which is exactly what it sounds like--a J shaped turn through which we must back up. There are several more for us to complete, and at this point I'm seriously considering getting back in the car and driving back to my dorm. If it weren't for Frank, I probably would have done just that, but I decide to fight through the rain, cold, intimidating obstacles, and dead pigs. I gag again.
All day long, we practice driving. I feel as though I know these courses like the back of my hand, but I am continually crushing the defenseless cones under my monster tires. Every obstacle is another chance for me to feel terrible about my ambulance driving skills.
After lunch, we head back out into the dismal weather and practice some more. I want to scream in frustration, but instead I clench my teeth so hard my temple looks like it might explode. Olivia puts her hand on my shoulder as if to say "I know, but it'll be over soon." Frank heads towards the center of the group. He looks at each of us and says, "Well done. Now it is time to test." I swallow hard, and say a silent prayer to the Gods of ambulance drivers.
"You will have three minutes to do the test." Three minutes!? We were told we would have ten! The class is buzzing with murmured contempt.
"You may not hit more than ten cones on the entire course. You may not exceed your time limit. You may not go over fifteen miles an hour. And you most certainly may not fail any station." He pauses and looks at his other instructors.
"Any questions?" I see nine hands shoot up into the air, and my classmates start shouting their queries all at once. I, on the other hand, hang my head, close to tears.
"Quiet down, quiet down. I forgot to tell you one other thing." The air is thick with tension.
"You all passed." My jaw hits the floor, and before I know it I begin to cry. Olivia is hugging me, and everyone is laughing, jumping, and muttering about how they knew it all along. Frank pats me on the back and winks.
"Good job, kid," he says as he starts helping us pick up the cones.
I am an ambulance driver.


Kyle J. said...

ugh. Evoc made me want to chew through a roll of reynolds tin foil. On a more positive note your blog is definitely being linked. I can tell that your writing style will produce some great entertainment

Dick said...

Great writing. AD has got a run for his money, even though his name is shorter.

I know absolutely nothing about EMS, Ambulance Drivers, drunks or chatting up cute ER nurses and marrying them.

But I'm learning.

Don Gwinn said...

You're not an ambulance driver because a scary old cop says you are.

You're an ambulance driver because you tend to run over objects with the ambulance.

So how long ago was that? Are you an EMT now?

Blue Ridge Medic said...

Excellent post. I'm gonna link you as well. Look forward to reading more.


Matt said...

You're writing is absolutely delightful! I feel drawn into your world and don't want to leave =P

Can't to read what comes next!

RT/Medic said...

Great Job and welcome to the wonderful world of EMS its like Disney just a little dirtier lol
i look forward to reading more. :)

Nikki said...

Oh, I feel for you as far as being outnumbered by the guys! In my FF class, I'm outnumbered 30 to 1.

Congrats on passing!!

Fantastic writing!