You Just Wish

Sunday, July 17 2005

I mentioned, oh, several months back the fact that EMS folk are a superstitious lot. From EMTs at the fire station to nurses on the floor, each healthcare worker believes in Magick. Words of Power include “slow”, “quiet”, and “calm”, and any phrases such as “not busy”. During his EMT-B clinicals, working in an ER, DTs was almost assaulted by a nurse after the following exchange (roughly approximated):

DTs: “Wow. Slow tonight, isn’t it?”
RN: “Shush, you! Waddya wanna do, jinx us?”
DTs: “Oh, sorry. I just meant it seems so quiet.”
RN, preparing to strike: “Aaaaah! Don’t say that word!”

It seems more and more, though, that the EMS superstitions are actually embraced – yearned for – by some of us. An interesting phenomenon, if true, and one deserving of study by the mental health set.

Now, superstition comes in many flavors, but it seems to me the three most prevalent are the Let’s Explain This, Let’s Observe This, and Wouldn’t It Be Neat.

Let’s Explain This superstitions are those which, say, explain thunder as the sound of bowling mountain gnomes (this is a northeastern thing, Rip Van Winkle-y, so left coast folks might not get it.) Any particularly strange explanation supported by zero evidence – balancing eggs on Midsummer day, Aussie toilets flushing clockwise, etc. belong to this category. See Snopes and The Straight Dope.

Let’s Observe This superstitions arise from noting that, oh, more births occur during a full moon (not true, according to the RNs in the several OB/GYN wards DTs did time in), or that Fridays are Car Crash Days. Births which occur during a full moon have believers shouting “Aha! See!”, while those at any other time are conveniently overlooked. Friday the Thirteenth problems and “these things happen in threes” – air crashes, train wrecks, etc. all fall into this category.

Now, heretofore I was unaware of the “Wouldn’t It Be Neat” category. But it seems that some people in EMS actually want things to be true, and don’t even wait for the lopsided empirical evidence of the Observe This type of superstition to accrue.

We refer of course to the baseless rumour that DTs is in fact the Angel of Death, based merely on two (2!) incidents that just happened to be the last two calls. Obviously, those purporting this base slander genuinely wish it were true.

Each individual had come to their end long before we were summoned – don’t think DTs is using his Medic Powers for Evil, for he is Pledged to Good – and in one case the problem was self-inflicted. Yet, this slim “run of calls” has his Devoted Crew grasping at straws.

“Someone watch DTs – if he sneaks out of the station, we’ll get a dead guy call ten minutes later”;

“No calls yet – didn’t you finish someone off on the way in to work tonight?”;

“Say, we could really use a call – disguise your voice and phone the cops with a clue so they can find the body and call us”.

Harumph. Man’s Best Friend indeed. They haven’t a leg to stand on. I mean, it’s not as if there were three in row; that’d be entirely different…

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