Laughing At You or With You (or Without You)

“DTs,” I am told, “Your riveting tales of ambulancious adventure sometimes paint you the Fool. Why is this?”

Truthfully, I suspect that in every EMS career one does Stoopid Stuff. Now, a lot of people who enter into this line take it Very Seriously – we are, after all, talking about people’s lives here. And the work is indeed very serious, but that doesn’t mean we must always take ourselves seriously.

I would hate for some ambitious para-wannabe to Make a Mistake and flee the field forever, blushing in shame when recalling the Horrid Day When…

Things happen. Laugh about it, fix it, go on to the next thing.

For example: In your typical bambulance one finds, always, a Driver and a Lead. The driver, appropriately, is tasked with taking the unit hither and yon, while the Lead is in charge of the whole shebang. Occasionally, or more often, there will be sundry personnel in the “box”, the back of the unit. Since we have two people up front, these extra personnel are referred to as “thirds”. Thirds may be subdivided into those who can have patient contact, because they’re EMT-B or better, and those who can’t touch the patient due to lack of certification and training – these latter are called, simply, Observers.

Today, the tones drop, and we board the unit. Ours is equipped with “FireComs”, headset-microphone combinations which enable us to better hear over the din of our own passing. We in front put ours on.

“Everybody ready?” asks DTs.

“Yeah” and “Okay” from the two Thirds in the box.

“Are you ready?” asks DTs again.

“Ready!” they chorus.

This is not the prelude to a football-coach team-spirit building exercise. “It’s a stroke, boys! We hate strokes, don’t we? Whadda we do to strokes?”

“Oxygen and thrombolytics, sir!”

“I can’t hear you!”


No. This is rather the Way DTs Does It. One must reply with the word “ready”, and only “ready”, and there’s a reason behind it which, one might guess, involves a Stoopid DTs story.

It was a pleasant summer day, long ago, when DTs was first released as a driver. The FireCom system was not installed in the ambulance, so we tended to shout at each other through the narrow square window between the box and the front cab. Such a pleasant day, we had opened the windows in the box to let some fresh air in.

The tones dropped, and DTs climbs aboard and starts the engine. His Lead plops into the cab.

“Everybody ready?” yells DTs.

“Go! Just GO!” he hears from the back.

“Jeez, okay fine,” thinks DTs. Just go? You wanna see just go? How about we get to the scene in under two minutes!

As we flash around the corner of the station, sirens wailing, DTs notices from the corner of his eye two figures running full-tilt towards the ambulance, on a pathetically inadequate intercept course. They are, of course, the two Thirds. Perplexed, he stops and waits for them to catch up and board the unit before proceeding to the call.

Turns out, Third #1 was heading to a table in the vehicle bay to grab her stethoscope. Third #2, seeing the unit ready to depart, tells her to forget it and “Just Go”, pointing to the door of the ambulance. DTs hears the “Go” order through the box’s open window and speeds away, leaving his wide-eyed Thirds choking on diesel exhaust and indignation.

So for those folks starting in EMS who do something dumb, just remember: “At least I’m not DTs” is a good mantra until you get over it.


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