Love in the Time of Melena

wine riot

Most regular folks don’t realize it, but an ambulance company is basically a dating service.

I can’t speak for the fire department, which is pretty dude-heavy in most places, plus you ride around with a crowd. But private EMS is another matter altogether. Mostly, it’s just you and your partner, and at many companies, that means many hours of posting — backed into a nook somewhere quiet, sitting together in the cab with diesel idling.

Really, it’s a date. Am I wrong?

It starts when you check your schedule and learn who you’ll be working with. The folks who work with a regular partner (like Scenarioville’s Sam Spectacular) miss out on this thrilling daily game of chance, but even they can pick up someone else’s shift, or roll the dice when their usual partner stays home with strep (or a hangover).

Who’s it gonna be? An angry old plowdriver who smells like castor oil? Some 18-year-old kid who narrates Yelp-style reviews of every female butt you drive past? Or maybe — just maybe — your one true love?

Well, go shake their hand and find out.

On the agenda for today’s date (which, by the way, might be lasting from 8 to 24 hours):

  1. Activities you can do together, emphasizing teamwork, problem-solving, and communication
  2. Banter and wisecracking (required)
  3. A mandatory dresscode with provided uniforms, so your awful fashion sense can remain a secret
  4. Eating one or more meals together
  5. Many hours of conversation as you’re forced to sit side by side — but no need for eye contact, since you’re both facing forward, and no awkward silences, since the radio’s crackling and you can always kill time playing with Facebook
  6. A perfect excuse to get their phone number (“I’m gonna get some coffee — not sure if there’s reception in there — call me if we get something, mmkay?”)

Maybe things won’t work out. That’s okay, because it’s not actually a date, so it just reverts to a shift at work — no harm done.

But maybe there’s a spark! And a good thing, too, because some folks in EMS are pretty maladjusted, and may not get a whole lot of social contact otherwise. Fortunately, we’ve got an employer-sponsored matchmaking service to help hook us up with the other weirdos.

Now, things won’t always be happily ever after. And it’s hard to imagine a more awkward experience than the first shift you work with someone after the ugly break-up. Folks have gone to supervisors and legitimately said, “If ya put him on my truck, I’m quitting.” Bosses who’d make you work with a broken femur have caved in such situations.

But if it goes smoothly, you’ll get to spend most of your day with your significant other. Of course, maybe that’s a little more time than you’d like. I know couples who stridently avoid working together on the grounds that “I already see his ugly mug in the morning and when I get home — if I have to listen to him tell me I’m lifting the stretcher wrong, there’s gonna be workplace-related violence.”

Don’t stay partnered up, and you’re running a different risk, however. Because if Jenny EMT isn’t working with you, she’s working with someone else. Maybe a guy.

16 hours every Monday and Wednesday. Dating somebody else. Have fun with that mental image.

No, folks, one thing’s for sure. Dating in the ambulance is a flat-out bad idea.

That’s us in the picture above, by the way. She microwaved SpaghettiOs for lunch, and sashayed into rooms towing our admit and asking, “Did somebody order a roommate?” I made her a glove balloon and let her steal my ice cream.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all. This job isn’t all frowns.


  1. Mary moorhead says:

    Wonderful story-I never knew!

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