29 January 2007

Station life

I worked a reverse 24h shift this weekend and there are times I think everyone in the station needs some serious time on a therapy couch. There are other times when it is just too much fun to be concerned about anyone's mental health. I've heard many fire departments where people say they are "like family" and they spend many shifts together, year after year, so maybe that is true. In the ambulance station, I think we're more like the delinquents in detention after school than any sort of family. Full-time ALS partners work together at least 3 of their 4 shifts and most are together all 4. But the combination of partnerships that is on-duty any given day in the week changes, as does the entire atmosphere of the station. The staff turnover and vacation/shift swapping makes for a fair amount of variety in staffing. Each supervisor also influences the type of acceptable behavior, much like your favorite teacher in school who used to let you get away with goofing off in the back row sometimes.

Saturday was busy early on, my truck did four calls in 3 1/2 hours and when we finally got a break it took my medic over an hour to get caught up on paperwork. We only saw the other crews in passing at the hospital or as we passed each other on the streets. When we finally flopped back at the station, the weekly card game was well-established (not poker), some edited-for-TV movie was playing and the usual insults were flying. The supervisor was out roaming around giving everyone a hard time about non-work related stuff and in a decent mood because February scheduling was already finished. On Saturdays I'm nearly always the first to bed and this week was no different, the exception being that the city population decided they didn't need too many ambulances overnight so I only had to get up once to run a call that ended up being a no transport anyway.

Sunday brings in a new supervisor, three out of four new crews, two transfer trucks and a whole different personality. Station chores were in progress immediately following truck checks and the whole place was spic and span practically before I stopped staggering around with my eyes closed. Since call volumes are usually much lower on Sundays, people seem to take the effort to be slightly nicer to each other. Don't get me wrong, there is still a large amount of harrassment that goes on and this week was my turn early in the day because I had parked the ambulance slightly askew in the garage. For the next couple hours, it was more like a car wash than an ambulance station as five ambulances and at least five personal vehicles were cleaned and shined.

Eventually, someone suggested a movie and we watched The Descent. I didn't see the middle 30 minutes or so, but I didn't miss much. I came back in just in time for the creepy-crawlies to start jumping out from every nook and cranny and for the day's entertainment...one of the transfer crew was jumping and screaming every time something even halfway scary came on the movie. At one scene, she actually screamed a second time before the first scream was all the way out. The rest of us, including her partner, spent the rest of the movie and the day scaring her and laughing. Some folks were highly creative about it, others just took advantage of the fact that her back was toward two of the crew bedrooms. Of course, with the turnover in calls, everyone missed some part of the movie, so I actually saw the last 30 minutes or so three times and I think I could've been in the cave at that point and not been scared.

End of shift was fairly calm, my truck was next out and we managed to make it all the way to 1700 without getting sent out last minute. New crews started trickling in and there was another palpable change in atmosphere as one started complaining about the fuel in the truck with the supervisor playing his imaginary violin and it was a good time to be clocking out and heading for home.

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