Saturday, November 23, 2013


Rae presses clear, and we wait to see what happens next, standby or job.

We’re one of four ambulances parked up outside A&E. Another one is just coming up the ramp. You can tell by the sound of the engine, the spread of the lights. One to our right sparks up and leaves. It’s like we’re drones servicing an enormous hive. Not cells, but cubicles. Not honey, but saline.

The car park in front of us is the usual muddle of taxis, police cars, private cars parked haphazardly, people hobbling in and out of the two entrances, smoking in groups, with drip stands or draped in blankets, squatting by the wall or sitting on the edge of the concrete planter. Any time of day or night it’s the same. Some we recognise, from earlier in the shift, earlier in the year.

The moon is just rising above the resus training block, waning now, but resonantly bright.

The screen remains inactive.

‘It’s amazing how quick the moon moves, when you think about it.’
Rae looks up from her phone.
‘It’s lighter ‘cos it’s missing a chunk,’ she says. ‘I can’t believe I’ve eaten all my lunch all ready.’

The sky is clear. It makes me wish I had an app that tells you what the stars are when you hold the phone up. I look at Orion’s Belt. I know one of the stars is Betelgeuse and one Rigel, but I can’t remember which is which, or what any of that means. A long way away, whatever the name.

A plane tracks across. It’s funny to think of those lights and what they represent. People, doing people stuff. Looking down at the city lights, wondering about them.

Still the screen remains quiet.

The last shift I worked we had a newbie, third-manning. He was so enthusiastic, he spent the entire shift with his head poking out of the little hatch that links the back with the cab, excited by the blue-light drives, and by the details of each job as it came through. I remember being that enthusiastic, terrified almost. The seriousness of each incident seemed overwhelming. You still get a flavour of those early anxieties when you’ve taken some time off, a couple of weeks or so, and it’s the night before your first shift, and you catch yourself thinking dreadful things, those Final Destination scenarios that are going to catch you out and expose you for what you are, an incompetent, a fraud, a chancer. But it only takes the first job to shoe you in to the usual run of things. Letting the jobs unfold in their individual way. Doing what you need to do. Coping, with the help of your colleagues, and the public, and a little luck.

Whaa-whaa-whaa. Whaa-whaa-whaa.

‘Why do they have to use such an angry noise?’ she says, jabbing buttons. ‘Why can’t they have something soothing?’ She puts on a bland, computer voice: ‘Rae? Sorry to bother you, Rae. But someone's in trouble.’
‘Maybe you could have a selection of voices. Darth Vader: Chawwwww. I feel a disturbance in the Force. Chawwww. Category A. Mobilise the fighters.’
Rae scrolls through the details.
‘Twenty-four year old female. Chest pain. Numb left arm. Familial cardiac.’
I put the ambulance in drive and we move off, passing another coming up the ramp.

We wave.


Nate said...

I think the Baywatch theme tune would be good!

Sabine said...

When I was a kid with a vivid imagination and burdened with overworked parents who never bothered to explain much I believed firmly that the radio calls that send ambulances came from the guardian angels.
As for apps, there is sky walk which is fine until you try skymap but that works only ón an ipad I think.

Spence Kennedy said...

Nate - Agreed (must immediately YouTube the BW theme tune - specifically the theme tune, you understand...)

Sabine - Love that story about radio signals coming from angels. It's pretty much how I see all electronics now. I know so little, it may as well be magic.

I think my eldest daughter's got skymap on her ipad, but I haven't had a go on it yet. I use an Android phone, and I'm not sure there's an equivalent star app for that (but must check).

Cheers for the comments!

Unknown said...

Try Google sky app - it maps the stars, constellations and planets and uses augmented reality to show them as you move your phone around. Very clever!!

Cassandra said...

"A plane tracks across. It’s funny to think of those lights and what they represent. People, doing people stuff. Looking down at the city lights, wondering about them."

Funny you should think about that. I stare down at the ground below me as I fly, wondering about the people below... wondering if they're wondering about me up in this plane. I guess so.

Are you the sort who wonders at the backstories of the extras in movies? I have a love/hate relationship with action films because there is so much wanton destruction of people's property and lives, and I'm just like, "They're people toooooo! Just because they're not the protagonist doesn't make their living room any less important! Why did you kill them? They have a FAMILY who will MISS them!" *sigh* I can get pretty worked up over it.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Gareth - Thanks for the tip. I'll sort that out today.

Hey Cassandra - I completely share that thing for 'No 3 Villain' in action films. Often when I see them I get the uncomfortable feeling that if this were real life, I'd be the anonymous guy taking a bullet and crashing backwards through the hotel window - (and not the guy in the vest doing the shooting). Even when I was little, when I watched cowboy films, when you'd see someone shot, fall out of the saddle, but his foot would get stuck in the stirrup and he'd be dragged over the hill, I'd think... 'shit, that's me, then'.

I'm trying to think of that film where this is made a feature of. The 'hero' unexpectedly has to explain to the family of the baddie he shot why he did it, and they're all really upset. I've got a feeling it's an animated film, but I just can't think of it... :/

* * *

Thanks for the comments!

jacksofbuxton said...

Just be grateful the voice isn't Jeremy Hunt reminding you of how much the Government are cutting your funds.

Spence Kennedy said...

But whilst we're on the subject of funding - one thing I don't understand is this business of fining A&E for missing targets. Surely if they miss these targets it's a sign they're struggling to cope. Funding, not fining.