We interrupt our irregularly scheduled nonsense to bring you a break from FI/ER.
One of my best friends spent fourteen months driving big Army supply trucks in Iraq. When an IED would explode at the front of the column, insurgents would often attack from both sides. The truck driver and the passengers had to spill out and find the best position of safety they could and return fire, sometimes for an entire afternoon. Kids would watch from the rooftops. My friend says, and truly acts like, he doesn’t have even a trace of PTSD because he felt like he volunteered for the job and was justified in killing people who were trying to kill him.
Another friend of mine was an Army medic during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992. His unit was policing the streets and he got picked off by a rooftop sniper. It was a through-and-through in his left shoulder. Left big round scars. His unit killed the sniper. Sometimes when my friend was drunk he’d show the scars to people. Big round lumps of scar tissue.
Story told to me by yet another friend who worked as an EMT for a private ambulance service–basically a dialysis taxi–and still had his license.
He was on a United flight from Boston to Chicago and the crew booped the overhead booper and asked anyone with medical training to turn on their “service requested” light. He told me he set his coffee under his seat and pressed the button.
A flight attendant carrying a defibrillator and an O2 bottle rushed to his seat and took him thirty rows back to the tail of the plane. Passengers were staring. Way back in the back this older guy was gasping and turning blue and clutching his chest. They worked on him and got him stabilized. Another flight attendant hurried back and said the pilot wanted to know what they wanted to do.
“Land the plane,” my friend told her.
Pilot banked it hard over. Friend told me he didn’t know 737s could do that. They were on the ground in Buffalo in less than ten minutes.
When the flight attendant walked my friend back to his seat some of the passengers applauded. He said he’d never been more embarrassed. When he sat down and reached under his seat for his coffee it was gone. The flight attendants had picked it up with the other trash prior to landing. He said he needed that fucking coffee. His seatmate told him, “Oh, don’t worry…they’ll bring you another one.”
My wife labored for fourteen hours to push out our daughter. I do mean labored. By the end of it she was a panting animal. Terrible pain. There were four other people in the room watching and we all felt powerless to help. We cried together when it was finished.
We recently lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s. Towards the end of his life at family get-togethers he’d tell stories about how as a Marine in World War II he’d been on secret duty high up on the Mississippi killing Nazi spies and blowing up the U-boats they’d come up the river in.
After he died we requested his service record from the Marine Corps. In reality he’d been an airplane mechanic in South Carolina, although he’d helped subdue Okinawa after the Japanese surrendered. We never could figure out which movie or novel he borrowed his tall tales from. We loved hearing, them, though.
My sister-in-law used to be a public defender in Philadelphia. The “I know you’re guilty but I’m gonna make sure you get a fair trial” kind.
Most of the charges got pled out, but sometimes she had to go to court. Typically the courtroom would be crowded with other defendants and their families. Occasionally a jury would look on. And there was always the impassive judge at the front, and of course my sister-in-law’s defendant, who was usually a poor black young man. I imagine it was difficult for her, especially when the stakes were years of prison time. But she won more than she lost.
My dad was an electrical systems mechanic on a boomer, a missile submarine, during the Vietnam War. They’d stay submerged for six months playing tag with Russian hunter-killer subs.
My dad happened to be on watch one time when incoming communications got very bad. Tensions between the US and the USSR were escalating. The sub was ordered to stand by for launch status. The captain and the weapons officer unlocked their little safes and took out their keys and read the launch confirmation protocol from the procedural manual, step-by-step. Then they were ordered to launch.
My dad realized, standing there, that he was killing his parents and my mother and my brother and me and everyone else he’d ever loved. Then the launch was cancelled. It had been a drill, but nobody on the sub knew that.
You have to have confidence that the gun will fire when you squeeze the trigger.
Another one of my friends almost killed his daughter by mistaking her appendicitis for the stomach flu. She’d been throwing up and complaining of a bellyache and then suddenly felt better. They gave her some acetaminophen and put her to bed.
He sat up with her. Hours later she had a very high fever, something like a hundred and four, so they took her to the ER. The doc who saw her realized what had happened. Unbeknownst to my friend and his wife, her appendix had burst. The doc ordered her flown to the regional trauma center. Went straight to surgery. She was in the hospital for three weeks.
My daughter is her BFF and cried herself to sleep every night and then cried even harder when she finally got to see her. Goddamned if that didn’t make my wife and me cry too.
Now: this next one’s not to brag, but rather to relate how I lost the fear of getting punched in the face.
Three Christmases ago I fought in a charity boxing match. One of those police vs. firefighters things. Guns vs. Hoses, you might say. Proceeds benefitted a local Christmas toy fund for sick and poverty-stricken kids.
I was doing some volunteer work for a nearby fire department and got talked into it. I fought a prison guard who was two inches taller and thirty pounds heavier than me. At one point he overhand-hooked me so hard in my left ear that my eardrum ruptured and my vision tunneled and my legs went rubbery. I heard the crowd go “Oooooooh.”
I dug down deep somewhere and found It, whatever it was. Got him two quick jabs to his cheek and a straight right in the mouth and he fell back and I beat him across the ring and onto the ropes. I won the fight two rounds to one.
Fifteen hundred people in the audience. I wasn’t about to lose. Pride thing. I wasn’t thinking about the kids at all, or at least not until later. No, I was just keeping my gloves up and baiting him into gassing himself out and throwing punches when he got tired.
Side note: I can’t imagine working as a prison guard.
These are all happy things, I think. Sure, I love kittens and sunsets, but nothing fills my heart up like watching my brethren and sistren whip ass.