The nature of emergency medicine is many sided. Success and failure is measured in life, limb and death. Even when you do everything right people still die in front of you. Families still blame you and doctors still yell at you. A good day is spent with people who are not having a good day. Maybe no one died but there's still grief, fear and anger following the responder from call to call. I don't even want to talk about what a bad day is like.
The result is a very stressful career that has an unbelievable burnout rate. At times even the best providers find themselves looking in the mirror wondering why they do this job. Because of this, we must learn to cope, and most of the time that shows up in the form humor and practical jokes. We laugh at things most people find macabre, we chuckle when others would be horrified. We are not trying to upset anyone, nor are we insensitive. We are just dealing with more tragedy then twenty non-EMS workers deal with in their whole life time.
Our shifts run from eight am to eight am the next day. When we are busy it's great, time flies. But when there's no calls, well, there is a saying about idle hands. Especially with a bunch of riddlin deficient, social throw backs like us. Giving us all that spare time is like giving a three year old matches. Something is going to burn and probably not the intended target.
It was a cool fall Saturday, overcast and humid. The looming clouds were threatening to explode and deluge us. And at eleven o'clock there had not been any calls. I paced around quarters drinking my one hundredth cup of coffee praying for something to break the monotony. All the rigs were checked and in service. All the chores were done. No office staff were present. My partner Mike sat in the day room studying his protocols. We were three hours into a forty-eight hour shift and I swear we'd been there days already.
In my boredom I ransacked the spare room looking for anything that might relieve my tedium and break up the day some. Then, in a box on a top shelf I found it. It was a foam rubber head. It was obviously a Halloween prop someone had put up there to save for the next All Hallows Eve. And it was a good one, in all appearances it was a severed head. It had vertebra and arteries hanging from the neck. Off set bloody eyes and open facial wounds marred it's visage. Yes! Just what I needed.
Now that I had found my freedom, where to put it? The places that crossed my mind were the freezer, my partners locker, and under the computer desk. All of these places were unpredictable though at best, my partner maybe not even needing to go there. So where to put it? When it came to me I knew I had the answer. The toilet.
Now let me explain my partner. He was a tall, large, muscular man, boisterous without much to fear and he was smart. In order to get him I had to not give away my intent and the trap had to be sprung flawlessly. He had also been known to pull a few practical jokes of his own.
So the first thing I did was sneak into the bathroom and flush the toilet a few times to make sure it was clean. Then I turned off the water at the back and flushed it again to empty it and carefully set the head in the head(sorry about the bad pun) with it's ghastly face peering upwards and shut the lid. Now it was a matter of time and the clock was ticking.
Forty five minutes later Mike had not moved from his spot, meticulously reading and rereading his protocols. This was too much, I had to get him into that bathroom. I made more coffee and offered him a mug. He thanked me and went back to studying. I started flipping channels on the TV. As soon as Mike's coffee ran low I got him some more. He looked at me funny but thanked me all the same. After another thirty five minutes of aggravating reruns Mike stretched and said,
“Man, all that coffee, I gotta go to the restroom.”
YES! Finally! Something fun!
I nonchalantly strolled into the other room pretending to grab some paperwork and Mike walked into the bathroom and shut the door. A few moments passed and I imagined him checking his teeth in the mirror (previous prank in which he had gotten green food coloring in his coffee). And maybe he scratched himself and made a face in the mirror. Then all hell broke loose. A high pitched scream emanated from the bathroom followed by clawing on the door and the door nearly being knocked off it's hinges as Mike fell out of the bathroom. He was on the floor on his hands and knees panting, his face beat red and he looked up to see me rolling in fits of mirth.
It's amazing how many laps someone can make chasing someone else around a building the size of our quarters when they still had to use the bathroom. Luckily for me I was small and fast and could run for sometime as well. Even while giggling like a school girl.