Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Invisible Patron

Steven P. Velasquez, NREMTP

 

A tired paramedic completed his night shift and greeted the beautiful summer morning with a smile -- and strong coffee. His unit was close to the home of his seven year-old daughter who lives with her mommy. He called the mother to see if they were busy. If not, perhaps he could spend the day with his munchkin. She agreed and they chose a venue somewhere between their locations, a diner with a retro 50's theme and customers to match. The place was busy, jammed, filled with what looked like a casting call for Ron Howards' 1985 movie "Cocoon." Walking through the door, a delicate ear could hear a gentle and homogenous hum, an alliance of sound, a mix of atherosclerosis and Elvis filling the air (and apparently rendering the tired paramedic invisible).
 
 
Tired as he was, and eager to read the book under his left arm, he moved to the rear of the diner and aimed his large body toward one of the last remaining seats, a booth. Standing before him -- and looking right through him it seemed -- the waitress gestured to a family that had just arrived by the front door across the restaurant. "Family of three?" she called, "I have a booth right here."

With a now furrowed brow, the tired paramedic looked at the waitress standing directly before him with her arms furiously flailing toward the family by the door. "Are you giving this booth away?" he pointed and asked. "They are a family of three" she sniffed, as she sidestepped him to allow the family's passage. "So is mine!" he said so other tables could hear, but no one cared. He felt slighted though his family had not yet arrived. He felt like an invisible patron but was too tired to make a commotion. He returned to the front of the restaurant and sat -alone- at a table for four, spread his books and notepad and began to read, though he was distracted by the stares and whispers of the "visible" patrons, seemingly upset at the view of a table for four only 1/4th occupied -- and during a busy time. Even the exciting vibes of Bobby Days' "Rockin' Robin" were no match for the judgment and scoffs of the elderly - the visible.

Finally, the paramedics' little girl ran through the door and leapt directly into his arms. Hugs and kisses followed and so did a simmering of the collective tempers of the white-haired, table jurors.
 
His family ordered breakfast and made light conversation, a necessity, as there are many reasons why Mommy and Daddy cannot live together anymore. They traded niceties.
 
A man in a booth against the wall seemed to be panting, clutching his chest and telling his wife he had tightness across his chest and down his left arm. Instinctively, the invisible patron rose from his chair and went to the man's aid. His daughter's mom ran out to the vehicle to get whatever equipment was in his duty bag from the night before. He introduced himself. He offered his name and said; "I'm a paramedic. I'll stay with you until help arrives. Tell me what's bothering you."
 
The man in the booth was warm and profusely sweaty. He clutched his chest and rubbed his left arm and hand. His pulses were palpable and of a normal rate. The invisible patron called his local dispatch center, identified himself as one of their paramedics -off duty- and requested paramedics to the diner for a man having chest pains. This act put the wheels in motion for the local agencies as they would now send police, a local basic life support ambulance  with EMT's (Emergency Medical Technicians) and a regional mobile intensive care unit with paramedics who have advanced education, skills and tools.
 
The police and an EMS unit from Munchfaster Township arrived and entered the crowded diner; a tight and narrow squeeze eased only by "Please Mr. Postman"; a Motown great by The Marvelettes. The Munchfaster EMT's took the patient to their ambulance and sped away. The paramedic unit never arrived as they were coming from a great distance. The invisible patron returned to his seat and re-joined his family (of three), but not before a round of "thank you('s)", "good thing you were here('s)" and "great job('s)!" erupted from the elderly table jurors.

The paramedic, I suppose, through his perceived act of kindness had finally joined the ranks of the visible.
 
Quite Visible