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Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Great Equalizer

by Steven P. Velasquez
January 25, 2013

Anyone who's been close to me knows I have no capacity for planning when it comes to my private or social life.  Work, I've had to get good at but it hasn't come easy.  People invite me places, want me to celebrate things with them,  want to catch up on old times and I just can't ever seem to get it right.  My pathetic excuse is always; "I'm too busy.  I had to work."  It's one of my biggest weaknesses.
Franklin Planner

So as I mature, I've been taking active steps to improve my planning.  I use online calendars, sync them with my laptop, my smart-phone etc...  And, being a little retro, I still maintain a written calendar in a Franklin Planner out of part ritual and devout loyalty to Dr. Steven Covey and the Franklin system which has drastically improved my life since my early twenties.  

This weeks plans were intricate, detailed and a complex mix of personal and professional priorities all mixed in.  Having to work an off night in exchange for another so I can attend a conference that comes only once a year and is a great educational opportunity, took some planning, finding a willing participant to trade shifts and a supervisor to approve said trade.  Just when I had that seemingly locked down, one of our brother EMS providers in Jersey City has an untimely passing and of course, his funeral service falls on the day of the EMS conference.

Well, loyalty to the family supersedes an educational opportunity.  I can always get into other classes.  So I begin preparing and planning to attend the wake and funeral services of our brother.  (Unfortunately, as I age this is becoming something that happens more frequently and is quite saddening.)  My plan A was shot, so I switched to plan B.  Then came what I refer to as "the great equalizer."

The Great Equalizer

"I cannot miss this!!!"
Some of my patients are members of the class known as the rich and powerful.  They have "stuff," assets, savings, residual incomes (whatever that means).  They can buy things with ease and have people at their beck and call to tend to their needs (they often mistake me for one of them).  They keep tight schedules with other rich, powerful people that they ABSOLUTELY CANNOT MISS (or so they like to tell me)!!  I use this class as an example as they appear to be the most resistant, and sometimes obnoxious, to the grips of "the great equalizer."

Now let me be clear, I wish suffering on no one, not even my enemies.  But when confronted with a patient like I was the other night, a gentleman who arrived on a flight (1st class of course), looked at and spoke to me like a skycap, and demanded he be brought to a hospital in New York City (no NJ hospital would suffice), I get taken aback at how pathetic they appear in the presence of the fact that "the great equalizer" has leveled the playing field.  There are no VIP lounges here. There are no favors to call in. We all become -- patients, dependents etc...  He had to get schooled on how it really works down here at the serf level.  He could go to one of the three area hospitals, not all the way to NYC.  Internally, I chuckled to myself as he flailed and carried on in the grips of "the great equalizer."

The great equalizer is illness or injury.  It strips us of our power.  Takes away our sense of control, saps our strength and energy.  It humbles the mighty, makes tearful the strong, and reminds humanity that we are still mortal, and vulnerable, and need each other.  And yes, messes with even the best planned schedules. 

Flu Season
I'm so sick right now I've called out of two nights of work (never happens), will not be going to the EMS conference in Paterson, and will very unfortunately not be able to attend the funeral services of our EMS brother, Chief Richie Lopez of the Jersey City Medical Center EMS Dept.  Essentially, I'm quarantined to my room with a steady flow of Nyquil, transient sleep, an occasional meal and the constant question to my creator; "Okay God, I'm listening.  What do you want me to do or learn now?"  I am in the presence of "the great equalizer."

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