Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Door

It’s raining. We’re sitting in area 9 in the parking lot of a chain drug store. On the radio a crew is asking what floor they are supposed to take their patient to. They are doing a hospice run. They picked up some lady from an elderly apartment community and have taken her in to the hospital where she will die in a matter of days. Her last ride. I’ve taken a number of people on these rides. The worst are the young mothers dying of cancer.

Yesterday a thirty-year-old female cop in one of the suburban towns was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, a state cop. We had two cars on standby while they looked for the shooter. They found him a couple hours later, also dead. The paper said he parked his car at a park, and then walked over to her house so she wouldn’t see him. He was supposed to turn himself into court today on a police charge, but instead he called his lawyer and said there was a change in plans. Her new boyfriend -- another cop -- came home and found her. Details are sketchy.

I knew her by face, not by name. I’d been on calls with her a few times over the years. She never had much to say to us. She was a good-looking woman, who I noticed had recently started wearing more makeup around her eyes. Like I said, I didn't know her well at all, but she seemed to have a tough air to her. If she pulled you over, I don't think you'd want to sweet talk her.

The state trooper looked vaguely familiar. I can’t help but think about the incident I wrote about a week ago, the car pulling in front of me, and out of nowhere the driver giving me an angry finger. While he was not in an issue vehicle, he looked like a state cop. I remember thinking that guy must be mad about something in his life. Was it him? I don’t know. It occurred within a half-mile of the eventual murder scene.

The paper in the news rack had a headline “A Cop’s Fury.” It had pictures of the two dead on the front. It made me think, you are here on day, and the next people are walking by the news rack with your picture on it, only you aren’t one of the people walking by to see it.


We did a call in her town this morning, and said our condolences to the two cops who were there. They had black bands over their badges. The call was for an old woman who said she had taken a handful of painkillers. She said she did it because she was stupid. She said her ex-husband and her doctor would be mad. I got the feeling from the cops they were at this house all the time for similar vague complaints of taking too many pills. “I don’t need this today,” one cop said to me.

The woman complained as we carried her out in the stair chair in the rain. "I'm getting wet," she cried, "Oh, its cold!"

“It’s pouring rain, there’s nothing we can do," I said, “Look at us, we’re all soaked.”

In the ambulance, she complained she hadn’t had time to fix her hair. "I look just awful," she said. "I can't go out like this."

“Next time you take a handful of pills,” I said, “wait until it is sunny out and you have first done your hair.”

She looked at me with one eye cocked.

“I’m just making a suggestion,” I said.

“I just wanted someone to talk to,” she said.


We did a long distance transfer, and then a couple motor vehicles. Raining all day long.


A maternity, woman bleeding at 21 weeks, feeling pressure, a kid with a broken ankle and a couple more transfers.


I find myself in idle moments thinking about the dead policewoman. They say on the radio she was shot in the chest and head.

I guess she probably never figured her death was coming that day, the door opening, and in coming that angry man. At what point did she realize she was going to die?

When do heart attack victims get that sense that right now what is happening -- this sudden pain in their chest -- might be their end? And car crash victims – they start to loose control and see the tree or the truck careening toward them?

I don’t mean to be morbid.

I used to be worried about dying. I’ve lived awhile now and feel lucky to have made it as long as I have. If the deal was when I was born, I agreed to come out of the womb, but in return I would only have these 47 years, I'd take them.

I have many, many years ahead I hope. But if I were to die today I wouldn’t have been cheated. I am as excited about life and its possibilities as I ever have been, excited not in the wild way I was as a youth, but in the more realistic sense that I can enjoy the moments now and not just the thought of the goal.

I want to live fully and feel, for the most part, I have been. I work a lot, but I like my job and the money I make will help me keep doing what I love – being a paramedic, writing, going to foreign countries to help the poor, getting good seats to a Red Sox game every year, living in my house which I feel comfortable in, being able to eat a good steak, and drink a cold beer when I want without having to count nickels on the liquor store counter.

I hope I continue to live a full life and that the door doesn’t open for me any time soon.

Please not any time soon.

I don't want my picture on the newsrack, my obit posted on some bulletin board, people, thinking, yeah, I knew that guy. I used to see him around.