Stop Thief!

No Comments

“My mistake – I’m Sorry,” I shouted into the cellphone, which was precariously wedged between my ear and the helmet.

“You should be,” came the unsympathetic response from my colleague in the UNITED headquarters.

“We nearly had the Blues on your tail,” he added for good measure.

“I apologize – it won’t happen again,” I replied, this time less meek, more ‘gimme a break’.

“And next time answer your radios or phones.”

“Is there anything else darlin’?”

“No, that’s all – drive safe.”

“Thank you, have a pleasant shift.”

 

So let’s start with why my phone was wedged into my helmet:

Question: “Don’t you cowboys have Bluetooth helmets?”

Answer:  Yes, the new guys do, but I’m still trying to stick to old school traditions. Nowadays, the helmets are high tech and come ready fitted with earpieces that connect, through Bluetooth, with our communication devices. There is a small button on the handlebar, next to your thumb, that you press to talk, and you get to hear the response directly into your brain.

Gnarly, dude.

Yeah, whatever. I prefer the old way. I like it better when the uncomfortably warm, radiation emitting, speakerphone crackling, “can you hear me now” producing, oops slipping cellphone is jammed uncomfortably close to my skull. But the organization won’t tolerate it much longer. Unsafe they say.

Question: What was that guy screaming at you about?

Answer: I forgot to tell Control I was out driving after 23:00. I’ll explain.

Advances in technology, coupled with snoopy control guys, have enabled ‘big brother’ to spy on the Ambucycles 24/7. My bike went through a serious nail-biting three hour surgery, in the course of which it was implanted with a GPS tracking device. But this ain’t your regular GPS gizmo. No, no, the tech guys went all out with this one. Control gets fed masses of information onto their huge screens. Data such as, my location, my speed, my favorite color, and what I ate for breakfast get relayed to the powers that be. Furthermore, every time I switch on my lights and sirens, the bosses are informed.

No more zipping to buy Pizza with sirens blazing.

Not that I ever did that. Ahem.

The positive repercussion of all this though, is that the bikes are harder, if not impossible, to steal. If some unlucky thief does somehow manage to nick a bike, he’ll have the long arm of the law knocking on his door within the hour. And they won’t be delivering pizza.

Bottom Line: Don’t steal my bike!

Question: Why was I apologizing to control?

Answer: Every ignition between the hours of 23:00 and 07:00 needs to be reported. The thinking behind this is that most robberies happen at night; so if the volunteer needs to go somewhere on the bike during the aforementioned hours, his duty is to call, identify himself, and inform control of his approximate flight plan & how long he’ll be out for.

Simple enough, but I always forget. And when you forget, they try to get hold of you on your cell or radio. If something’s not right, they call the police, triangulate and relay the bike’s location. Then it’s only a matter of minutes…

Question: Is there anything else you can do to ensure your bike isn’t stolen?

 

“You’re not a thief, are you; trying to get the inside scoop?’

“No, I’m just an innocent curious civilian reading your blog!”

Oh Ok.

 

Answer = There are several;

  1. Lock your bike to an immovable object.

According to the strict letter of the law (United regulations), you need to lock your bike every time you park. Sounds great on paper, but is imminently impractical.

 

“Why aren’t you running to save the trapped and injured passengers of the overturned vehicle?”

“I’m just scanning the highway for an immovable object…”

Or

“Help! My Baby’s choking!”

“Is there a telephone pole in the vicinity of your house, Ma’am?” You get the picture.

 

  1. Don’t tell anyone, but there is a secret kill-switch under my seat. Whenever the bike is parked, we are supposed to turn the switch to the OFF position. This somehow cuts power internally to the engine, so that it can’t be switched on or even hotwired.

This is a great mechanism and I use it all the time. It’s simple to do and very effective. Problem is I sometimes run to save a life, only to find that the bike doesn’t start. It normally takes about 5 seconds of head scratching for me to remember that the switch needs to be moved to ON.

“I’m forgetful – so what!?”

 

  1. We are instructed to move the “Lights and Sirens” to the ON position. This is so that if somebody does succeed in breaking the lock (rare) and defeats the kill switch (implausible), once he starts the engine he, and the people within earshot, are in for a pleasant surprise. The hope is that he gets the shock of his life and runs (not rides) away.

And for the avoidance of doubt – Yes, I constantly and consistently forget to return the Sirens to OFF, and get the shock of my life at ignition. I have however learned NOT to run away, so all is not lost.

 

Conclusion:

Thieves everywhere beware – we know where you live!

And even if we don’t, you’re sure to lead us there, should you make the injudicious mistake of stealing an Ambucycle.

 

(Just a quick apology to my neighbors for the chaotic noises when I start my bike – It’s a minor technical fault. It’ll be fixed just as soon as I get a Bluetooth helmet.)

Woman of Valor

No Comments

“You’d best go home, Sarah.”

“You have several days, a week at the most – I’m so sorry.”

He was wrong.

Although they couldn’t have known that, as they staggered, husband and wife, towards the parking lot of Hadassah Hospital.

 

The sun was setting and the Jerusalem sky was ablaze with a multitude of colors.

Her sun was setting and yet it was too early. Her life-clock read noon; there must be a mistake.

 

A woman of valor, who can find? Far beyond pearls is her value

Her husband’s heart trusts in her and he shall lack no fortune

 

How would they tell the kids; it had all happened so quickly. “They’ll want to fly in as soon as they find out,” he said as he turned the key in the ignition. She nodded.

They drove in complete silence – there was nothing to say.

Maybe there was too much to say.

By the time they got home, it was already dark outside and neither had any appetite. She because of the meds and he because of the fear. Indescribable fear.

It was Wednesday night. Tomorrow was Thursday and on Friday the kids would come for the weekend.

She fell asleep.

He lay awake thinking. Dreading.

 

Friends;

What would you do, if you awoke to a life measured in minutes instead of decades?

What would you do, if you awoke to indescribable pain, sorrow and uncertainty?

What would you do, if you awoke, but were unsure if you were actually awake?

 

Friends, let me tell you what she did.

 

She rises while it is still nighttime, and gives food to her household and a ration to her maids

She girds her loins with might and strengthens her arms

 

She said,

Actually she sang:

 

King of Kings, Thank You for Life,

For abundance, for tears, for laughter,

Even amidst difficulty, even then my Creator,

You are never distant.

 

Would you lounge around, undressed, unkempt, confused, angry, sad?

Not her.

She got dressed and put on makeup. She wanted to look beautiful. She wanted her family to remember her as she had always been.

Young, vibrant – alive.

 

Give her the fruit of her hands, and she will be praised at the gates by her very own deeds

 

FAR AWAY

In Belgium, her kids, all three of them, had already booked tickets and were packing. Their father had called them the night before to break the news.

They too were shell shocked; they too had had a sleepless night.

They too felt as though their world was falling apart. It was falling apart.

 

It couldn’t be true. She was the sweetest and kindest person in the world. She was their Mother.

Suitcases ready, the trio sat together to talk, to reminisce. They had been a handful growing up, of that there was no doubt. But she always had patience, everlasting patience. And always with a smile, the warmest smile in the world.

Perhaps they should have called more often. Perhaps they should have visited more often. Perhaps they should have said thank you more often. Perhaps they should have hugged more often. Perhaps if they had been more grateful…

 

She opens her mouth with Wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue

Her children rise and celebrate her; and her husband, he praises her: “Many daughters have attained valor, but you have surpassed them all”

 

CLOSE BY

Her husband also awoke early and had gone to a nearby park to think, to clear his mind. 30 years flashed before him in an instant. They married young, but had waited years for the triplets. Money was tight in the early days and their marriage, well, had survived ups and downs. Decades later, money was no longer a problem, but his job was demanding, too demanding, and he was almost never home.

Perhaps he should have been home more. Perhaps he should have paid more attention. Perhaps he should have bought her that pendant. Perhaps he should have taken her on that trip. Perhaps he should have apologized. Perhaps he should have appreciated.

 

She repays his good, but never his harm, all the days of her life

She spreads out her palm to the poor and extends her hands to the destitute

 

AT HOME

She felt weak suddenly. It wasn’t novel; most days were like this. So she sat down on the edge of the bed.

She smiled, remembering the days when her kids would come into her bed in the early morning and jump around. She would get aggravated, “Its 6am, go back to sleep!” she would say.

Not now. Now she would tell them to jump forever. Tomorrow, when they would come, she would apologize for not being more patient, and maybe they would jump again…

 

Strength and splendor are her clothing, and smilingly she awaits her last day

False is grace, and vain is beauty; a G-d-fearing woman, she should be praised

 

She felt dizzy suddenly. It happened all the time; it was a side effect of the medicine. So she put her feet up and leaned on the backboard.

She looked around the room. They had moved in almost 20 years ago, and every piece of furniture was handpicked and had special meaning.

On the walls, pictures of her grandchildren. Each special, each beautiful, each with their own unique character and disposition. She had hoped so much to be able to be there for school celebrations and graduations.

On the night table, a Prayer book from her youngest daughter’s wedding. What a beautiful wedding it had been; they had danced and danced till the wee hours of the morning. Everything had been so special, so perfect, so full of life.

She felt tired suddenly. Her eyelids felt heavy.

 

“Just going to close my eyes for a second.”

 

The kids were coming in tomorrow for the ‘last weekend’. They would tell their Mother, how much they loved her. They would tell her how sorry they were for not being better children. They would tell her how much she meant to them. They would tell her how the world would have no meaning without her. They would tell her tomorrow.

He started heading home and was formulating the sentences in his mind as he walked. Sorry for the anger. Sorry for the austerity, the strictness, the pedantry. Sorry I was never there. Sorry I didn’t buy you that necklace, or take you on that trip. Sorry I didn’t appreciate you. He would tell her tomorrow.

 

Tomorrow,

Was too late.

 

He came home and called her name, but no one answered.

I ran across the street when the beeper came in. I knew the apartment well; I had been there before. The door was open and I raced inside, not stopping to knock, or announce myself.

He was standing in the doorway of the room.

She looked like she was asleep. But she wasn’t.

 

She had returned her soul to its Maker; singing His praises in heaven, as she had done on earth.

 

I looked back at him, unable to find the right words.

He spoke first. “Is it the end?” he asked, sobbing already, because he knew the answer.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s the end.”

 

 

Postscript

If there’s something you’ve wanted to say to your spouse for the longest time, but were too busy – say it now.

If there’s something you’ve wanted to say to your parents for the longest time, but were too uncomfortable – say it now.

If there’s something you’ve wanted to say to your child for the longest time, but hadn’t found the right words – say it now.

If there’s something you’ve wanted to say to your grandfather for the longest time, but were too lazy – say it now.

And Friends

If there’s something you’ve wanted to say to G-d for the longest time, but didn’t know He was listening – say it now.

 

Don’t wait for tomorrow.

For tomorrow might never come.

 

May her memory be a blessing, and “May the Almighty comfort her loving family amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

 

 

Dedicated to the Women of Valor in my life; ES, MS, MW, OS, and SF. May you live long, healthy, happy and prosperous years, and have much gratification from your beautiful families.

Where There’s Smoke

No Comments

I smell smoke.

I’m on the corner of a busy intersection next to an outdoor mall, and I definitely smell smoke. Most people would continue about their day. Not so a member of the emergency services. We always need to know who, what, where, when, why and how.

Not so much in order to save the day. We just need to know.

For those of us addicted to social media, it’s to be the first to update / share / post. These dudes walk the very fine line between being informative and annoying. Mostly, they are annoying. To these types, I say, with absolute certainty:

STOP!

Your 246 followers have no interest whatsoever in the asbestos fire on Main Street, nor in the old lady on Coumadin suffering a nosebleed, irrespective of the amount of congealed blood on the kitchen floor.

I, however, prefer to connect with my followers rather than drive them away; finding an optimal balance between sharing and listening.

In plain English, I don’t have a smartphone.

In fact, my phone weighs 30 ounces and is advertised as being useful both at home and in the car. It has a lighted keypad, fits into my shirt pocket and has an optional battery, for true portable use.

I couldn’t feel more blessed.

Yes, it’s an antique, but that also makes it quite valuable. Shall we start the bidding at 10,000?

Back to that smell.

Where there’s smoke – yep, you guessed it – there’s fire.

You guys seem to know this story. Have I told it to you before?!

Right on cue, a call for a fire comes through on the (wireless) beeper. The “inferno,” as the caller has described it, is in a residential building about 500 meters away. The traffic light I was waiting for turns green, as if it senses my urgency, and I am on location in a matter of seconds.

A quick look around confirms that I am the first to arrive, which would be great if I were a fireman, but I’m not (yet).

I recall the story of a former EMT I knew, who ran into a burning building to extricate survivors.

He was a very brave lad but, unfortunately, there were no survivors.

And that, my dear friends, was because the building was unoccupied and had been so for several decades.

He was ultimately treated for smoke inhalation (and humiliation) and hospitalized for quite some time.

(He might have been hiding at home all the while – I can’t say for sure.)

Although it may seem heroic, we are simply not equipped, nor trained, to run into burning buildings. We are, however, prepared and qualified to treat casualties that come out of burning buildings.

But instead of just standing around looking cool, we try to assist the ‘war effort’ by questioning the occupants as to the exact location of the fire, and whether they believe there to be any trapped persons. We then relay this info to the arriving fire personnel, ensuring a faster response. Those with an overbearing presence and loud voice try their hand at crowd control, but I don’t quite fit that disposition.

So I speak to some residents, and then take out my vest and equipment and go into standby mode.

This is when we ‘stand by’ our bikes looking nonchalant. Some even light up and have a cigarette.

I Don’t.

Fire crews quickly descend en masse; I relay what I had gleaned, and they get to work. Some stay to ‘work the engines’ while others don self-contained breathing apparatuses and fireproof gear, and enter the building.

I hold my breath.

After about 45 seconds, I need to exhale.

Cliché fail.

I hold my breath again – hoping for a better outcome.

Another 45 seconds pass and the team exit, looking quite unperturbed. The Chief removes the mask covering his face and announces authoritatively, “Just a scare, folks. It’s only a small fire. No one is inside; the coast is clear.”

So, an awful lot of smoke and commotion, but luckily, no harm to human life; just minor property damage.

Thankfully, most of the fires I respond to end this way. People seem to have an innate ability to get out of harm’s way before it’s too late. I rarely see smoke inhalation, serious injury, or life threatening burns resulting from a structure fire.

But, of course, tragedies do sometimes occur, which is why our protocol dictates that EMS respond URGENT to each and every blaze regardless of the magnitude. Furthermore, it is vital, I repeat, vital, for us to win the race against the Reds. Decades of honorable custom is now our duty, my duty, to uphold.

The pressure is immense.

In conclusion:

Let’s hope that my track record stays as clean as it is, and everyone stays healthy, happy and smoke free.

Of course, there are those who suffer from smoke inhalation on a daily basis, to the tune of two packs of Marlboro Red’s.

But that’s another story.

La Bise Français

No Comments

The door of number 15 is slightly ajar, and as I approach I smell the aroma of freshly baked bread. Control often tells people to leave the door open, so that we have an easier time finding the right apartment. I knock, announce my arrival, wait a few seconds, and walk inside. The foyer is bright, airy and clean; the atmosphere is remarkably calm – quite contrary to the usual chaos of an emergency scene. A middle aged woman emerges from the back of the house, wearing an apron.

“Bonjour!” she says.

“Hey, how does she know I speak French?” I wonder.

PAUSE:

Let’s not get carried away, Shmeel. French was compulsory in high school, and the truth of the matter, is that I failed miserably. I averaged 33% on my exam results throughout the year, and was disallowed from taking the finals. In the principal’s own words: “So that you don’t humiliate the school in the national results.”

No wonder I have such a healthy self-esteem.

My pillar of support during this difficult time was my Mother, who always insisted,”You speak French beautifully!” Thank you Mum.

 

Back to our story – conversation in Français:

 

LADY: Hello, how are you?

ME: My mother; she is cold.

 

LADY: I am sorry to hear that!

ME: (Gesturing towards the stairwell) There is a duck in my elevator!

 

LADY: You have a duck?

ME: Yes!

 

Why I said yes is a complete mystery, to this very day.

 

Introductions over, I follow her to the main bedroom.

The patient, an elderly lady in her nineties is on the floor, and is being supported by two middle aged women. I could have continued in French, but for some reason the apron lady switches over to Hebrew, and starts talking very slowly and deliberately. It was as if she thought I had a communication problem!?

Go figure.

“This is our mother,” she says in a loud and clear voice; staccato style to be more precise.

“She is healthy – we don’t need any medical assistance – just a man to lift her back onto the bed.”

“Ok, sure, no problem,” I reply. I can do that.

I start moving into a proper lifting position, and then reconsider. If three women had been unable to lift her, I certainly wasn’t going to try by myself; enough embarrassment for one day.

Plan B

“Control: Unit#18 requesting backup for ‘assistance in lifting’ please.”

It is not uncommon for elderly people to unexpectedly find themselves on the floor, and need help getting back on their feet, or their bed, in this instance. Our job is to assess the patient, understand the kinematics of the fall, and take their vitals. If everything is in order, we lift them up, and the person can indeed stay at home and continue their day.

I ask the standard questions and learn that she had slipped while getting out of bed, but had fallen to the ground in ‘slow motion’, because one of the daughters had caught her just in time. Vitals were normal and she didn’t have any specific pain.

Diagnosis: Pick her up, and let her go eat breakfast.

Problem: It would take at least another four minutes for my backup to arrive, and I was alone, in a room with 4 French speaking women.

Solution: No worries, I’ll pass the time with some small talk.

 

In hindsight: This was a colossal error.

In hindsight: My principal was right.

In hindsight: I should have said, “Je ne parle pas français,” and made myself a cup of tea.

In hindsight: Miraculously though, I still have a healthy self-esteem.

 

What then transpired would be remembered for posterity; by the patient, her children, me, and now, the world.

Do let me explain.

You see, there are words in the French language and indeed in every language that sound awfully similar, but have entirely different meanings.

I managed to utilize 4 such conundrums in the 4 minutes I was there alone.

Yes, I have a knack for languages. So what of it.

 

I turn to the elderly patient and say in the strongest terms;

What I meant to say        I definitely think you will be ok

What I actually said         I invalidate your health

 

The Patient gives me an awkward look and so I rephrase in case she hadn’t understood;

What I meant to say        There is someone on the way to help me lift you

What I actually said         There is a volcano about to erupt in the room

 

She starts laughing uncontrollably. I suspect she has dementia, so I turn to the middle sister and whisper;

What I meant to say        It seems her memory is full of gaps

What I actually said         It seems she drowned in this lagoon

 

The joviality proves contagious and everyone is giggling. I assume that it’s an involuntary reaction to a nervous situation and so I try to defuse the tension;

What I meant to say        Let us hope for a miracle

What I actually said         Let us hope she spends the money unwisely

 

Thankfully my backup arrives, cutting me short of what was to be the ‘grand finale’.

We each take hold of one side and “On my count: un, deux, trois” – we successfully lift her back onto her bed.

I am about to take my leave, when, ‘la petite vieille dame’, motions me to come closer.

She takes my arm in hers, kisses me on the back of my hand and says;

“Yoo Cpeek Frranche Beeyootifully!”

Thank you, Madam, I know I do – my Mother’s told me so all along.

 

Voilà c’est fini