Word on the street is that I don’t know how to tell a real emergency from yet more fake emergencies, but the truth is that I was directly involved in many an emergency over the course of my checkered health past. Did you know that I hang glided into a wall of rocks and broke ribs?
No, sorry, it was my cousin’s ex-boyfriend who did that. I’m much less clumsy than that guy! I’ve almost never broken ribs. Only in car accidents, beer-league softball games and via falling off bikes. It’s much less sexy to break your ribs falling off a bike that you shouldn’t have been on in the first place (icy roads) than by hang gliding. It’s like snapping a tendon in your left middle finger while trying to remove a sock. Who does that? (I did, but only once).
However, my most consistent exposure to emergency situations was provided by network tv in the 1970s via the aptly-named program Emergency! Each week, paramedics Roy DeSoto and John Gage were faced with several riveting emergencies. Choking victims; heart attacks; scorpions hitch-hiking back in luggage from exotic destinations, and so forth. One time, there was a construction worker whose leg was irrevocably wedged between collapsing beams in a building, and the whole shebang was about to come down upon him, his co-workers and our heros Gage and DeSoto. This called for the white-haired Doctor (Joe Early, according an Emergency episode I just watched on youtube) to come and do a quick amputation. He arrived with his kit bag (do they really have amputation tools in those?) but the team managed to extricate the victim and his numb leg before we could see the bloody details.
My favorite weekly Emergency! treat was to see the obligatory cardiac arrest, which required one of our paramedic heroes to karate-chop the dying patient in the chest in order to break ribs and facilitate chest compressions. That was always followed by defibrillator usage. “Clear!”
Now that it’s the future, we have learned that CPR can be done without karate-chopping, but it was so fun to see that back in the 1970s.
I don’t remember any episode involving an emergency wall being built, but maybe I just don’t remember all the episodes.
In the 1990s, I lived very close to the Forest Hills cemetery in Jamaica Plain, MA. I mean I practically lived in the damned cemetery on a semi-private road a few hundred feet from the entrance. There were more dead people around me than living ones, by far.
On the other hand, the house was just a stone’s throw (well, a very impressive throw of a stone) from the end of the Orange Line, with easy access to the city where a lot of alive people were crowding together, as they do in cities. To have access to hordes of alive people via the subway and almost as many dead ones via my own two feet, including Eugene O’Neill and E. E. Cummings (not to mention the restauranteur Jacob Wirth), tells you just how versatile my living situation was.
If you must know, I had a girlfriend back in those days, as was expected of young men of my social stature and careful breeding, and it goes without saying that I had a very high level of emotional maturity, which required that I have an equally emotionally mature girlfriend. Sometimes, though, two emotionally mature adults cancel each other’s maturity out, and you end up with an emotionally exhausted couple who go dancing on graves.
Human beings have been dancing on graves ever since dancing and graves were invented. The caveman Oog is credited with dancing the first jig, which he did on the grave of his late rival Boog. But once people started freaking out about the possibility of ghosts, they stopped dancing on the graves of their dead rivals, lest they get visited by poltergeists in the middle of the night.
Which brings me to some dusky evening 25 or so years ago in the Forest Hills cemetery, when, during a tipsy group amble, my girlfriend dared me and others to dance on a grave. Which we did.
I don’t know whose grave I danced on, but suffice it to say that the person buried there was emotionally mature enough in the afterlife not to come to my apartment and rattle chains outside my bedroom door.
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