Better And Better

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Laughing at death.

When you see them joking over the body of your loved one at the side of the road...

Take a moment.

They're cops and firefighters and paramedics and EMTs and they all ran like hell to get out there when they heard that he had crashed.
They struggled to deploy gear and lights and apparatus and get the rest vectored in without further injury or risk, and to control the scene so that there wouldn't be another accident, and then made a Very Hard Decision not to begin life-saving efforts, because he was dead.

So now the men and women that had rushed to render lifesaving aid are having to redirect themselves to reconstructing and documenting the last few seconds of his life, right down to how he ended up in that position. They talk to the witnesses ("...don't know why he swerved...") and the complainants ("...tires kept spinning even after I hung up...") and those who just drove up ("...was steaming pretty good from the radiator..."). They measure the distances and photograph the factors and mark the points of reference, and wait for the Medical Examiner's investigator.

And someone cracks a joke that is relevant, but completely inappropriate for the situation.

EVERYONE laughs. It wasn't even that funny. But we all do. Wait, though-- this guy (it wasn't me. [this time.]) has a better one. And his buddy cries out a variation of the same theme. And they all bust a gut, they're laughing so.

Graveyard humor.

It's 24 degrees and the car engine's still hot to the touch. That victim-- that former victim-- over there, now cooling, was alive and terrified not 15 minutes ago. Well. 17 minutes, now. But, you know.

A check of his license shows that he lives not 5 minutes away, and before long somebody here is going to have to tell someone there that their loved one has died, for no real good reason that anyone can yet tell.

So please don't blame them for wanting to de-personalize the situation, just a tad. It's how they function.

How we function, I mean. I guess I meant to say "we."

[I'm sorry that I laughed.]

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4 Comments:

At Saturday, February 03, 2007 6:07:00 PM, Blogger Mr. Fixit said...

If we do not laugh out the stress, we end up crying it out.
We're all sorry we laughed. But we have to deal with it somehow.

And on a totally unrelated note; thanks for the tip about Grolsch. I am enjoying my first one as I type. I like it better than the Samuel Adams Boston Lager you also recommended.

Mr Fixit

 
At Saturday, February 03, 2007 8:45:00 PM, Blogger Ambulance Driver said...

While I am occasionally crude and steadfastly refuse to sugarcoat how medics, cops, and firemen talk to *eachother*, even if it does not always cast us in a flattering light...I also know it is never acceptable to use gallows humor when in earshot of the folks who do not understand. I've been guilty of that transgression, and few of my actions have shamed me more than realizing a family member of the victim may think of me as callous or jaded.

Folks who do not see and experience what we do will probably never understand gallows humor, but your post did an admirable job of explaining our perspective.

If you look at Death long enough and often enough, you figure out that the only way to armor your soul is to thumb your nose at him occasionally.

 
At Saturday, February 03, 2007 10:10:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

"And on a totally unrelated note; thanks for the tip about Grolsch."

Oh, it's not unrelated-- trust me. The chemistry of public service has often involved stress-multipliers (Caffeine, nicotine) and stress relievers (alcohol, dopamine).

Grolsch is just one of the nicer versions of the latter.

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 12:05:00 PM, Blogger CountyRat said...

Yeah.

 

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