The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

Life in an Ambulance

I was sitting in traffic two days ago, headed home from my internship. Let me say something about traffic. I drive 15 miles, give or take. I'm staying with family in exurbia--think David Brooks from NY Times. It takes me 50 minutes to get home! I was living in another metropolitan area, but it was nothing like this. I could get downtown in 20 minutes with relatively heavy traffic, but here I'm nowhere near the city--40 miles out, in fact--and it takes an hour to go 15 miles.

I don't mind really though. I guess I'm flexible considering the opportunity I've been given.


That's all beside the point. I was stuck a hundred feet back in traffic, waiting at a light. In my rearview mirror I caught sight of an ambulance weaving through the congestion as through a clogged artery. As it grew closer it's siren could be heard, the driver hitting the horn sporadically, necessarily. It passed by in the turn lane, pushing forth toward the intersection. It got slowed down as cars tried to pull over so it could emerge into the intersection, then turned left before disappearing.

Hmm. I thought, hundreds, if not thousands of cars pulled to the side, moved out of the way as quickly and chaotically as possible to allow the ambulance by. To allow the ambulance by to reach some ailing person--a heart attack victim or a drug addict--or get him or her to the hospital. Thousands of people adjust to allow a single person a better chance to live another day.

I am proud to live in a country where such inconveniences are adjusted to, taxes are paid, or concern is shown for the life of some faceless person.

I was working on the presidential campaign last fall, working a Saturday downtown. I had taken a break to find some lunch. Downtown was relatively quiet compared to the hustle and bustle during the week. It was still nice, and the area was mostly inhabited this day by homeless bums. They were sitting on the benches together exaggerating stories about other lives while I slipped in to order at a deli.

I had been eating a little while when an overweight young woman rushed in asking for an employee to dial 911. A guy outside was having a seizure, she said. Meanwhile, I finished my lunch and wandered outside. It was as she said. The three old men that had been sitting in the sunshine laughing and lying to each other had been reduced to two hunched over the third on the ground convulsing.

I milled around, waiting for an ambulance to get there and see that the poor soul recieved some help. Soon, the siren eased into earshot, and I watched it come down the street. We waved to the ambulance directing the paramedics to the epileptic.

As they put the man on a stretcher and into the back of the ambulance and my false sense of philanthropy assuaged, I left, thinking about it all. Certainly, the bum would never pay for any of those health care expenses. Unfortunately, he would probably recieve minimal care too, but he would recieve some care.

What a strange country. We inconvenience ourselves considerably to care for ailing persons, whether BMW drivers protected by their side-impact airbags or panhandlers with alcohol on their breath and not a valuable possession to their name. Whether intentional or not, their lives, despite quality, are afforded dignity. That is a beautiful thing.