- I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity and privacy I've changed the names of individuals and sometimes places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics, so the people described do not necessarily reflect the actual person or persons involved. Incidents and situations are as I recall.
- Swearing happens. I have used, and will use, some words that some people might find offensive.
Ambulance post 9)
I’d been in the job a few weeks now, and although I was still a bit jumpy when the phone rang, I was starting to get used to the station and the ways of my colleagues. Nowadays all I did was to momentarily twitch - if I had a cup of tea in my hand at the time, then at least I had a spare pair of trousers in the locker.
I was working a late shift, a three to eleven. My colleague was on overtime as my regular crewmate was on leave. It was Denny, the old hand, who could be relied upon not to turn a hair at any incident, however serious.
I was out in the kitchen making tea as we had just come back from picking up an old lady who had fallen out of bed and couldn’t get up. It was a pretty quick job. Turn up, open door with the key hanging on a piece of string through the letter box, walk in, take a deep breath (had been there before and the place stunk) pick old lady up, clean the urine of our hands, and hurry back to station. Job done.
The kettle was boiling nicely and I had flung the teabags in the cups when the phone rang again. Denny picked it up as he was the attendant for the shift.
‘Come on Clive, we got a job,’ he shouted, as the phone rattled back down. ‘Collapse in a restaurant in town.’
It was about eight thirty in the evening, cold, wet, dark and miserable. I pulled the ambulance from out of the bay and as soon as Denny jumped on we headed off, blue lights reflecting off the rain which was now coming down in torrents. Fortunately we hadn’t got far to go, just up the road to the high street, turn a right and then over the traffic lights. A couple of hundred yards later we saw someone standing with an umbrella trying to wave us down.
Denny picked up the radio and told control we were there. ‘731 in attendance red.’ And then he slammed the handset back down onto its cradle.
We both stood at the side of the road while the manager of the restaurant decided to tell us all about it. Water was dripping off us both and Denny, who was normally as patient as a saint, decided that he’d already had enough of getting soaked and walked off into the restaurant. The manager took one look at me, looked down his nose, and then hurried after Denny who was at that moment trying to shake the wet off his uniform. The people sitting at nearby tables were getting an impromptu shower, but then it got worse as I came through the door and did the same.
‘What’s the problem?’ asked Denny, getting things back on track. ‘Where’s the patient?’
The manager pointed to the back of the room where a few diners were standing up and looking down on something lying on the floor. Denny shouldered the response bag and led the way over while I scurried behind with the oxygen.
Most of the diners had had their appetite momentarily curtailed as the drama at the back continued to unfurl, though a few diehards were ignoring everything and continued to eat as if nothing was going on.
‘Hello mate,’ shouted Denny can you hear me?’
I craned my head around and saw a fifty-something year old man lying in the recovery position. He was wearing a tired looking suit and had greasy dark hair. Fortunately he appeared to be breathing normally.
The manager told us that the gentleman had just finished eating when he suddenly groaned and collapsed to the floor. He appeared to have a fit of some description and then went still.
Denny nodded sagely as the story was told and then bent down and began to examine our patient. The manager turned to me and started to repeat everything again, whether it was for my benefit or for the patrons in the restaurant, I didn’t know, but he was evidently enjoying being centre stage.
Suddenly the door opened and in walked Reg, the police officer who spent more time at the ambulance station than we did. He was always there cadging tea, and once, when he didn’t answer his radio, a police vehicle was sent down to us in order to find him. ‘Hello boys,’ he said. ‘You alright? Saw the motor outside and thought I’d see what’s going on.’
Denny turned his head and grinned. He finished his examination and then stood up. ‘Hello Reg,’ he replied. ‘This could be one for you; I reckon it’s just up your street.’
‘Oh? Why’s that then?’
Denny turned to the manager. ‘Has he paid?’ he asked with a resigned sigh.
The manager shook his head. ‘No, he’d only just finished the meal. I hope it isn’t something he’s eaten.’
‘Could be,’ replied Denny mischievously. ‘Or it could be that he hasn’t got any money.’ He turned to look down at the patient. ‘Ain’t that right my son,’ he yelled.’ If you don’t get up I’m going to have to check your reaction to pain. Your choice.’
The patient didn’t move, but Reg did. He looked at Denny, looked at the man on the floor, and then looked back at Denny. He too then grinned. ‘Well I never, if it isn’t Thomas. Hello Thomas. You up to your old tricks again?’ Reg turned to the manager. ‘This particular gentleman will not be going to hospital. Where he will be going, unless he pulls out his wallet, is a nice comfy cell at the station.’
The patient stirred. ‘Wha..? Where am I? What’s going on?’ He opened his eyes and looked around and then tried to get up, making a remarkable instant recovery.
Reg leant forward to help, grabbing him around the arm and yanking him to his feet. ‘Don’t take the piss Thomas,’ he hissed into his ear. ‘You got any money?’
Thomas looked at Reg as if weighing up his options but then realised that he was caught between a rock and a hard place. He was either going to have to pay up or spend another night in the police cells. He really didn’t have a choice. Reluctantly, he paid up, the angry diners and restaurant staff ready to wring his neck.
The manager was furious, but he was only a long line of restaurant managers who had fallen for the trick. Thomas had outstayed his welcome in the eateries of Hemel as he’d been plying the ruse regularly there over the last few weeks. Concluding that it might be a good move to have a break, he decided to move over to Berko to try his luck there. The idea was to eat the dinner and then fake a collapse and hope that the staff would conveniently forget the bill as he would ask to be taken outside for some air. He had also fooled an ambulance crew, who took him to hospital only to have him do a runner as soon as they pulled up outside the A & E. Denny wasn’t fooled and knew that Thomas was trying it on, something that I would have to learn pretty quickly.
Reg had come across him a couple of weeks before when doing a shift in Hemel, one reason why Thomas decided to move towns. It was poetic that Reg followed us in just then!