The show must go on


Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode, I know it has been a while, I have been busier than a 1 legged man in an ass-kicking contest. In fact, I am procrastinating doing the work I need to get done today to write this. I am also for the first time writing it directly to the page, instead of in MS word first. Hopefully it will cut down on the errors that always creep up from the copy and paste.

I was planning on doing a piece about diversity, and I suspect that is still going to happen, but my serene thoughts on being a perpetual outsider stuck between countries and cultures will have to wait. For now I am beset upon by a recent event clogging up my Facebook page.

That’s right…EMS bingo… It’s an old joke, it’s been around for ages, I laughed at it years ago, I laugh at it when friends post it, I laugh at it now…

I have been involved with emergency services and medicine for probably far too long. It takes a toll on me everyday. I am not sure if I love it or I am addicted to it, or some combination there of. But what is certain is that I am not leaving it, so my introspection, different way of looking and seeing life, and gallows humor that hold nothing sacred will continue…

But what will also continue is my self-censorship in not making “normal” people suffer my gallows humor. You see, most of the people I know are involved in the same jobs and profession I am. I recognize we are not “normal” people by any stretch of the imagination. We have seen too much, we have done too much.

As such, our outlook on life, our jokes, etc. can seem cold, inappropriate, sarcastic, and even down right uncaring and mean. It is part of what we need to cope, and I am no exception. (probably for the first time ever I am no exception).

Having said all of that…Keep it in the group… There is no need for our material to be on public display. Once more, every time it becomes so, we start to lose sight of the sarcasm and/or humor and start to believe that it is acceptable to those outside of our little circle. Some even come to believe it as “ok” to behave or say the things that were meant to be an insiders dark humor.

It’s not ok

Whether you are a firefighter, police officer, paramedic, nurse, doctor, or title I left out here, your (our) job is not to be the moral enforcers of society. It is not to ridicule the misfortunate. It is not to pretend like we are heroes who expect the public to not only worship us, but show proper fealty.

When I was younger, I would sit with my grandfather on weekends and watch war movies with him. He fought in WWII, in the 11th Airborne, in the Pacific theatre. He didn’t frequently speak about his experience, and when he did, it was usually only 1 or 2 lines that came out in the form of wisdom. It wasn’t until after he died that we came to know even a small part of his story, which included almost every major battle, rescuing POWs from Japanese POW camps, and being the first unit to see (and take pictures) of the devastation of Hiroshima.

Many times, I accompanied him to where he liked to hang out on Fridays nights. A local bar (pub) or the veterans club he belonged to. Generally he would have a couple of beers, mostly paid for by others who wanted to do something nice for him, and playing on the pseudo-bowling machine he called “shuffleboard.”

When around these people, they talked, laughed, joked, drank, and played. I never really understood their jokes. They never really told stories, but it was obvious they all shared a very strong bond and understanding.

I would often wonder why he never spoke of his experience when he was alive and why he would watch the same war movies 100 times every time one came on during our Saturday time. I didn’t understand while all week he would watch ever episode and re-run of MASH. (which means I also watched all those movies and MASH episodes).

Some years later I came to understand. When you share the experience of Fire, EMS, Nursing, Critical Care medical disciplines, and even war, you see, do, and understand things and the world in a way others cannot imagine. In was best said in the movie “The Matrix”

“Millions of people…living out their lives…Oblivious.”

“Ignorance is bliss”, there is a lot of truth to that. People want to be ignorant. They want to believe the people who care for them in their time of need are perfect heroes. The epitome of upstanding, caring, professionals. They don’t care about you, what we (must) do to cope, how we must feel, or even that suffering and death are a daily occurrence for us.

They have an image of what we are. We must put on a show. When it is game time, we get in character. With our masks on, we can be what they expect us to be. Empathetic, compassionate, all-knowing, all-capable. Without fault or flaw, the perfect example of healthcare/emergency professional.

So don’t forget that in public, you must put on the show. You must appear to be what they imagine and expect. The dark humor and sarcasm, the mental and emotional effects that are suffered, the knowledge, understanding, and even foresight, that has become an intrinsic part of us; is to be shared in private. With people who have experienced the same. With people who understand without speaking. Drinking our drinks, eating our meals, and playing our games, to find the camaraderie and strength to get through the day.

Like my grandfather and his generation, so too do we find ourselves not only protecting the public at large from the evils and misfortunes of this world, we find ourselves protecting them from the knowledge and experience of it too.

Don’t post that stuff where people outside the circle can see it! You won’t find warmth, compassion, or sympathy. You will be seen as the person that shattered the illusion of the blissfully and willfully ignorant. You will be persecuted and perhaps even prevented from going to work tomorrow. When that happens, you will find yourself without the support or even recognition of being a peer of the group that made you who you are today. Save it for the break rooms, the closed doors, the unspoken understanding of your peers. The public should see only the mask, because that is all they want to see.