Tag Archives: humor

What’s that number for 9-1-1?

BP MonitorI was working in the yard—despite what my neighbors might tell you—when my telephone rang. Now, in my defense, I have a new phone and it takes me a year or two to figure one out. This was no exception. I keep hanging up on people when trying to answer. As it happens, my aversion to talking on the phone is well-known among my friends and family (with whom I have no plan) so I am always suspect when I don’t answer. Sometimes the calls go to voicemail before I can answer. We’ll leave why I prefer texts and emails to another day, although all the other cool kids understand without explanation.

Besides, this neighbor is a person—We’ll call him Edgar—who almost never telephones. He messages me. Not this time.

The long and short of it is that I missed the call, but I saw that it was Edgar so I tried to call back. As I struggled with the dad-burned new-fangled equipment, said neighbor appeared on his front step and shouted to me that he needed my help “for a minute.”

It’s never a minute. That goes without saying—except, apparently in this case. So, that said…I told him that I had to put the dogs in so they wouldn’t follow me across the road. (They mind about as well as my children.)

I herded the dogs into the house and crossed the street to my neighbor’s, where he handed me his house phone and said, “You’ve gotta call 911 for me.”

Let us review:

He telephoned me and then walked out of the house to call to me and then waited while I put the dogs in the house and crossed the road so that I could call 911 for him.

Back to the story.

Remember what I said about figuring out new phones….

Sensing my uselessness, he held out his hand for the phone, typed in 911, and handed it back.

“How do I send?”

He snatched the phone and hit send before handing it back to me.

Someone answered! That was the first thing that had gone right since before I got the first call.

“Good morning,” I said. “We need the Rescue Squad at….”

“Tell them it’s a 69-year-old male with difficulty breathing,” (I also made up the age.)

I repeated what he told me while he called his wife and her sister to tell them what was happening. He explained that his wife was helping her mother who wasn’t feeling well.

The call center said that Rescue was on its way, and Edgar directed me to call another relative I knew. I knew that he would be at work, but I did as he ordered and left a voicemail when he didn’t pickup.

Edgar brandished a boxed pressure monitor at me.

“Do you know how to use this?” he asked.

Of course, I didn’t. I take my own BP every day, a ritual of geezerhood, but my apparatus is a regular cuff attached to a machine. I press a button and the machine does the rest. This looked like a two-inch wrist band with a small monitor attached.

When I tried to wrap it around his upper arm, he snatched it away and said, “It goes here,” attaching it loosely to his wrist.

I began tightening it and he said, “No, it goes this way,” and turned his arm over.

Are you keeping track of how many things I have done right? Because I’m telling you the way Edgar was looking at me said that he was. And he wasn’t impressed.

Another brief recap: He telephoned me and then walked out of the house to call to me and then waited while I put the dogs in the house and crossed the road so that I could call 911 for him. Then he dialed 911, handed me the phone when someone answered, and told me what I was to say. Now I am unable to take his blood pressure, a task I perform on a daily basis, often several times a day.

We pushed the button on the BP cuff and got an error message, so we shifted it, tightened it and pushed the button again. We got an error message. In fact, we got an error message each of the half-dozen times we tried until he ripped it off his wrist and threw it back in the box. I wondered whether the fact that his wrist was about the size of my thigh..when I was heavy…interfered with the device.

His breathing seemed labored, but for a man his size—which was not petite, Edgar probably weighs 325-350—I didn’t think it was particularly disturbing. Of course, I wasn’t the one who was experiencing difficulty breathing.

I should mention that the Rescue Squad is less than a block away, so I kept pacing between Edgar and the window to see what was the what. In the meantime, Edgar seemed to be reaching out and touching everyone on his contact list.

After nearly ten minutes, I saw the Rescue Squad ambulance pass the house…the critical word here is “pass.” And it was going toward the Rescue Squad building.

Edgar called 911 to ask what was going on. The responder said that rescue was en route.

After another five minutes, a Rescue SUV appeared and I stepped onto the stoop to wave. He acknowledged and pulled up in front of the house…well, the next house…the other side of the next house.

When I walked out to meet him as he gathered his equipment, I gave him the basic facts as I knew them and mentioned that I had seen an ambulance pass 5-10 minutes before.

“Yes,” he said. “That was me.”

This was one of those times that so many questions crowded in at once that I found myself saying nothing.

As we walked to the house he explained that the ambulance was out of service, and as he was alone, he brought the SUV because the ambulance would be of no use if he couldn’t transport anyone without someone in back with him.

Okay. I understand.

When his shoulder mic sounded as if it were mixing cement, he said that a unit was coming from Elkton, in the next county, but only about six miles away.

He asked Edgar how he was feeling now, and when Edgar said “A little better,” he asked him to recap what was going on with him.

In addition to what he had told me, Edgar added that he had been to the emergency room two nights before…with difficulty breathing.

The EMT placed an oxygen mask over Edgar’s face, slipped a pulse monitor on his finger and began to slap the cuff on to check his BP, when Edgar pulled off the mask.

“I don’t want that,” he said. “I’m claustrophobic.”

“Okay” the EMT said equably, and I admired his attitude in the face of what I considered rudeness. He pulled breathing cannoli out of his bag and inserted them in Edgar’s nose…wait, I’m being told that they were breathing cannula, not cannoli, which probably makes more sense. Who says that vowels are not important? It also explains why I suddenly feel a bit peckish.

With Edgar’s nose plugged and his mouth free, the EMT asked whether he had an emergency inhaler.

“Yeah,” Edgar said, “but I don’t use it.”

“You don’t use it?” The EMT echoed?

“No, I don’t like it.”

“Is it…?” Well, he said something in Greek or Latin and Edgar said, “I think so.”

Moving on.

“Do you have a list of the medications you’re taking?”

“Yeah, it’s over there,” Edgar said languidly waving one hand in the general direction of the dining room.

The EMT glanced in that direction and apparently decided to move on.

“Oh, I’ll get it,” Edgar said and he pulled the cannoli–whatever—out of his nostrils and began to stand.

“You probably shouldn’t be standing,” the EMT began, as Edgar pulled the sensor off his finger and began to peel the blood pressure cuff from what might be a bicep under all that.

“No that’s all right.”

As he walked, the EMT asked him to tell him more about his ER visit. His lapel mic made that QWERTCH burst again and the EMT, whom I liked more and more as I liked my neighbor less and less, said that he was mistaken: the ambulance was coming from Stanley, about twice as far as Elkton, but it was a mile out.

As Edgar scrabbled through a pile of papers, he explained that he had been told that he had a lot of fluid in his chest and the ER doctor had given his two breathing treatments before releasing him.

He found what he was looking for and, as he lumbered back to the living room, he tossed it on the table and said “There it is,” before regaining his seat on the sofa.

The remarkably, I thought, composed EMT walked back to pick up the list, confirming what was in the emergency inhaler that Edgar doesn’t like to use.

Just an aside: It’s a good thing that I am not an EMT because I felt my blood pressure rising at what I considered consistently rude behavior on my neighbor’s part. I think I might have just unplugged him from everything and said, “You’re on your own, Bud.”

But we were saved from my own rudeness when I saw flashing lights and went out to bring the new EMTs into the house.

As brisk and professional as the first responder, the two newcomers hauled out a gurney and I guided them into the house where EMT-One gave a brisk, professional summary and handed the list of medications to the new arrivals. He handed it to them; he did not throws it on a table and say “There it is.”

I saw the EMTs look at the bulk of Edgar and then at the stretcher, and I didn’t need Jean Dixon to tell me what they were thinking.

“I can walk out,” Edgar volunteered.

“Are you sure,” asked one of the new EMTs, looking hopeful.

“Yeah, I can walk out to the steps.”

And with that they helped him walk to the door and down the steps where they strapped him to the gurney. As they wheeled him to the ambulance, he told them which hospital he wanted to go to, and as they slid him into the back of their rig, I heard him say, “I don’t want that CPAP; I’m claustrophobic.”

And I locked and closed his door, crossed the street to my house, and turned off my phone.

When his relative for whom I left voicemail returned my call, he said that Edgar’s wife would stop at the hospital…when she and her mother were finished with their shopping.


Two households , both alike in dignity– or not

Romeo and Juliet (2016_12_08 14_56_53 UTC)Just Like Romeo and Juliet

While trying to decide what to do when I grew up, I taught high school English, journalism, and drama–for more than 20 years. When my high school became a middle school, I had to learn to shift my focus from masterpieces of literature to “do not stick that pencil in his eye.” Before long, I was transferred to the high school where I learned that the lessons learned are not always what the teacher thought he was teaching.

For example, I learned why I might have better chosen to teach the Scottish play than Romeo and Juliet. At least one of my students seemed to take away a unique lesson from the star-crossed lovers.

When the school was undergoing a dreaded evaluation team visit for Southern States accreditation, the “balcony scene” took on new meaning. Early one morning, a teacher heard noises coming from what should have been a vacant auditorium balcony. Entering, he found two students, one proudly (and manifestly) male, and the other, a female, kneeling in what appeared to be religious adoration of the pillar of flesh that rose before her. Some call it a “compromising” position. What was certain was that the young man enjoyed school, at least for the moment.

Their being at least partially au naturel naturally raised the teacher’s suspicions, even before the male member (and the associated person) bolted, awkwardly pulling up trousers as he—some would say less than gallantly—bolted from the scene, leaving his lady love to face the consequences.

The astute teacher perceived that something was afoot—and something evidently was not—and concluded that the two were not participating in a recognized student activity. Well, he recognized the activity, but it was not formally sanctioned by the drama department, even for team-building.

Calling upon a distaff faculty member to supervise the young lady as she rearrange her clothing—and to guard against her joining the object of her ministrations in rapid retreat, the first teacher gave chase to the gangly youth.

Despite the young man’s entanglements, the teacher, who had not had the same opportunity to warm up, was unsuccessful and the sprinter won what was later termed a one-sided three-legged race.

I heard the story at lunchtime. While various teachers expressed disgust and contempt,  amusement and a soupcon of jealousy lurked beneath their disclaimers. The discussion was among the most animated I ever heard in the faculty room.

Despite the words, jealousy and envy pervaded the conversation, providing a clear subtext.

The incident crossed my mind more than a time or two during the following class. I compared my sexual repression and backwardness throughout junior high and high school—and college and graduate school… and beyond—and was aware that my own annoyance at the lack of self-discipline and judgment was tempered by some degree of amusement and an unhealthy dose of envy. My Catholic condemnation vied with my admiration of their youthful passion and audacity. I was most troubled by the erstwhile Lothario’s abandonment of his lady love, leaving her to face humiliation alone. I could remember no equivalent tale of public display of amorous activity, other than the legendary tale of high school seniors Tommy and Becky in the shallow end of her swimming pool—before the admiring eyes of Becky’s younger brother and his friends from a covert coin d’avantage.

As students worked, I was circulating through the classroom when my attention was drawn to a student who was intently writing what appeared to be a lengthy note. Two factors contributed to his drawing my attention: First, as he was devilishly handsome and charming and not known for applying himself assiduously to his work, the intensity of his writing was out of character. Second, he looked up too frequently with eyes filled with mingled innocence and anxiety. Innocents don’t continually scan the area for observers.

I suspect that he saw my eyes light up. Notes are the single most exciting way for aging and listless teachers to catch up on gossip. They give up the goods without forcing teachers to admit to interest in the more lurid aspects of student life.

Gently sliding the note from the desk of the student, whose now bug- eyes revealed something a few degrees beyond abject terror, I told the young man that I would save the missive to savor at leisure. He released his grip and resignedly slid down in his chair.

During the next period, my planning period, I discovered the forgotten note when I opened my drawer. Making a student squirm for inattentiveness might break up the routine, but the thrill passes quickly, and I usually dispose of them unread. I drew it from the drawer and my hand hovered over the waste basket before curiosity moved me to open it.

The prose appropriately defined purple. In lurid and lascivious detail, Romeo revisited his most delicious memories from the morning’s tryst in the balcony. My non-sleuthing had revealed the identity of the (unsatisfied and fleet-footed) mystery cad. This was more invigorating than breaking up a fight between mean girls. And far safer.

After reading the note a dozen or so times to be sure that it was the evidence I suspected of the, um unlawful entry—and to commit some of the better turns of phrase to memory to substitute for my own relatively drab and dull existence, I cut along to share the wealth with the administrator charged with investigating the balcony caper. (Who says that school is dull?)

He purposefully donned his reading glasses with his wonted air of resignation and bored tolerance. (He always purposefully donned his reading glasses, as if it were a stage direction to self: “”purposefully don reading glasses.”) I saw his eyebrows dance a quick jig and his eyes widened as drops of perspiration formed on his upper lip. His eyes flicked to mine at intervals. I mentally reviewed the procedure for cardiac resuscitation, should the need arise.

I believed that it was right—in fact, my only responsible option—to share the note with administrator, but in my heart, I knew that I was sadly exhilarated at breaking the most scintillating case we had had at school in memory. And the associate principal was the only one with whom I could justify sharing it. Showing it to anyone else would have been unprofessional and inappropriate. I was aware that I felt more excited than was healthy, and visions of Major Burn’s sneering tattling danced a pathetic ballet in the shadows of my mind.

Recall that we were under the scrutiny of a visiting team whose purpose was to find fault with our school. That is the only fun in serving on an accreditation team. Therefore, it is no surprise that faculty had been sternly admonished to keep a tight lid on the scandal while our visitors were on-site.

When the initial excitement wore off, the administrator decided that both students should be removed from school until the scandal died down and they had a chance to collect themselves, so he suspended both of them for ten days.

This must be scanned.

That it might be a mistake was evident from the moment the students were informed and the boy sat up straight and grinned, his dimples prominent. They looked at each other and, although they tried to suppress their glee, the corners of the young lady lips definitely rose in a demure smile. The prospect of having to spend the next ten days alone together did not appear to depress their collective spirit.

They appeared eager to get on with their punishment with all due haste, and I doubt that it was coincidence that, while Juliet left the office with averted eyes, Romeo left the office with his literature book held in front of him.

Their return at the end of two weeks saw them as relaxed and happy as a couple fresh from their honeymoon, and their stature among peers was clearly elevated.

As the subplot of this affair had been keeping the accrediting team ignorant of the embarrassing incident, faculty and staff had been warned not to breathe a word of extracurricular activity in the balcony. (The etymology of “obscene” sprang, unbidden, to mind.) The visiting team was concluding its examination, and we breathed a collective and metaphorical sigh of relief at our success in keeping the secret from the grown-ups…visiting team. Tension among the school staff was almost palpable. The principal was unwontedly stiff and unsmiling.

The faculty gathered in the auditorium for a summary of the team’s findings; the principal’s face seemed rigidly set as we approached the study’s climax. (I heard it.) Before a tense and silent faculty, the chairman solemnly intoned that after considerable deliberation the team had decided not to include a recommendation to  install cots in the balcony.

The stillness of the room was broken with a whoompf of faculty guffaws, and the crimson glow emanated from the vicinity of the principal, spreading from his neck to his hairline.

It probably says more about my own maturity–or lack thereof– that although I did what I thought I had to, I carried a niggling sense of having betrayed a young man of whom I was very fond. We have remained in contact in the 40-plus years since, but never in four decades have we alluded to that incident, although I often wonder whether he thinks about it when we talk.

Certainly, it has not entered my mind since.