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Working as a paramedic, I am trained to save lives. Unfortunately, to do this sometimes I have to risk my own by sharing the road with some of the homicidal maniacs we all share the road with each day. Every time I respond to a call with the ambulance lights and sirens activated, I feel as if I am playing Russian Roulette and tempting the God of motor vehicle accidents to catch up with me. He has three weapons in his arsenal:
First there is what I like to call the Braker. The Braker is a motorist who at first may seem just like you or me. You may even be sitting next to a Braker right now. But somehow he sheds his mild-mannered exterior and becomes a pedal punching demon when behind the wheel of his car. Perhaps it is caused by the hypnotic pattern of the siren’s wail or the psychedelic flicker of the lights, but the Braker becomes a creature of deceleration that throws out conventional physics and jams his brakes on at the first sign of an ambulance. Instead of yielding to the right and allowing an ambulance to pass (which is the law) he suddenly, and without warning stands on the brakes leaving a smoking trail of skid marks in his wake like a giant Etch-a-Sketch. This causes all those behind him to test their reflexes (as well as their brakes) to prevent their vehicles from having some perverted form of metallic intercourse on the highway. Next is the Ambulance Chaser. No, I am not referring to lawyers; this name applies literally. Some people, for reasons unknown to me, revel in the sight of an ambulance and make it their mission to follow as closely as possible. They follow us through red lights and stop signs as if we were one large caravan. This is particularly dangerous as most cars seldom yield to ambulances with emergency warning devices and are almost guaranteed to collide with the Chasers. Not only do they risk getting hit by other drivers, they risk running into the ambulance. If we have to come to a sudden stop (perhaps due to an errant Braker) we will be rear ended by these codependent drivers. Ambulances should not have Chevy enemas…it is NOT a pretty sight.
Finally is my pet peeve: the Zoner. The Zoner is named such because he is certainly in a different zone; and we assume that the air is thin in the zone because evidence of his hypoxia is present in his driving. Nothing frustrates the operators of emergency vehicles more than these notorious drivers. I can always spot a Zoner three or four cars ahead. Our lights are on, our sirens are blaring, some people are actually trying not to kill us, and then there he is…the Zoner. He is tooling along (exactly six miles per hour slower than the posted speed limit) never once looking into his mirrors, totally oblivious to our presence. Sometimes I wonder if Zoners are actually subjects of a secret governmental experiment in sensory deprivation. Most of the time these drivers turn out to be blue-haired ladies, who from behind appear only as a set of knuckles upon a steering wheel and haven’t heard right since the Johnson administration. But sometimes they are young and just staring off with the radio blaring. All Zoners have a capacity to annoy that rivals the gnat. Once, while responding to a chest pain call, I found myself stuck behind a Zoner. I tried several times to gain the attention of this driver but without success. After blowing the air horn failed, I grabbed the P.A. microphone and began questioning the driver’s sanity, vision, and the diversity of the genetic material in his lineage. Not exactly the poster child for professionalism, but you must understand–a Zoner was involved. So I implore you, the next time you see those big, flashing, red lights and hear that blaring siren, please yield safely to the right. The life you save may be my own!
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