Chaos. Complete and Utter Chaos

When I event manage, I like things to go to plan. I have spent ages developing a fairly standard way to run an event that works really nicely for me, and tries to anticipate everything that could happen. And nine times out of ten it works, and everything is nicely relaxed, and it’s all good. And then you get those things you just can’t plan for.

I’m running a student event, the basic night out with loud music and plenty of alcohol. I’ve planned for alcohol intoxication and poisoning, fights, stiletto injuries, even drug overdoses (thankfully rare at this University). I have eight first aiders, so plenty of staff, and so far all we’ve had is the usual run of drunk students who started the night a little too fast. I’ve got two people in the hall, being highly visible in high-viz, two caring for our patients, and four more ready and waiting for the next job.

I get a call from the team in the hall. They’ve been called to a patient in the toilets. I acknowledge, and send a team to cover their spot. Another call comes in from campus security. They’ve had reports of someone whose hurt themselves in the car park. It’s not technically our area, but I want security on side, so dispatch the other team I have with me. I go to peak around the corner at our patients, but draw up short when I hear the distinctive sound of vomiting. They’ll be tied up for a while yet.

The team at the toilets checks in, saying they’ve got to the patient and will advise when they know more. All normal. I try to raise the other team, but they’re not talking to me. Probably out of range, no great stress. They have my mobile number.

The first aid room is still, filled only with the quiet reassurance being poured out by the team with their patients.  I like it when it’s like this.  A gentle busyness that says we’re doing our job properly.

A static filled message fills my ear.  “Control, Control, 412, over.”

“Go ahead, 412″

“Control, we’re on scene at a *fuzz*TC.  We’re *fuzz crackle* a hand, and the *hiss*lice.”

I take a mental double take, looking at my radio in confusion.  “Sorry 412, say again.  Did you say you were at an RTC?”

“*hiss crackle* yes, Control.”

“Do you need an ambulance?”

“No *hiss crackle*nor injuries only, all *crackle*afe.  Need a couple more ha*hiss*s.”

“All received, 921.  Contact the police directly, I’ll warn security, and will send someone your way as soon as I can.”

“*hiss crackle*oger, control.”

I’m still a little confused, but make arrangements for the police to get on campus, and dispatch my team in the hall as backup.  In the back of my mind, I make plans about how I’ll deal with another patient, if they turn up.  In my head I have a wonderful idea of how I’ll pull a team back from the RTC, perhaps send one of my people treating in the room next door to replace them.  Hopefully the toilet call will just be another drunk who can be added to the group to be monitored.

“Priority, priority, control 922.”  My wonderful plans flee my mind.  Bollocks.

“Go ahead 922, you have priority.”

“One patient, male toilets, conscious  breathing, chest…”  The radio cuts off, and I have images of a first aider diving to catch a patient that’s just collapsed.  I’m around the corner to the treatment area in a flash, and grab one of the first aider’s attention.

“922, 922 say again.  Confirm you said chest pains in the male toilets, over.”   My colleague looks at me and I nod and point.  He’s off in a blur, stopping only to grab the O2 and AED bags.  I dive into my pocket for my phone.  “922, 922 from Control, over…  922, 922 from Control. Over.”  Silence.  “Nothing heard, 922.  Backup en-route   Control out.”  I curse under my breath.  This was not the time to lose contact with a team.  I want to phone 921, get them to send a team back to me, but don’t want to risk missing a call from 922.  I curse again.  Of all the things I had considered, the combo of an RTC and a chest pains was not one of them, particularly as I’m now completely out of staff.  Things have now officially gone to pot, and there’s nothing I can do except take a deep breath and roll with it.

“Control, Control, 922.”  This is a new voice, the backup I sent taking charge of the radio.  I grab my mic, other hand poised over the 9 key on my phone.  “Go ahead 922, Control over.”

“Stop. Stop. Stop.  Situation under control.  Returning to your location, over.”

“922, confirm that assistance is not required please, over.”

“That is a yes yes, control.  Mobile to your location.”

“Glad to hear it, 922, I look forward to it.  Control out.”  My sigh of relief is loud enough to get a smile from the last remaining first aider in the treatment area.  She grins at me over the head of a vomiting bloke.  I grin back and then look back at my phone when it buzzes a text.  921 was clear as well, and heading back to the first aid room.  I smile again to myself, everything was going to plan again.

I do like it when things go to plan.


This post was written from a prompt on The Daily PostComfort Zone

Torn

I’ve only known you for a couple of years, but you’ve become quite a close friend.  You were the one I called when I was upset over having to leave my Youth unit.  You were the one I ranted to when my line manager put me in an impossible situation.  You were the one who came to me first when my (now, but not then) ex-boyfriend was spreading rumours about me behind my back, and you only grinned and bore it when I accidentally dropped you in it when I dumped him.  You were also the one who teased me incessantly when a guy I really don’t get on with was flirting with me all evening, and even asked me out on a date, and I didn’t even realise.

And despite all this, sometimes you really drive me up the wall.  You’ve just left the Organisation because you’ve fallen out with a number of the new leaders.  I think that this is a silly reason to leave,  and I tried to persuade you not to, but ultimately you’re a volunteer and it’s your choice.  And since you left, you haven’t stopped spouting off, in public I hasten to add, about how it’s all going to go wrong.  You even posted this feeling on Twitter, immediately after one of our colleagues announced that he’d been given a new role within the Organisation.  It was blatantly obvious what you were on about, you weren’t even slightly vague about.  (I’ve already written about how much this annoys me, so I’m not going to labour the point.)

The bit that gets me really cross, however, is what you’ve been complaining about.  Specifically, about how you didn’t appreciate being pulled up on not doing certain activities within the Organisation because you’ve had other commitments.  Now, this is a fair complaint, and I’d have no problem with it, if you hadn’t been doing the same thing to another group of members only months ago.  I have a distinct memory of you berating a student committee for not sending people to events, because they’ve been busy with their university work (and weren’t even qualified), all after I had spent ages reminding them all that they were at University to get a degree, not to do first aid.

Now this attitude annoyed me at the time.  It caused me to have to send one person home to go do their essay which was due the next day (that was one of those, you will be going home now moments I hate).  It also caused one of their (still unqualified) members to be left on their own at an event, because I was running late (and having a near panic attack in case they got called on) and I was the only qualified member going to the event.  Now it’s infuriating, as you’re bitching about someone doing the same to you, and to make it worse, I don’t even think you can see it.

Of cause, there’s no point me discussing this with you, because it will just cause an argument, and I really can’t be doing with that at the moment.  And I care about you dearly, and definitely don’t want to fall out with you over this.   I’ll just have to keep my thoughts in my head, for the moment, and resist the urge to tell you precisely what I think.

And people wonder why I’m not the most sociable person in the world…

 

The Times They Are a-Changin’

Wow, been a while since I’ve been on here…  Excuse me while I dust of the cobwebs, and begin again with a bit of a rant.

Okay, rapid catch-up:  A few months ago, The Organisation went through a bit of a restructure, from Counties to Regions.  The basic idea (as far as I can see) was to save some money, by cutting back on some of the admin staff and other things that could be merged and getting rid of things we don’t really need, and to help standardise things across the country.  The former is a very laudable goal, if a bit distant from much of the membership, who never really saw the extent of the financial trouble we were in.  The latter I think is almost essential.  As an organisation, we have had one qualification meaning a hundred different things across the county (sometimes from one unit to another), and that’s just not good enough.

As part of the first goal, budgets were centralised and management of money has moved up a level or two in the leadership structure, and this has caused my first rant.  Let me get this clear, I’m not particularly in favour of this change, but I can see how, with a bit of shift in the way we think about things, it could be a good thing.  There is no way we could carry on with people spending more money than they were bringing in, and some people refused to take responsibility for their own budgets.  Now they don’t have to.  The idea is that, if there is a legitimate need for something, and the money to afford it, the Region will pay for it.  I can see how this could go wrong, but properly dealt with (from all levels), this could be a good thing.

Now here’s the bit that bugs me: we have had a rash of people crying ‘they’re taking away our money!’  and ‘now we’ll do all the work and they’ll get all the benefit!’  I could understand it a little from of the members who haven’t had things explained to them very well, but from some of the leaders, who I swear are just refusing to understand, this isn’t good enough.  It was never ‘our money’ or ‘your money’ or ‘my money’.  It is the Organisation’s money.  It is charitable funds that have we have to use to pursue our charitable goals.  End. Of. Story.

Now, foolishly, in the past, I’ve tried to explain to people how the ‘them doing all the work’ business probably won’t happen.  After all, the people doing all the first aid, and bringing in all the money from events, they will be the people who need the uniforms, the consumables and access to vehicles.  If people aren’t going out to events, what are they going to use the money on?  Of cause, they don’t listen, and I’m beginning to think this is because they’ve got their heart set on being annoyed by the changes.

Which brings me on to my next point.  This is a significant change in the way we work and the way we will have to approach practically everything we do.  Change will always meet resistance, and it will always upset people.  This isn’t an excuse to treat people badly, and it’s quite possible that some people have been treated less than ideally.  There have also been some controversial decisions made by many people (past and present), and someone will always take these personally, whatever the intentions behind them.  If you’re unhappy, that’s fine (er… you know what I mean…).  I’ll quite happily sit down with you, let you rant away to a listening ear sympathetic ear if you think it will help you. (I’m getting good at letting such things wash over me…)  I just don’t think that mouthing off about each other in public is helpful.  Especially given that it looks so one-sided (the ‘bad-guys’, so to speak, are being quite reserved in public).  All you’re achieving is winding some people up (which I’m beginning to think is your intention) and alienating others, and the last thing we need right now is division.  It doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that perhaps, if we tried to pull together, to change things and allow ourselves to change, maybe things would start working a little sooner.

Maybe I’m hopelessly idealistic or naïve.  Perhaps this is all a disaster waiting to happen and I just can’t see it.  Or perhaps it’s just another challenge, and we’ll come out stronger on the other side.  More importantly we’re only just three months into this new structure.  We can’t expect everything to fall into place straight away.  And it won’t be perfect, because nothing is, and that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth working for.

Just because there’s no light at the end of the tunnel yet, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Time to do Something New

Nearly three years ago now, I responded to a plea for help from Mrs BigPara to help her get the local Youth Unit back on its feet again after their last leader abruptly left. I was a unit leader, disillusioned by the constant battles to get things done at my unit, looking for something new to do, but stuck in my role until Easter.

About four months later, after stepping down from my leader role, I transferred to the Youth Unit, and took on the secretary role. I learnt how to march, how to parade, how to stand up and hold the attention of ten to twenty 10-18 year olds. I built up my confidence, going from the timid helper with no clue about teaching, to a confident (ish) leader.

A year down the line I became the Leader, and worked hard to make the unit my own. It took time and energy, perhaps more than I should have spared from my degree, but it paid off. I had a full unit with young people who always made me proud.

And then I graduated from university, and got a real job as an engineer. Out of necessity, I moved from UniTown to BigCity, and the far side at that. Suddenly the unit I could get to without a problem became an hour’s train journey from home. And the easy cycle home became the risky game of ‘catch the last train’. I never got caught out, but some nights it got mighty close. I’ve had more than one mad rush from platform to platform to make my connection.

I stuck with it. I didn’t want to let the unit down.

A couple of months of this wore me out. Too many late nights and sleepy days at work. I still didn’t want to let them down, but I couldn’t carry on.

A little over a month ago, with lots of deliberation, and more than a little upset, I put in my notice. The end of the year, I said, and then no more.

It felt like a dive off a cliff. A load of stressing and building up courage, and then nothing. Free fall.

A month passed, making plans for the future. Doing my best to keep things going till I left, then smoothing over the join. Business as usual, to a point.

Then, all of a sudden, it was our last night. Our Christmas party. An excuse to do not a lot, and to socialize. I spent a lot of time getting the next leader sorted, then went to chat to the kids. I didn’t spend as much time with them as I should have, but I got a lot done. I hope that my work will have smoothed over the transfer.

And now I have a little work left over, and then done. A youth leader no more.

And it’s a bit strange. I fully expected a lurch as it all finished, a final thud as I hit the ground. Instead it just feels, well, finished, I suppose. After all the stress of handover, I’m done, and while I’m sad, it still feels almost right. I’ve played my part, built it up, and now it’s time to let someone else take it further.

And now I need to find something else to do. I’ve still got all the clinical work I do, the service delivery as it’s now named. I’ve become increasingly active as an ambulance crew. Also, part of me itches to take on a new management role. There is the rumor that there is a cycle response leadership role coming up, which has captured my attention. It’s still only a rumour, but if it does materialise, I am definitely going to think users about applying. After all I have grumbled about our past leadership, I think it’s time I put my money where my mouth is and actually put into practice what I have been preaching over the last 18 months.

I’ve also got a hundred other things I want to do, now I’ve hopefully got a little more flexibility in my schedule. I’ve not been able to get back into my music since I started being a leader in the Organisation. I’ve got my eye on a local wind band that may take me on, but I need to get back into practice first. I’ve got a year until I can properly settle back into something like that, so plenty of time to do some work…

I’m also looking into starting at the gym. I’m not in too bad shape, but I am now doing a desk job and don’t have a twenty-minute cycle commute anymore. I want to work on my strength a bit (I can’t really avoid lifting when doing ambulance work) and my general fitness, and this seems the best way for the moment.

How long it will all last remains to be seen, but it looks like a lot of new things for the New Year. These could be interesting times…

And, for no other reason than because I’m listening to it right now, I’ll leave you with Snow Patrol:

Perspective

Now I’ve been qualified to crew an ambulance for more than a year, I’m able to go out and do shifts for the ambulance service.  I’ve been hoping to do this for quite a while, but equally been a bit nervous, as I haven’t really got that much experience working in the back of an ambulance.

I’ve managed to get on three shifts so far, and to say they are have been eye-openers would be the understatement of the century.  Aside from the tedium of quite a large amount of time waiting for things to do (apparently everyone had q word shifts those days…), I got to see a few things I would have seen as a volunteer at events.

Two particular patients stuck in my mind.  I’ll be honest, I can’t remember their names, or their faces, but their stories, as I saw them, will remain with me for a long time.

One old lady.  She had a stroke a couple of years ago, leaving her paralysed down one side, weak on the other, unable to speak beyond ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and bed bound.  She needed round-the-clock care, had a catheter in-situ and was peg fed.  She was going into hospital because she had developed a wheeze (which was not a good sign, as it could potentially be pneumonia).

She was obviously loved and cared for.  Her daughters (not young themselves) spent a huge amount of time looking after her and making sure she was as healthy as they could manage.

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that this is no real quality of life.  I can’t imagine being stuck in bed for the rest of my life, never to care for myself again, never even to speak properly again.  Stuck in my head with no way of getting out.  It’s certainly not something I’d wish on anyone.

My other patient was a 90-something year old man, the last job of the day.  Living on his own, he had been highly active, right up until the last month or so.  He had been experiencing complete lethargy, loss of appetite  and a whole host of other generalised symptoms, and his doctor decided that he would need to go in to be checked over in the ward.  In the past he had been diagnosed with some cancer or another, and his children feared this was a return of that condition.

Even getting him to the ambulance wore him out, and transferring him to the ward drained him so much he was practically asleep when he hit his bed.

My crew-mate and I made him comfortable, made sure he had everything he needed, handed over to the ward’s nurses, and then walked slowly back to the ambulance.  The depression over us was almost palpable, and at almost the same moment we both said, “He’s not coming out again.”

Normally, I meet people who are generally healthy, and just need a little patching up to move on their way.  Okay, I’ve seen the odd person with a serious medical condition, and the occasionally seriously injured patient, but almost everyone I had dealt with before had very good prognoses.  On these two shifts, I saw what is likely to be the end times of their lives, something I will hopefully never have to see when delivering event cover.  I just hope I was able to make what could have been one of their final journeys as comfortable as possible.

Slightly Surreal

It’s the end of the world, the zombie apocalypse.  BigCity is full of zombies and people trying to get past them to safety.  And what am I doing during at the end of the world as we know it? I’m sat astride my response bike, watching it all happen.

This is 2.8 Hours Later, and the aim of the game is to get from check point to check point without being caught by the zombies.  We’re providing first aid cover, ready and waiting for the inevitable slips, trips, falls, and out right head on collisions.  Needless to say, the event is hilarious to watch, and it appears the players are loving it as well.

We get a patient, one of the zombies.  We ask the typical questions, get a medical history (‘so how long have you been dead?’), all while keeping an eye open for the next batch of players to sprint down the high street.  In the corner of the square, a busker is setting up his guitar and amp, another person going about his business while the world ends around him.

We here the next group running, so we cyclists dodge out of sight, while our zombie friend lurches to hide in a phone box.  The running steps slow and stop, and we can just see the group looking down at their map to work out where to go next.  They wonder down the high street, paying far too much attention to the piece of paper in their hands, and not their surroundings.

A groan, a blur of speed from the zombie, and then screams as the group scatters, desperately keeping out of his reach.  The whole group races past where CycleGuy and I are hiding, barely missing the posts we’re propped up behind, intent only on avoiding the zombie on their collective tails.

And in the background, music drifts over from the corner…

Calling in the Cavalry

You are not well. In fact, it’s safe to say you are very unwell.

We are on both in the road, me sat, you lying, with my bike stood in a fend of position, blue lights beaming out a warning to all around. This is not a fun place to stay, but I’ve got no choice. You have just finished fitting for the second time in ten minutes, and I have no way of getting you somewhere safe without injuring one of us.

The person who flagged me down has wandered off, muttering something about leaving it to the professionals. This is a nuisance, as I could really do with another pair of hands. I have a coat under your head, a blanket draped over the rest of you (now you won’t strangle yourself with it), and my radio microphone in my hand. This is the bit I really want. Two fits in a row is not a great sign, and my instincts say your going to do it again. Somewhere on the way down you seem to have bashed your head, you have road rash on your bare legs and arms (it had been a hot day, a lovely time to go to the beach), and I haven’t even attempted to check you for anything else between fits. I really need help, and I really need it now.

The problem is, there’s nothing available. We have over half our local fleet on the road, and every one of them is busy. It’s so busy I can’t even start talking on the radio to give Control an update (and to try to get an ETA on that vehicle).

A gap forms in the radio chatter, and I draw a breath to start talking. Naturally, this is the moment you begin to fit again. Immediately the mic is dropped, the blanket is whipped away, and I check your head is still safe. Grabbing the mic on its upswing, I cut in on a pause in the current conversation.

“Priority, priority, Control 992.” I release the mic to hear someone talking over me. Blast. Keeping both eyes on my shaking patient, I try again. “Priority, priority, Control 992″

“All stations, wait. Priority call. Go ahead 992.”

“Control, upgrade my ambulance request to emergency. Patient unresponsive, actively convulsing, query status epilepticus.” I technically haven’t been on scene long enough to make that judgement, but every instinct I have says that these fits aren’t going to go away on their own.

“All received 992. Be advised, NHS vehicle en route. Please confirm precise location.” I give a little prayer to any passing deity, thanking them for shared ambulance control rooms.

“Location unchanged. Bike in fend off location, you can’t miss me.”

“All received 992. Control out.”

The radio conversation that had been going on before continued, and I mentally switched off to the radio, listening only for my call-sign. Once more you’ve stopped fitting, and once more I cover you with my blanket, pouring reassurances over you that you are safe and that help is on its way. I don’t know if you can hear me through the chaos the fits have reigned in your brain, but if nothing else it makes me feel better to do something.

In the distance I hear a siren. I’ve heard a few going to and fro, but this one is definitely getting nearer. It is the most welcome noise I’ve heard all evening, well, after the heavy sighs coming from you when I checked your breathing. The junction down the road fills with the glow of blue lights, and an RRV comes around the corner. Getting down close to you, to check your obs one more time, I speak to both myself and you. “This one’s yours, mate. The cavalry’s here.”

Sound effect from Freesound.org, by guitarguy1985, released under the Creative Commons 0 License.


A collage of a couple of my recent patients, inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Blogging.

Response Cycling Rant

I have worked hard to achieve my role of cycle responder. The course isn’t particularly difficult, but keeping in mind most people have done no training at all, it holds you to a particularly high standard. It also has a particular focus on working in crowds of people safely (you should see some of the maneuvers we’re expected to pull off). Just like anyone else operating an emergency vehicle, we’re supposed to be good at what we do.

Now, I freely admit that there are some idiots on bikes wandering around.  This is an unfortunate side effect of the lack of licensing of bicycles.  Not that I advocate such a license: we need to encourage people to cycle, not make it difficult for them.  (Before anyone interjects that a driving license isn’t difficult to get, I’ll point out that, at 23, I am still unable to drive a car due to the financial investment driving lessons require.)  Proper planning, a bit of common courtesy amongst road users and decent provision of dedicated cycle ways should help keep these few idiots safe and out-of-the-way, keeping all parties safe.

We, on the other hand, are response cyclists.  We are not just cycling as a means to get to work, or to the shops.  Our role has two main parts, in order of importance (in my opinion):

  1. Responding to calls for assistance from the public, other first aiders and the ambulance service
  2. Patrolling an event, forming a highly visible first aid presence that can be flagged down when needed

To a lesser degree, we also make good a good advert for the Organisation, as we are very visible and something people don’t see every day.  (This is something I think we should capitalise on more…)

Now it is fairly obvious that most of our patients will be found in areas where there are most people, and so it is almost inevitable that we mainly respond to places where there is a crowd.  This isn’t even allowing for the fact that crowds invariably form around patients.  Given that many of our patients are reported as being quite unwell, this means that we will need to respond fast through said crowds.  The most effective way of progressing quickly through a crowd is to make a lot of noise, encourage people to move out of our way (whether with noise makers, voices, “blues and twos” or whatever) and pass through the gaps that naturally form in such groups.  It is exactly the same technique as walking quickly through a crowd (which most people can do without thinking), but at higher speeds and with bigger turning circles.  It’s not perfect (it doesn’t work in very dense crowds) but it still usually gets us on scene faster than a foot patrol (we can take advantage of larger gaps to put on decent bursts of speed) or an ambulance (which can’t exactly dodge and weave in the ways we can).  Sometimes it’s only a minute or so faster, but when someone is very unwell, every minute counts.

Unfortunately, to make it work, sometimes we have to cut things fine.  Sometimes I will pass someone by inches then swerve suddenly in front of them to swing through another gap.  I try to make myself known to everyone, but sometimes I’ll catch people by surprise.  This doesn’t (and I say this with feeling) mean that I’ve nearly hit you.  Believe me, if 45 kg of bike plus 60 kg of rider nearly hit you, you’d know.  In fact, the first thing you’d know of it would be the screech of brakes as I come to a halt behind you.  Because, just like that emergency vehicle going down the road, I never go so fast I can’t stop if I need to.  I have a lot of momentum, but very good brakes and plenty of practice emergency stopping.  I’ll say it again, because I mean it: I am not going to hit you (well unless you decide to jump in front of me at the last-minute, and that, I’m afraid, would be your fault).

On the other hand, when I’m on a patrol, I’m not in a hurry.  In fact, I’m particularly keen to save energy for the times when I really need it.  This means I’m going to move slowly.  Of cause, all velocity is relative, and slow for a cyclists doesn’t always mean the same thing as slow for a pedestrian.  Sometimes the crowd sprawled across my patrol path decides they want to dawdle down the street, taking in the sights.  And why not?  After all, most of the time they are on a day out, and who wants to rush around on a day out.

This makes cycling patrols a very different activity to normal cycling.  On a clear road, we’ll move at roughly normal to slow cycling speeds, stopping sometimes to take in the sights ourselves (everyone loves a bit of people watching).  Then we hit that dense bit of dawdling crowd, and so we slow down, down to the speed of the crowd.  This takes practice; a bike are very difficult to control at such speeds, particularly given the weight of our bikes.  That is precisely why we spend so much time on cone skills and low-speed maneuvering.

Once we’re down to the speed of a dawdle, we can quite happily sit there indefinitely.  We’re happy to wait until the crowd disperses, a gap in the crowd forms naturally, or we have a reason to speed up (usually a job from control).  Of cause, if people move aside to let us through (which happens fairly often once people notice us), we do appreciate it, and we’ll pop through any gap that forms (naturally or otherwise) to move from behind a crowd if the timing is right.  We know that sitting behind people makes them uncomfortable.  That said, if that’s where we have to stay, so be it.  We’ll wait.

Yet again, and I say this with more feeling this time, you are NOT going to get run over.  If we have to stop, we will, no problems, no arguments.

People often mention that we should get off and walk when we’re doing this, often adding that they think we’ll get through faster.  There are a couple of problems with that argument.

First, while we are riding our bikes, they are surprisingly manoeuvrable and easy to handle.  These bikes are HEAVY (have I mentioned this enough yet…) and being able to use your body weight to balance them is extremely useful.  As soon as I get off my bike, I exchange 45 kg of well-balanced bicycle for 45 kg of unstable dead weight.  More than once I have lost my bike when I have had to get off and push, and when those bikes go, they go big style.  I am much more likely to drop that bike on your (and my) shins when I push it than I am to run you over or collide with you while cycling.

Second, these bikes are a real pain to mount and dismount in a crowd.  During these times, that 60 kg of rider that could be used to balance the bike is attempting to swing his leg over the bike and position himself on his saddle, all while trying to keep that 45 kg of bike upright during the inherently unstable procedure.  Having to do this in a hurry, while talking to Control on the radio and keeping an eye on where he is going (not to mention where everything and everyone else is going) is a serious challenge.  We are rapid response vehicles, and like I said before, every minute can count.

In short, constantly getting on and off the bikes is a pain, and staying on is much easier, safer (and highly encouraged by our training).

I appreciate that bikes are unusual, and seeing a fully laden response bike bearing down on you is intimidating.  It is my eternal hope that people will eventually get used to response bikes and begin to understand how they behave.  If nothing else, I hope people start to realise that we are an emergency vehicle, and just like any other emergency vehicle, the operator really does now what they are doing.

I was going to leave you with two things.  The first was a relatively old advert that I really like about how to respond to an oncoming blue light vehicle (in this case, and ambulance).  Unfortunately my Google skills have let me down and I can’t find it…  The second (which I have found) is my customary musical interlude (on both YouTube and Spotify), this time a track from a band I have just started listening to again after having been forgotten for quite some time.  Enjoy.

What the Hell!

I was cycle responding at a music festival.  It’s crowded, there are lots of jobs, and my partner and I are responding right left and centre, 999 calls, shouts for backup, the works.

So after a couple of interesting jobs (which I may or may not post about later), we’re sent on to a 999 call to a collapse.  Full emergency conditions, which for us bikes means sirens, whistles (normally get us much more attention than a siren), blue lights if we have them (for all the minimal good they do) and dodging and weaving through people as quickly as we can (without hitting anyone).  We’re making good progress, given the crowd density, and most people are fairly willing to get out of our way.

I’m trying to keep an eye on everything around me, hunting out a route that will let me progress, and so not really concentrating on what’s happening behind me.  It’s a closed road, and we’re easily the fastest moving objects on it, so I’m not expecting anything that I’ve passed to affect me.

A bunch of people wonder in my way, and I can’t swing around them, so I stop briefly (I can impress one of my friends by  briefly holding my bike at a stop without falling off), giving them a blast of my whistle (which is loud enough to make my ears ring) and my siren (which is a little pathetic) and then pulled away as they jumped aside.  Almost immediately, I felt my bike swerve out underneath me, and I jumped off, trying to give my bike a graceful landing.

Turning around to get better leverage on the bike, I saw a girl holding on to my panniers, apparently helping me stabilise the bike.  With it back upright, I thanked her, turned back around, mounted up and tried to go.  And instantly feel my bike try to go out from under me again. This time I jumped off before it went, and swung around to find that girl still holding my panniers, laughing.

“Let go!”  She just laughed again.  “I said, let go.  I’m busy.”  She let go, but went to grab it again as I pushed my bike away.  “Grab it again and I’ll call the police!”  She continued to laugh, not saying anything, until some burly guy came out of the crowd, shouting at her as well.  I took that as my cue to move on, fast.

Now I’ve heard stories of people chucking things at ambulances, and prank calls, and all the other things that waste ambulance time, and I’ve had people deliberately get in my way, but this is a new one on me.  I still managed to catch up with my partner pretty quickly, the whole incident probably only lasted about a minute or so, but seriously, what the hell…  It was fairly obvious I was in a hurry (the blue light and siren was a bit of a hint), and the markings saying ‘Ambulance’ are hardly subtle…

I just don’t understand what would possess someone to do something like that which would knock me off of my bike, particularly when I could have been going to a very unwell person.

Difficult Decisions

I am not very lucky with relationships. In fact,quite the opposite is true. I tend to fall for the straight guy, never really get asked out (well, by guys anyway), and never have the courage to ask someone else out (even if I’m certain they’re gay).

Last week, as i was trying to screw up the courage to ask someone out, someone else spoke to me first. I immediately said yes, and somehow (before we even went on a date) we slept together. We’re now trying to organise a proper date, but he is being a pain to pin down.

Now, a week on, I’m not even sure I am actually interested. Yeah, he got my attention a year ago, but as I’ve got to know him a little better, I’m no longer so sure I want to know him. Yeah, perhaps I thought I was interested. But I thought I was interested in my only girlfriend, and look how well that worked out… I’m also not convinced that he isn’t just in it for the sex. Or that my low self-esteem made me say yes only because he asked.

To make matters more complex, there is another guy. The one I was going to ask out. I already know I like him, have a feeling he likes me, and we have more in common than the organisation. Yes he annoys me sometimes, but mainly only when he’s showing off to others. I have also actually had more than one nice conversation with him.

I don’t want to hurt anyone (or get myself a reputation). But, I do want a relationship for myself as well as my partner, and more than just what happens in bed…

I think, while writing this I’ve decided what I’m going to do. I suspect I’ll regret it, but i think I’ve got to follow my heart.

This could get interesting…

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