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Monday, September 20, 2010

I Know Life Goes On, But Really?

I was working at Captain D's the summer between ninth and tenth grade when I saw a man die of a heart attack.

He was a big guy, old to me at the time: I was fifteen so 23 would have qualified. Call him fifty-ish. I remember he was bald on top with a stubbly short ring-around hairdo and cheek stubble visible from the kitchen, where I was. I don't know if I'd really heard much about cholesterol at that age, so I don't recall thinking that maybe being a fry cook at Captain D's was the same as accessory to murder.

I do recall that the place shut down. 9-11 was dialed, diners were asked to vacate the dining room where the man lay, obese in his plaid shirt and overalls, nobody performing CPR.

The front door was locked to prevent new customers from walking in on the scene, and the paramedics seeming to sense this came in through the back door.

I remember the man's face bloated and red under an oxygen mask, probably looking a lot like I did eight years ago when I collapsed mowing my Mom's lawn. And after they wheeled the man out the back door, I remember the assistant manager nudging me and confiding that he knew CPR from when he was in the Army but he wasn't about to kiss that fat bastard.

Afterward, I heard the guy was DOA at the hospital but was a convicted pedophile, so no big loss. While I agree, if he was a pedophile out walking the streets, it's probably good that those hush puppies took him out of circulation since the law wouldn't, I wondered at the time (and still do) if it wasn't some bullshit to cover for people who were on the scene, knew CPR, but did nothing except close the restaurant until the guy was out of there.

A few years later when I was beyond being a useless fast food employee and was instead a useless graveyard shift gas station attendant, a homeless woman came in early one morning, when the morning rush was just starting, asking for an ambulance.

'I need to go to the hospital,' she said. When I asked why, she just repeated herself. The ambulance came and loaded her up, even after diagnosing her as needing nothing more than a square meal and a warm place to sleep (I got the sense she was a regular), and people got gas around this little tragedy. Or pseudo tragedy. Whatever it was, we sold some coffee and donuts, gasoline and cigarettes. Life goes on.

So I'm pulling into QuikTrip this evening, on my way to the Trek Recovery Ride, and there's a fire truck and ambulance with lights going in front of the joint. There's also sixteen pumps of customers getting gas and pretty much every parking slot filled up, so it was obviously open for business.

As I approached the door, noticing the Waldo CID rentacop bikes parked out front and the two police cruisers at the end I had pause. Okay, I had the idea of pause, I didn't really pause until I saw the paramedics with a freaking stretcher walking toward the same doors as me. And a teenaged girl, about the age of my oldest I'd guess.

I reached to grab the door but the paramedic was faster and the gurney was off and into the QT. As we entered, I asked the teenager, who I think was with the pack of teenagers already in the store by the fountain, a group of girls I'm pretty sure attend one of the more over-privileged private schools in this neighborhood, 'Does it feel weird to you to walk in with them?'

Them, of course, meaning the paramedics, not her friends who collectively made a scrapbook, or catalog (take your pick) of wealth eugenics.

Walking away from the soda fountain with my refill I noticed the paramedics were back in the cashiers kiosk hoisting this poor girl in a QT polo shirt up on the gurney with a neck brace on. The high school girl I'd walked in with was about to pay and asked the chickie ringing her up, 'Is she okay?'

The cashier said, 'I don't know.'

There was a manager type guy on hand, too, and after he got off the phone (I assume with whatever superiors he had to call after an employee collapsed and had to be removed by paramedics), he started ringing people up with the comment 'when it rains it pours.'

And I felt queasy. I had already filled my Camelbak with Rooster Booster Lite, so no backing out, I contributed to this untenable situation. But what about the poor girl on the stretcher in the neck brace? She wasn't a homeless person who sought QT for shelter, she was a freaking employee!

The show must go on? It's a gas & sip.

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