I have always joked that SWAT stood for “sit wait and talk”, mostly because that’s what we typically do when assigned to SWAT standbys. I have probably been assigned to more of these than I can count and have never actually had to provide any kind of medical-aid. Well, I did have a bystander walk up and request to go to the hospital for abdominal pain once, but I don’t really think that counts.
When working in busy systems, I usually see the downtime as a chance to get caught up on paperwork. Sometimes these standbys can go on for several hours, and on one occasion, it lasted my entire shift. We logged on, immediately got assigned the standby, and had to be relieved at the end of our shift. I accomplished 2 of my “EMS Bucket List” items that night, one of which should have gotten me fired.
So here’s the story:
There I was, minding my own business, logging on for the night shift. This was my first job in EMS, but I had been working at the small service just long enough to get over the nervous feeling that you have when you first start in the field, but not quite long enough to get passed the stupidity.
We were assigned a standby at a nearby “SWAT” standoff and were told that we couldn’t use any radio communication. That worked out well for us, being that we inherited the long-standing dislike for EMS dispatchers that had been handed down over several generations. We arrived at our scene and were directed towards a staging area that was supposed to be a safe distance from the “action”. Just as we put the vehicle in park, I got to thinking about how I should have brought my lunch. I figured it was no big deal as this thing would be over with in a hour or so and we could grab a bite on our way to post.
Fast forward about 4 hours and you would find us sitting in silence staring awkwardly at the fire-engine crew that parked facing us. They were doing the same. We were hesitant to go talk with them because we didn’t know this particular crew at all, plus they didn’t seem very social.
Partner: “Let’s go talk to those guys, I’m bored out of my mind”
Sean: “I don’t know, man. They are just sitting there doing nothing. They don’t look very sociable. Seems kinda weird and awkward to me.”
Partner: “We’re doing the same thing, dude.”
We finally got out and walked over to the engine. The crew hopped out and exchanged a few words with us, but not without a few awkward moments of silence. I looked around and it seemed like nobody was doing anything. I started to wonder if this thing was ever going to end.
Fast forward 2 more hours and you would find us and the fire crew laughing hysterically over some “war-stories”. You would also see us scheming up a plan to get some food. Nothing was within walking distance, so we starting calling people that we knew to see if they could make a food run for everyone. No such luck at 10:30pm. This is when I decided to check off an item on that bucket-list I mentioned earlier.
I had made it my goal that one day, I would order a pizza to the scene of a call. Don’t ask me how I came up with that goal, I just did. This was the perfect moment to execute the plan. What better scene than a SWAT standby? Unfortunately, most pizza places were closed. After about 30 minutes of calling around I finally got a hold of one that was open for another hour. Only, convincing them to deliver to the scene of the SWAT standby was going to be a bit more difficult than I had thought. Here’s what you might have heard had you been watching me order the pizza:
“Yea, I would like to order a pizza……um, well, I don’t really have an address, you see I’m working on an ambulance at a SWAT standby….no this isn’t a joke sir, we have been here for hours and we would like to order a pizza……it’s at the corner of 10th and Henderson, but I would probably come in from the east to avoid getting near the scene…..oh yeah, it’s totally safe, we are blocks away from the incident. I don’t even think bullets travel that far…..”
And it just continued on from there.
Our pizza finally did arrive, and we pulled out the gurney to setup our buffet line. We had pizzas, sodas, bread sticks, and hot wings, all lined up on the gurney. Of course, no good plan like this would be complete without my supervisor pulling up. After being at this standby for nearly 7 hours, he decided to come check on us. He walked up, looked at the gurney with all the food, looked at me, then back at the gurney, then back at me to deliver a silent stare for about a good 20 seconds. Without saying a word, he grabbed 2 pieces of pizza and a coke, got back in his vehicle, and took off without saying a word.
We stood around awkwardly as my partner and I didn’t quite know what to make of it. We finally came to the conclusion that he probably wouldn’t have taken any food if he planned on getting us in trouble, so we continued about our business of swapping stories and killing time.
Shortly after our supervisor’s visit, one of SWAT officers walked up. He looked big and mean enough to turn us into another topping on the pizza. Unfortunately, like previously mentioned, I had yet to graduate from the “being stupid” phase of my EMS career. My partner inquired about the incident and we were informed that a man had barricaded himself inside a travel trailer in his driveway. The officer then informed us that our pizza looked tempting.
This is where the stupid part comes in.
I must have felt invincible after getting a pass from my supervisor, because I told the officer: “Come on, man. We took up a collection earlier, you should have pitched in. By the way, if that guy is locked inside a trailer, why not just hook it up to a truck and tow his ass to jail?” He moved in just close enough to invade my comfort zone and said: “How about this, Kid? How about I throw your dumb-ass in the trailer with him? Got any more advice for me?”
His booming voice shut us all up instantly. After a moment of awkward silence, I quietly replied: “Would you like pepperoni or combination, sir?”
He turned towards the pizza, grabbed a couple slices, smiled and walked back to the incident.
The Bucket List
The 2 items I checked off that night were ordering a pizza and going an entire shift without transporting anyone. The 2nd one was bound to happen eventually, and has happened several times since. As far as the pizza incident goes, I got lucky. It was stupid, unprofessional, and I should have been fired. That would have been a foolish way to lose my job, especially with how hard it was at the time to find ambulance services that were hiring.
The upside to the story? I got 2 items checked off my list