I called my first ambulance today, on a stranger’s phone.
Nightshift has its own routines, its own camaraderie. It’s an unwritten rule that you all walk together to the station at 7. Possibly a habit carried over from the darkness of winter months, I fall in step with them all and wake myself up in plastic sunshine.
We made it to the junction of what is usually a frantically busy road, but even in London the roads respect the quiet of a Sunday morning. (I love that not once have I ventured outside, even at the oddest hour of the morning, to find that I am the only one around.) As our sluggish group approached the last few feet of pavement before the station on the corner, we were stopped short by the blood-freezing screech of emergency brakes and a flash of black against the silvery metal of one of those car-vans so beloved of middle-class families.
A collective gasp, a moment’s pause, and then a sprint of those last few steps to the road. There on the tarmac, an Asian man was picking himself up from the tarmac, blood dripping from hands and his forehead. I wanted to shake myself, it took an eternity to absorb each new detail; from the spiderweb cracks across the windshield (the brunt of his impact, then) to the mangled bicycle cowering beneath stalled tyres. There’s no speaking at first until the anonymous driver comes out of the door and faces what he could not have seen from behind that mosaic of cracked glass. T, to my left thrusts his mobile at me, what seems like panic until I see him moving to help the injured man. I press the numbers I’ve only idly dialled in boredom before, the product of a wandering mind and the security of nothing being fact until the call button is pressed. Calm and patient voices record the details of blood and breathing and so many other important little facts. Some official medical type appears from the complex behind us, and I pass the phone to him at his request.
I step away at that. I didn’t witness the incident itself, there were bystanders with a clear sight of the accident, and the CCTV cameras are whirring merrily atop their posts. Collectively, our group begins to disperse towards the beckoning station entrance. We murmur platitudes about luck and how much worse it all could be. I’m secretly proud of myself for feeling nothing. Shock didn’t stop me, and subjective though my analysis is, there was not one quiver of alarm in my voice.
I left them on the platform, cursing the scheduling of trains and made my way to my own line. The head of the stairs doesn’t bother me unless morons are pushing or the rain has created some excitement in the simple act of descending. Today, for a split second there was headrush and something approaching nausea, but it wasn’t vertigo or an irrational fear of tumbling down filthy stairs. With a deep breath and a tug on my jacket it passed, and by Green Park I was engrossed in the story of a baseball game that I didn’t know I would care about. Yes, I’ll be keeping an eye on the local paper when it appears in the office this week, and no doubt we’ll discuss it to death over the next few nights. Amazing to my provincial brain that it wouldn’t even make London-wide papers like the Standard or the Lite. He’s a young and healthy man, and the car wasn’t going all that fast, so chances are…
It’s sitting here with breakfast that twenty associated thoughts waylaid my unsuspecting brain, from the unseen car crash that killed someone I cared for eight years ago, to the smugness of thinking I’ll probably cope okay should someone ever hurl themselves in front of my eventual train.
Still, there’s sleep to be had and cats to cuddle up with.