Gossip is common in any group of people, found in every profession and every culture I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering. In the world of emergency medicine, we could put daytime television to shame. Many of those involved in EMS tend to be thrill seekers by nature; we typically find ourselves in this line of work because we want to stare the Grim Reaper in the face and tell him to BRING IT ON. As a direct side effect of this personality type, we are an incestuous subset of society, complete with our own tales of who’s dating whom, who’s screwing whom, who’s screwed whom over, and so on. In an agency of a few hundred field personnel, ample opportunities are put forth to raise turmoil in the dreaded rumor mill. I am no exception; I dated a colleague I encountered closely in my employer funded paramedic program. Scandalous! These tales range from completely truthful, vaguely based in partial truths, and completely fictitious.
I experienced my claim to urban EMS fame with my very own rumor during paramedic school, a year and a half into employment at the agency, and a few months into the paramedic program. Until this point, I’d managed to stay under the proverbial rumor radar, largely by keeping my nose tucked safely into whatever book I’d gotten my hands on that week, with minimum fraternization with my coworkers. As a mere paramecium, I was completely engulfed in the world of learning paramedicine, and had little time or energy remaining for anything remotely indecent, however tempting.
The county my agency has the delight to serve is also provided with a fine publication called The Slammer, available primarily at superior establishments located in the hearts of our many ghettos. This may seem odd upon initial examination, but is an excellent way to keep up with the recent activities of loved and/or despised family members, cohorts, and acquaintances. I am simply giddy at the occasional glimpse of a high school classmate, although it is much more likely to catch a snapshot of the recent arrest of a frequent flier of the EMS variety.
Unbeknownst to me, The Slammer had published the latest arrest of a young lady who shares my first and last name, but is in an entirely different line of employment as myself. While not a dead ringer, Tiffany’s mugshot does not necessarily look unlike me: she’s young, Caucasian, and blond. Listed directly under the black and white photo are the allegations against her—Prostitution and Crimes Against Nature.
This particular edition of The Slammer was circulated during the opposite shift as the one I worked prior to enrolling into paramedic school. That is to say, employees of that shift were familiar with my name and had merely a vague idea of my appearance, as our paths rarely crossed. Presumably, a coworker and ardent reader of The Slammer purchased a copy, found “me,” and produced the “evidence” to the supervisor on duty, who was not particularly familiar with nor had never actually met me. The supervisor on duty then called my direct supervisor, Paramom, who was enjoying an adult beverage on her well deserved weekend off work. As I understand it, Paramom’s reaction to “my” crime was: “Are you sure? Tiff’s in paramedic school. I really don’t think she has time to hook.”
Meanwhile, “I” was cut out of that particular edition of The Slammer, and the tabloid was left at the logistics window, free to be perused by at least one member of every crew that must wait at that window for the necessary items that are required for every ambulance. While a hole in a publication that reports criminal arrests may have seemed inconspicuous to some, inclined inquiring minds had the ability to fill the void with minimum investigative efforts.
My personal rumor was brought to my attention by Paramom, who approached me during my usually anticlimactic lunch break during school. I was having a pretty fantastic day. All morning, I’d received smiles and salutations from paramedics and EMTs alike that typically ignored me or viewed me as an unobtrusive piece of the scenery. Obviously, I thought I was having an extraordinarily great hair day. Paramom casually sat at the table in the office kitchen as I shoveled in another forkful of the weekend’s leftovers, “So, did you have an exciting weekend?”
“Not really. I’m having a tough time getting all of these drug dosages down, but I think I’ll get it if I keep at it. There’s just a lot to absorb.”
Paramom asks me with a nervous laugh, “I see. So, you definitely weren’t incarcerated on your weekend off?”
When I applied at my agency, in addition to all jobs I’ve applied for in the past, I’ve been asked about the possibility of a criminal record as a formality. I’ve been subjected to standard background checks and known company policy requires full disclosure of criminal charges. I have, however, never been asked in a straightforward manner about any criminal activity, particularly when some details have been quite clearly established. It has simply never come up, and I was not entirely sure of the proper social protocol; I settled with nearly choking on my reheated pasta. “Um, no. I’m fairly certain I would have remembered that.”
Paramom proceeded to fill me in on her interesting telephone call that seemed too absurd to investigate over the weekend, but had to be addressed as a matter of course. She also informed me that she had yet to actually see the “evidence” in person. We set off to acquire our own copy of The Slammer, conveniently sold at the gas station next to our agency (we’re county funded). A few pages in, there “I” was, in all “my” mugshot glory, nestled in the middle of a section specifically dedicated to sexual crimes. Her middle name was different than mine, putting a definite end to the investigation in an official capacity on the spot. “What exactly constitutes a crime against nature?” I asked Paramom, but even in her infinite wisdom, she was dumbfounded. On the bright side, my namesake was definitely the hottest prostitute published that week.
My classmates and friends teased me with a vigor that occasionally resurfaces to this day. With Paramom’s blessing, I made no efforts to squash the rumor with the field crews. I cat walked the wash bays with my head held high and an extra swagger in my step. In an agency of a few hundred people, I had my very own rumor, which I didn’t even need to fuel with my own offensive behavior. Simply put, I had made it.