The local men’s shelter is no stranger to anyone in EMS. The women’s shelter isn’t much better for that matter. As a female, the men’s shelter is one of my least favorite places on the planet. While many gentlemen utilizing the facility are likely the down-on-their-luck folks in need of a hand while they are trying their hardest to get their lives together, enough men stand out as complete and total creepers to leave a lasting impression.
My first trip to the men’s shelter occurred when I was a wee baby EMT. While my partner assessed a man with a non-emergent complaint, a commotion arose a little further away. A few of the shelter’s occupants began to yell that a man couldn’t breathe. Someone pulled at my arm saying that another patient was there and needed help. Well, that’s exactly what I do!
My partner stayed with the present patient and I took off to assess a potentially new patient with a breathing problem. I forged through the crowd, an EMT on a mission, to reach my patient. A person was yelling over the cacophony of the public area and directing me to a person bent over in the tripod position. As I approach the person fully prepared to save the damn day, he looks up at me with a sparsely toothed grin and says, “I need you to give me mouth to mouth, sweet thing.”
Suddenly, it seemed as if the entire facility burst into laughter. People made kissing faces at me and smacked their lips. I felt like I was having one of the dreams I used to have in high school in which I show up in the auditorium naked, and everyone is laughing and pointing at me. Homeless men made fun of me for being female and taking my job seriously. Fantastic.
I can’t think of a single time I have ever made a trip to the men’s shelter in which I didn’t encounter some sort of cat-calling, kissing noises, propositions, or some other degrading deed. I’m certainly not special in this regard. I’d love to think I have some sort of stunning beauty and charm that renders men incapable of controlling their verbiage, but I’m pretty sure they’re just douche canoes. I’ve discovered that any response at all on my part merely exacerbates the situation and only serves to put me in a foul mood.
The best way I’ve heard of handling this particular jackassery comes from a coworker’s last trip to the men’s shelter while working with a female partner. The two were making their way through the crowd, when the inevitable howling began. He heard an occupant say, “Come over here and give me a kiss!” Being the variety of EMT that wears XL gloves (that fit), he nipped the situation in the bud with, “I got your kiss right here, baby! Who wants one?” It always warms my heart to hear of a potentially nasty scenario handled with enough proportional humor and grace to diffuse it entirely.
This was a particularly crowded afternoon, and the occupants were milling about freely as I pushed my way through with the stretcher. Some folks were feeling unusually free spirited, and the obnoxious response to my chromosomal arrangement was extraordinarily enhanced. Despite the fact that I could feel many pairs of eyes on me and hear plenty of unnecessary comments*, I employed my usual tactic of giving no response and limiting my eye contact to the back of my partner’s head in front of me.
People were meandering all around me, which camouflaged the movement in my periphery. Unexpectedly, an arm reached out from the crowd, hooked around my waist, pulled me toward him, and landed a completely unsolicited, whiskered, alcohol soaked, and unbathed kiss on my right cheek. Oh. My. God. FUCKING GROSS.
I was completely at a loss. On one hand, I know that any response will get the crowd involved and encourage their behavior. On the other hand, I want to bitch slap this motherfucker. I just got face raped by a drunk guy with poor hygiene and a forehead a tattoo. I just told him, “Keep your oropharynx to yourself, man.”
This particular vagabond has quite the history. Seriously, everyone knows this guy; even the general public. The first time I met him was at a restaurant on shift, whereupon he offered my hand in marriage to a dude who bought him a sandwich. Since then, he has been on my stretcher numerous times. He has asked me to marry him no less than three times. He has sung to me on a few occasions. He once got mad at me and gave me the silent treatment the entire trip to the hospital. He even cussed me out once. It’s been one of the more stable relationships in my life, until now. Now, I just feel dirty and a little violated.
The only time I have ever come close to this level of gross-itude was another unusual situation. I picked up a panhandler on whose behalf the police requested medical attention. He was experiencing chest pain and had a medical history warranting further evaluation; he appeared to be a legitimate medical patient and I did not suspect otherwise. I arrived, got my patient situated, did an ECG, and treated him with medications.
I primed an IV line in preparation of obtaining IV access. This was all routine, run-of-the-mill stuff…business as usual. He shifted around a bit, and rearranged his clothing in the process. He placed his jacket in his lap. I placed his left arm over my leg and tied a tourniquet, when I noticed his right arm rhythmically moving under the jacket. Oh, hell no. Please tell me this man is not jerking it in my ambulance. “Sir, what are you doing?”
He took his left hand, grabbed my thigh, and said, “Baby, I’m not doing anything,” and moaned. He MOANED. He is definitely jacking off in my ambulance. They did not cover this in paramedic school. I have no protocol for masturbation; onanism is not mentioned anywhere in my protocol book.
I told him to keep his hands where I could see them, and I moved to the captain’s chair behind the stretcher. Screw the IV. If the nitropaste on his chest drops his blood pressure and he passes out, so be it. I know what to do about that.
My partner and I went for emergency cupcakes following the creeper incident. We parked the ambulance in front of a swanky dessert bar. As we approached the bar, the bartender said he was unsure if we were allowed to park our ambulance in front of the store. I told him, “Listen. Some dude just whacked it in my ambulance, and I need a cupcake like you wouldn’t believe.”
His eyes went wide. “Yes, ma’am. Right away.”
*I even heard the ever classy command, “Show me your tits!” That was unusually vulgar, even for the men’s shelter.