All this talk in the news lately about republicans has me reminiscing. You see, I didn’t have a typical introduction into EMS. Actually, several things about me that I consider a fundamental part of my identity aren’t exactly characteristic of professionals in this field; like the fact that I have a vagina, for instance.
Fresh out of college, I proudly displayed my Bachelor of Science degree as I worked…in a coffee shop. I enjoyed working there, but I knew deep down that I would need health insurance one day. A friend of mine had recently begun volunteering as an EMT, and he double dog dared me to take the EMT class. I studied forensics in college, and I love evaluating facts and solving a mystery surrounding death. I couldn’t see a single scenario in which I would want to work with living patients. I thought living patients are boring and annoying. The problem is that this was a double dog dare. One does not balk in the face of a double dog dare. Plus, I was working at a coffee shop and tutoring a few local kids in math; my time wasn’t exactly in high demand.
I enrolled in the next available EMT class, and shortly after graduated top of my class. I’ve always loved to solve a puzzle, and I was thoroughly surprised to find that every patient has a mystery to solve. Furthermore, you have to solve it on your feet, in a limited amount of time, in difficult surroundings. Well, I do love a challenge! I opted to apply for a job as an EMT, thrilled by the fact that I could get health insurance AND a 401k. I felt like I was impersonating a grown-up.
The job was like nothing I’d ever encountered. I was completely unprepared for several aspects of emergency medicine, but the single biggest initial shock was my coworkers. I had never seen so many right-wing republicans in my life. I felt like Jane Goodall.
Many of my coworkers appeared to be right-wing republicans to me, regardless of where they actually fall on the political scale, most likely as a partial result of so much exposure to the liberal side of life. At first glance, it appeared to me as if the archetypal EMT is molded from a gun-toting, conservative, WASP household with some deep seated connection to emergency and rescue services. He is a Caucasian male, slightly overweight, and has a bitchin’ mustache with a receding hairline. He typically drives a pickup truck too large for one paltry parking space, often adorned with a toolbox, American flags, at least one star of life, a fire symbol, and an occasional biblical reference. He has a side job in a manly endeavor like carpentry, logging, auto-mechanics, masonry, or creating testosterone. He loudly spouts antiquated ideas and references, and he has distaste for new technology he has yet to understand, unless it will calculate drug dosages for him or bring him pornography.
My coworkers weren’t exactly prepared for me, either. I grew up reading comic books and finishing my homework early in a family that only cared for politics when the discussion turned to legalizing marijuana. My pepper spray is pink, I’d rather read than watch television, and I drive the sissiest pickup truck known to man. Maybe I didn’t fit in here because I’ve never fit in anywhere, but the differences made me seem like a pariah. I saw myself as a modern, feminist intellectual with a strong sense of purpose and ethics, but I probably appeared to be an over-educated, bleeding-heart hippie with a snooty lust for literature.
A few incidents stand out for sure as extreme:
The first time I worked on an ambulance, my field training officer and I went to McDonald’s for lunch. We sat down at the table, and he prayed before eating his meal. I’ve never been a religious person and was slightly caught off guard, but I respect his beliefs. Although I did not participate, I waited in silence for him to finish. He immediately took on a very serious tone, raised his voice, and told me that I am going to Hell. I honestly thought he was joking at first, as it seemed so strange to me. It’s not every day a girl gets condemned.
I quickly learned that political commentary is not an invitation for polite discourse. I just spent four years in a liberal arts college, surrounded by geeks, activists, artists, and hippies. I had grown accustomed to having the opportunity for cerebral conversations about rights, laws, science, technology, art, religion, or politics with nearly anyone I came across, and I was so surrounded by the liberally minded, that I thought that was the norm. A coworker complained disdainfully about immigrants and “other freeloaders.” At first mention of the word “socio-economic,” I was told I was “one of those” before I had even made an actual statement.
Shockingly, several people with whom I worked not only refrained from recycling, but opposed it. Recycling seems to me to be one of the easiest ways in which people can reduce their carbon footprint. All you have to do is put certain kinds of trash in a different receptacle. I have worked with more than one person who would intentionally throw away empty soda bottles that I had saved in a bag to take home to recycle. I was once told by someone who threw away a bottle of mine that he did so, “because recycling is just plain stupid.” I’m sorry, do what? I never could wrap my head around that.
Those examples are pretty extreme, but they’re true. These days, I don’t feel so much like an outsider. I may obviously lean a little more left of center than many of my coworkers, but few people stand out as being glaringly right-winged. For the most part, the little differences are for little more than poking fun nowadays. I tend to just ignore the extremists; as it turns out, they are the outliers, and they are not limited to EMS.
Utilizing the Second Amendment:
Republican-Has a multitude of firearms at his disposal. Knows location and specificities of each gun.
Parapup-Has pink pepper spray on her key chain. Now carries pepper spray outside of purse when walking alone after realizing that she would have to ask an assailant to hold on a minute so she could find her keys in her purse to get to her pepper spray.
Identifying One’s Heroes:
Republican-Actual people in history and athletes
Parapup-Fictional comic book characters with impossible super powers
Republican-Either knows how to fix cars, or knows someone who does
Parapup-Knows how to turn up the radio louder to mask naughty engine noises
Republican-Enjoys watching NASCAR
Parapup-Enjoys watching NASCAR fans
Republican-Accessorizes with camouflage
Parapup-Accessorizes with glitter and rhinestones
Republican-Pickup truck takes up two spaces
Parapup-Pickup truck barely takes me to work
Republican-Hunts for game
Parapup-Once hit a cat with my truck. I might have cried.