When I was in graduate school, I was telling some of my fellow students a story about 911 abusers, and one in particular. This patient used to call 911 at 3 am from the payphone outside of his favorite bar, and complain of chest pain. When we arrived at the hospital, he would get off the stretcher and walk across the street to his sister’s house. He would also call when he had no money for food. The hospital would give him a sandwich, and he would then leave. In all, he was transported by EMS to the hospital an astonishing 284 times in a calendar year. He once broke into a fire station and stole uniforms and personal items, and was caught by the police walking down the street in a firefighter’s uniform. One afternoon, he was found by a patrol officer, floating face down in a pond, having fallen in while intoxicated and drowned. We had ice cream and cake that night to celebrate his passing. The world is a better place without this welfare and resource abusing loser.

When I told that story, the other students and a professor who was there were horrified that we could be so callous as to celebrate a person’s death. I was told that we should be nice to everyone, and remember that people can be down on their luck, and that we are all one month’s pay from being in his shoes. I asked, “what we should do when a patient tells me to suck his dick?”
The professor, “You should tell the patient that we will not stand for that sort of language.”
I say: “Then the patient tells you to kiss his ass.”
The professor says, “Well, then you tell him that if he continues to behave that way, you will fire him as a patient.”
I tell her, “You know that in emergency medicine, the law says that I have to treat him no matter what, don’t you? The patients know this, and they know that they can have a lot of fun with you, especially if they know you are a pushover that will take whatever they dish out.”
 The professor, “Well, that is why I never worked in emergency medicine.”

And therein lies the problem. There are a lot of people who would and could never do your job, have no idea how to do your job, and have never seen what you have to do to accomplish it, yet are just filled with helpful advice and opinions on how you should be doing your job.

This reminds me of a scene in the movie “Demolition Man”

Squad Leader: Simon Phoenix! Lie down with your hands behind your back.
Simon Phoenix: What’s this? Six of you. Such nice, tidy uniforms. Oh I’m so scared!
[the Police Officers look at each other]
Simon Phoenix: What you guys don’t have sarcasm anymore?
[Police Officer talks to his automated assistant]
Squad Leader: Maniac has responded with a scornful remark.
automated assistant: Approach, and repeat ultimatum in an even firmer tone of voice. Add the words, “or else”. 

To all of those people, I have a message: Until you have done that job, you have no idea what it is like, dealing with the trash of society. Many people out there do not act like those who operate in polite society. They respond to courtesy and polite language as a junkyard dog does to fear: that is, they see it as a sign of weakness, and will exploit that weakness to their own advantage.

Categories: Uncategorized


Bob S. · November 30, 2012 at 9:13 pm


I worked fast food restaurants in my youth. I know how some people respond.

I have lived in many, shall we say, less than savory areas. I know how some people respond.
I am not saying these are the same as Police/Fire/EMS but it doesn't mean I'm not a clueless academic either.

I understand that the police have to approach some people in certain manners. My problem is that it carries over into just about every contact they have. Instead of treating people with courtesy and respect first, they start treating everyone as if they are criminal street trash.

It's not just me that has observed this shift in attitude. Heck, you commented on it on my previous post. The officer who struck the kid and the officer who demanded instant compliance don't differ in approach only in degree of implementation.

TOTWTYTR · December 20, 2012 at 4:09 am

Several years ago, we had a patient much as you describe. Nobody wanted to deal with him. Us, the FD, or the hospitals. Everyone hated to see him.

One day, for reasons we'll never know, he dove into the river and drowned. We were on standby while the rescue divers were looking for him.

They finally found him an hour after he went in. They brought him up and put him on the dock. We decided that he was well beyond the window for resuscitation and so we called it.

After we were done with the report, we went to a nearby hospital to clean up.

When we walked into the ED, the nursing staff gave us a standing ovation.

Yeah, I don't think the professor would understand that.

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