Christmas Eve. The gifts are wrapped; the house is ready. Bedtime and Jolly Old Elf duties await, but otherwise I’m free. I load 6 cupcakes and a gift for my dispatcher friend into the wagon and strike out for the Communications Center. The on-duty shift will have more cookies and cupcakes than Santa tonight. It’s small consolation, but we do what we can.
The scanner mumbles quietly in my car. I commonly ignore it. Until last month, it didn’t even work properly. Something catches the attention of my subconscious though. Before I can figure out why, the fire tones drop. Dispatcher Friend gives out the address of my neighbor. I can see it from the end of my driveway.
I double back, beating the first patrol car to the scene.
This is not my first rodeo. I park on the street, leaving the driveway clear for the ambulance. I don’t have red lights, but I engage my hazards to mark the location. (I should say that I fumble in the darkness for the big button with the lighted red triangle. It was right THERE until I needed it.)
I’m pretty sure I’ve left a radio in the car somewhere, one of my little $40 Chinese jobs. This is why I carry it in the car. (It has migrated under the seat.) My medical bag is in the trunk, buried under the groceries that will soon be Christmas dinner.
I stride up the driveway into the darkness, knowing that the cavalry is only a few minutes behind me. My neighbor comes out to meet but doesn’t recognize me. In the dark, in the unusual circumstances, I am not surprised or offended.
In the ensuing hour, every local takeout restaurant will decide to close early for the holiday. The patient will get safely to the hospital, Dispatcher Friend will get his gift, the on-duty officers will get their cupcakes. . .
. . .and I will scrounge in the cupboards for mac’n’cheese for dinner.
Merry Christmas, suburbia!