It is October. No, not this one, but an October from thirty years ago. It is 1988 and I just started my first full-time assignment -- EMS 2, B Team, with Paul Visoskas. The man was born and bred in Newark and already had a decade on the job before I'd even left high
Grainy images of rainy streets. Black coffee, with one ice cube. Lacas coffee. Empty window frames stared mercilessly down at us from the decrepit brick buildings, all empty eye sockets and jagged glass teeth. Shiny shoes. The flaky bite of a custard cup. Sheets tucked neatly, blankets folded, nothing out of place. The blue haze of nicotine floats beneath the outside lights. Spotless uniform. Spoon moving through bowls of thick soup, always the soup. Brass buttons for extra bling.
Narrated nightly by an unmistakable voice, nasal and filled with as much gravel as the miles of asphalt we covered each night as we ran his errands. Get the coffee, check the soup of the day, take the older waitress's blood pressure, pick up the mail from the bar, hoard some equipment, drop off the packages, get the soup, and clean the truck. Take people to the hospital in between, wearing a chauffeur's cap and carrying a doorman's oversized umbrella when it rained -- because he had "no magic way to get you down to the ambulance." Go out of service ten minutes before shift end in order to tighten the screws, change any bulbs that were out and label any new equipment finds in black Sharpie -- "Paulie's." Best kept truck in the fleet.
Once he made me keep a machete victim standing outside on the corner while he draped the back with sheets, in order to minimize the mess to his precious truck. It was early March and still cold, I remember steam rolling off of the fresh blood the man was covered in and that he was minus a good part of one ear. To the man's credit, he was gracious about it and seemed not to want to inconvenience anyone. We never did find his ear.
My time with Paulie was my first full-time EMS job, he will always be a part of my history and the foundation of my career. He was never about the medicine, but always about the service.
He was not very complicated:
- Appearances matter, take pride in your uniform (and yourself).
- Take care of your equipment.
- Documentation is important and should be complete.
- If you are nice to people, they are more likely to do what you want and you will make your job easier.
I'd say he grew less anal over time, but it would be a damn lie. His micromanagement of the parking lot alone was the stuff of urban legend. He could be a royal pain in the ass, but he was always ours and always there -- he was loyal, he was generous to a fault, and never failed to help his friends. Or his cats.
He was kind.
Paul Visoskas E.O.W. 10/24/2018
Thank you Sir, enjoy your soup.