Every now and then we get some downtime during the shift. Downtime is a very misunderstood portion of our work – to the outsider, it seems strange and inefficient that we’re getting paid to do nothing, which is why when we’re getting coffee, they sometimes say really stupid things like, “Don’t you have a life to save?”
The appropriate response to that question is, “Sir, if you drop dead right now, I’d be happy to drop everything at once and take care of you.” In fact, sometimes I find myself trying not to be the reason these people “drop dead” in front of me. Fucking people.
In the old days, a common practice was to not pay crews for physically being at work during the night portion of a 24-hour shift unless they got a call, but that’s another topic by itself.
I think there is simply only so much available mental and physical capacity or reserve for our work within us to get through each shift. Beyond that, we’re fed up. Done. That’s when we start snapping at patients and ED staff, even though they usually deserve it. Prior to reaching that point, we keep our mouths shut, and that suppression quickly eats into that reserve I just mentioned.
In a way, downtime prolongs our shelf life for the day. I take naps, read books, chat about nothing with other crews, flip through old magazines other crews have left in the ambulance.
Of course, having a decent partner helps immensely. If there isn’t a decent partner, downtime can quickly become a bit of a nightmare. You know those partners I’m talking about; the ones who just won’t shut up, listen to loud music, are constantly yelling into their phones, the ones who keep wanting to talk to you about such things you don’t want to talk about as boyfriend/girlfriend problems, their vintage cars, etc. Ugh.
One night during a particularly heavy storm, we drove 20+ times around a block hitting all the huge puddles near the clogged storm drains with the windows down at 45mph. That was fun. But you have to be in the right company for that kind of silliness.
Looking at hookers is sometimes amusing. Talking to them, not so much. I suppose people aren’t paying hookers to chitchat.
But I can only do so much during our downtime before I get bored. Sure, it’s nice to not do anything and get paid for it, but I don’t know, I always feel like I want to do something.