Thursday, October 30, 2008

Silent Night, Random Night

It wasn't something that happens in The Big City often.
I think the last time I pulled it off was almost three years ago.
We pulled a no-hitter on an eight-hour overnight.
Eight up, eight down.
If last night were a soccer match, the score would be 0-0.
I'm back in tonight, and I'm expecting a loooonnngggg night.
That's the way it goes, right?
Last night was bliss, tonight should be bedlam.
Which got me to thinking about the idea of randomness.
Personally, I don't think it exists.
Theoretically, EMS shifts should follow a uniform distribution, where the chances of a call or no call during a given time period (in my case, an eight hour shift) is drawn from a single pool of chances, all of which are equally probable.
Or something like that.
Seems some guys way smarter than me agree.
True randomness is hard to generate, even when you want to, and even when you've designed a computer to achieve it.
The folks at bemoan this lack of true randomnity (is that even a word?).
"Surprising as it may seem, it is difficult to get a computer to do something by chance," says the Web site. "A computer follows its instructions blindly and is therefore completely predictable. A computer that doesn't follow its instructions in this manner is broken."
Of course, those of us who've spent any time having meals and sleep interrupted by the machinations of the EMS Gods could tell you that there's nothing random about our profession.
For me it all comes down to the statistical concept of frequency distribution.
Frequency distribution is used to illuminate data by providing a visual representation of particular occurrences and how often they occur.
Usually this data is presented in tabular form.
EMS could best be summarized by what's known as a "continuous" frequency distribution, which is used to present data on a theoretically infinite number of possible values.
It seems fitting because there are, for now, an infinite number of EMS calls yet to be.
Tonight, I expect one of those nights that feels like there are an infinite number of EMS calls yet to be.
Hopefully I'm wrong.
The answer might be in the stars, but personally I think it's in a few thousand Capes, triple deckers, nightclubs, homeless shelters and apartment complexes.
I'll let you know how it went.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Friend of Ours...

Depending on the day I'm having, I either thank my grandmother or blame her for my career.
Either way, she's a big reason I do what I do for a living.
When I was 4-years-old, Nana brought me to a firehouse in Concord, New Hampshire.
I don't remember which one, but I still have the photo she took of me standing on the tailboard of an engine, proudly wearing a firefighter's helmet, with the number "9" on the shield.
I remember watching episodes of Emergency! on her family room floor, and the time she bought me a headlamp from LL Bean that you wore on your head because I thought it was something Paramedics Gage and DeSoto would wear.
I also remember going out with her on her little skiff into Maine's Casco Bay near Bailey Island, where she had "retired," if you could call it that.
She was the least retired retired person I ever met.
She was always running exercise classes on the islands or at the nearby Naval Air Station in Brunswick, or SCUBA diving in the Caribbean with her best friend, all of which she did until she was well into her 80s.
For fun, she launched and hauled a 20-pot string of lobster traps every year, guaranteeing we always had some of the freshest Maine lobsters around whenever we visited.
Most of all, Nana taught me to appreciate the people who help us.
She was incredibly proud of what I do for a living -- incredibly proud of what WE do for a living.
Nana understood sacrifice and hard work and doing something with your life that serves a higher good, and she always had a special place in her heart for paramedics and firefighters and cops and teachers and nurses and all those people who serve our families and communities every day with little or no fanfare.
Whenever I'm fortunate enough on the job to help someone in some small way, I know that I'm pleasing my grandmother to no end.
So it saddens me to say that those of us in public safety lost a true friend this week.
Arlene Hanchett, my Nana, of Brunswick, Maine, died Monday at the age of 94.
She was a friend of ours, and will always be.