Whenever I hear an ambulance go by (which is often by the way, when you live in Manhattan) I get jealous. That’s right. Jealous. There goes someone who’s obviously getting the attention and care that they need. Their problem won’t have to wait long. And then I get pissed off. Not only is this person getting help, he or she is also making it obnoxiously known by holding up traffic and assaulting my ears.
I have a thing for ambulances. I have this fantasy that one day the sirens will come to my door and take me away. Let me explain:
There were times in my life when I knew I was dying. Like that day in the summer when I forced, yes forced, my mom to take me to the hospital because I was sure I was having a heart attack. See, I had consumed close to 10 cups of coffee that morning because I didn’t realize it would do anything other than wake me up. Well, one emergency trip to the hospital and a hefty insurance bill later, I realized I wasn’t dying. Or having a heart attack. Just as my mom had assumed, I had too much caffeine. But you try telling a teenage me that I’m wrong.
Then there were the times in my life when I wanted to die. Those post-grad years when I was making $15 an hour running errands for editors. Suicidal poets and writers like Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Elizabeth Wurtzel were my heroes. I, too was a tortured soul! I actually admired the ability to stick one’s head in the oven. But I’m bad at being suicidal. If I take a bottle of pills or stick my head in the oven, I’m going to ask someone to call an ambulance.
The thing with ambulances is their immediacy. Their efficacy. There’s a problem put on rush and solved as soon as possible. No one tells a gunshot victim that time heals all wounds. That’s how I wish life would be–here’s my injury, it’s severe, fix it. NOW.
If I were to call 9-1-1 right now it would go something like this:
Operator: “Hello, 9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”
Me: “Hi yes, I’m on 9th St at 5th Ave. and I’m afraid I’m never gonna get married and have children and land a high-paying job and–
Operator: “Wait, slow down. Calm down. I can’t make out what you’re saying.”
Me: “–and I’m almost 30 and I can’t breathe and I need someone here right away! Hello?”
Operator: (click. dial tone.)
I’m not sure when this whole instant gratification thing took root in me. Maybe it’s because I was a spoiled kid, always getting what I wanted. Or maybe my impatience is genetic–one of my grandfathers actually shot someone in the ear to get him out of his restaurant. He actually had a gun chest for situations like this. And then my other grandfather pulled a gun on my grandmother in a jealous rage, the same grandmother whose attitude in life was “is this all there is?” and smoked cigarettes like other grandmas baked cookies. It could also be anxiety passed down from my mother who, in her 50s, couldn’t drive over bridges without Prozac. Or, from my father who rushes us out of the house to get somewhere early. I mean, clearly I come from a solid line of insanity. I’ve certainly sent quite a number of therapists’ and psychiatrists’ kids to college with this genetic legacy of mine.
But before you go call 9-1-1 on my behalf, rest assured that should an ambulance actually come to my door, I’d probably ask for a cab. I mean, red flashing lights and sirens? How gauche. I know very well that my emergencies aren’t anything an EMT can fix, even if he was a psychology major.
The truth is that I just don’t like to wait for anything. I rarely go with the flow. I prefer plans with backup plans. I like to feel the water before diving in. So when people or situations enter my life without answers, plans, or guarantees my brain cells go all Code Red. What is this unknown and how can it be known?
I’m never gonna stop being me. (Fortunately for the mental help profession.) And I’ll never be fixed–not in one place or time or thought. So maybe patience will come naturally the older I get. I mean, I don’t rush to the hospital anymore convinced I’m dying. And I certainly don’t want to bake my head. But until I sit lotus style and breathe like Buddha, does anyone have a good prescription?
“Because I will be your accident if you will be my ambulance
And I will be your screech and crash if you will be my crutch and cast
And I will be your one more time if you will be my one last chance” – TV on the Radio