Ambulance stories (35)

The Black Ambulance.

If you ask anyone who works in the Ambulance Service, and they answer truthfully, most will have a very low opinion of the general public. When I was first working in London, there were no television programmes like ‘Casualty’, or ‘Holby City’, and no fly-on-the-wall documentaries following crews about on calls. TV shows and films showed ambulance crews as little more than drivers, walking about in the background, or lifting stretchers. The Police were the stars of the show, and they would bark orders at the ambulance staff, saying things like ‘be careful’, or ‘hurry up’. Even in ‘medical’ programmes, the ambulance would arrive with a patient, and the crew would almost disappear, cutting to a scene where a doctor, and a usually adoring nurse, were caring for the stricken individual. In many productions, especially comedies, the crew might even be portrayed as incompetent, often forgetting to close the doors, and losing the patient out the back. This may seem harmless enough, but it fostered a public attitude towards ambulance staff that lasted for many years; until the advent of shows like St Elsewhere and ER began to show another side to the work.

Most of the public had scant regard for us. They would address you as ‘driver’, and feel comfortable ordering you about, or arguing with you. This crossed all classes, and was as prevalent in affluent suburbs, as it was on the poor estates in the centre. They felt it was perfectly acceptable to be downright rude, openly insulting, and at worse, physically violent. When I worked alongside a West Indian colleague for many years, there would be frequent references to his colour, not only from white people, as other West Indians regarded him as part of the establishment, and fair game for abuse too.

This grew steadily worse, with frequent assaults on staff, and constant intimidation during calls. Add alcohol or drugs into the equation, and the job started to get downright dangerous, as well as wearing and stressful. Of course, we could call the Police to assist, and we often did so. They could do little, as the offender was usually considered to be distressed or unwell, and not arrestable as a result. We would be left in the unenviable situation of still having to convey them, even after all the previous unpleasantness.

On one particularly bad night, we had just attended the flat of a well-known argumentative time-waster for the umpteenth time. Sitting in the vehicle, in the car park of a Maida Vale housing estate, we came up with the idea of The Black Ambulance. My colleague bought into this plan too, though he shall remain nameless, as he still works for the LAS. The fantasy involved respraying the conventional white vehicle to a nice Matt black. There would be no windows to the rear, and the logo and sign-writing would be in contrasting grey. Anyone who abused or assaulted staff, would have the Black Ambulance sent to their address; and this would also apply to time-wasting alcoholics and drug users, persistent callers, and those just seeking someone to argue with, and shout at.

The Black Ambulance crew would be dressed in the style of a SWAT team, and wear mirrored visors on their helmets. They would carry implements to subdue and restrain the offender; instead of defibrillators, and dressings cases, there would be CS Gas, Cattle prods, and straight jackets. Once inside the back of the vehicle, the offender’s fate was sealed, and disposal their only option. There would be secret dumps, where they would be committed to landfill, and all traces of their existence would be removed, by a special team, following on later. For those pests outside in the street, and not in any dwelling, the vehicle would be fitted with a raising mechanism, to allow the underside to lift over the prone person. Then some kind of acid-based solution would be deployed, leaving no trace after our departure. Very soon, rumours of the terrible Black Ambulance would begin to circulate, and the low-life, abusive idiots it targeted, would be deterred from ever ringing 999 again.

It was only a short diversion, a momentary drift into fantasy. Yet it says something about the constant stress that we were under, that we could gain pleasure and satisfaction, from imagining being able to actually kill and dispose of roughly 10% of all those we were called out to.

Any volunteers for the Black Ambulance out there?

7 thoughts on “Ambulance stories (35)

  1. Slightly less aggressive method offered here……All LOB job,s get taken to Westminster Bridge, the offending twat is then thrown into the River Thames when the river is on the ebb, if they can swim to Tilbury… They can then get conveyed to AE….Once patched up there’s a free trip to Helmand province.


  2. Sounds like a great idea for a film although I’m not so sure that the London Ambulance Service would endorse it. Brian


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