Unusually for me, I didn’t wake up thinking about anything in particular today, so I wasn’t going to bother with one of these regular posts.
However, when out walking with Ollie later, something popped into my mind unexpectedly, and took me back thirty-six years, to a strange encounter.
So, better late than never, here is what I have been thinking about on this particularly dull and dismal Sunday.
One afternoon when I was working as an EMT, we were called to a lady complaining of stomach pains and dizziness. Her address was very close to our base, only a few hundred yards away in fact. We arrived very quickly, and were met at the door by an attractive and smart older lady, with a pleasant manner. At first, I didn’t realise it was her that had called for the ambulance, thinking she was helping out someone who was ill. But she soon made it clear that it was for her, so I began the usual round of questions about symptoms, medical history, and so on. She was adamant that her stomach was hurting, so we did some basic tests, and could find nothing obviously wrong.
I offered to call out her family doctor, or to convey her to the emergency department of the nearby hospital. She opted to go to hospital, and during the short journey, managed to tell me a great deal about herself. She was 64 years old, and had just moved to the area after the death of her much older husband. She claimed to often feel dizzy, and that pains in her stomach had developed that morning. She also revealed that she had been very lonely since moving, and sometimes felt depressed.
I handed her over to the hospital staff, and left for the next job. My colleague wryly suggested that she had ‘lonely person syndrome’, and that was the last we thought of it.
We were on duty until 11 pm that evening, and remained fairly busy for the rest of the shift. Around ten, we received a call on the radio to return to the lady’s address. She had been discharged from hospital, and had called to say that we had left some equipment behind earlier. On the way back to base, we stopped outside, even though we were both sure that we had left nothing in her flat. My colleague stayed in the driving seat, and I went up and rang the bell. She answered the door, immediately asking me to come inside. Once in there, I could see that she was dressed very differently. She was wearing a low-cut blouse, a much shorter skirt, and had a lot of make-up on. I suppose a description might be ‘inappropriate’, though I wouldn’t presume to suggest what a lady should wear in her own home, or anywhere else for that matter.
She smiled at me and told me that we had left nothing behind, and she had used that as an excuse to make sure the same men returned to her address. She launched into a well-prepared speech about how she had really taken to me, and wondered if I would like to go round after work, “for a drink”. Her smiles and inferences suggested a lot more than drinks were on the menu. Now I am not remotely ‘ageist’, and as memory serves, she was a desirable lady in every respect. But at the time I was 30 years old, and Veronica was six years older than my own mother. I had also been happily married for five years, and had no intention of cheating on my wife. I thanked her for the invitation, and told her that I was very flattered, but married, and not interested in a ‘fling’. She leaned forward and tried to kiss me, but when I shied away and made my farewells, she smiled and said “Oh well, your loss”.
After that, she began to ring ambulances all the time, almost every day. As the odds were that she would rarely get me turning up, she started to ask other crews about me, going so far as to tell them that I was her ‘boyfriend’. She had asked my first name when I took her to hospital, so with that, and a physical description, she was able to make it clear who she was talking about. Then one morning, we got a call to her house, once again alleging dizzy spells. I spoke to her calmly but firmly, requesting that she stop calling ambulances in the hope of seeing me, and on no account was she to tell others that I was her boyfriend. When she declined to go to hospital, we left her flat.
Within days, she was putting letters through the door of the ambulance station. Her words were lurid, describing all sorts of sexual ideas she wanted to try with me. I decided to go to my Area Officer, and make him aware of what was going on. As was often the case, he presumed that I had taken up her offer that first night, and took some convincing that I hadn’t. He even suggested that I should accommodate her, smiling and adding, “It might calm her down”. Once he was told that wasn’t going to happen, he finally told me that I couldn’t refuse to attend her address, especially if I was in the nearest available ambulance. With a shrug, he concluded, “You will just have to put up with it. Consider it flattering, I would”. Not only did her letters continue, each one more explicit than the last, she took to standing on the corner opposite the ambulance station, hoping to see me. Other crews reported seeing her there for hours at times, and when I was on a two-week summer holiday, she rang the bell of the ambulance station and asked the crew that answered where I was.
For almost a year, the luck of the draw was on my side, and I never got one of the many calls she made to the emergency operator. Others did, and became frustrated and annoyed about her wasting time, when all she did when they arrived was to ask about me, then refuse to go with them to hospital. On one Saturday night, she made fourteen calls in under five hours, with an ambulance attending at least ten of those. And I wasn’t even on duty that night.
Eventually, she became classified as a ‘Persistent Nuisance Caller’, with the result that she could be refused the attendance of an ambulance. A Divisional Officer was sent round to talk to her about that, and she spent the whole conversation telling him that I was her boyfriend, and we were lovers. When he inferred that her allegations might result in me losing my job due to ‘Abuse of position’, she just said “If he loses his job, tell him he can come and live with me”. Reports were sent to Social Services, and I learned that she was later referred to the Mental Health Team. As far as I know, she stopped calling ambulances, and I never saw her again.
It wasn’t long before I had forgotten all about her.
Until today, when her face and voice popped into my mind, whilst out walking my dog.
If Veronica is still alive somewhere, she will now be 100 years old.
I hope that she found the happiness she was seeking.