Arco Advertiser: Butte County in danger of losing EMS service (note: "EMS Service" = redundant headline, AA. Hi, AA. I wish you'd bring your "police report log" back to the online paper, AA. I miss it.)
* * *
At age 22-ish something, it was teh hotness peak of the dot-com revolution (revolt!), everyone else I know was getting/had jobs (jobs we now all look back on a smile sheepishly and shake our heads, because when you are 22 and have a ponykeg/foosball table in yr breakroom and you can LIVE FOREVER, things are different. Now, we all work for the government, truth.) That was about the time people were getting flown to exotic locales for schmoozefest open bar group interviews and continental breakfasts, wearing tan-opaque hose to interviews and denim to the office, being taken to the fanciest of dining experiences (not P-Johns) company recruiting accounts could afford. BONUSES, people. SIGNING. BONUSES.
I did not have these companies doing such things for me, and I was not really jealous but happy for my talent-soaked friends, and def. broke, and unmotivated, and scared shitless, and not ready to return to DC/Metro just quite yet, and afraid of leaving college although by that point I hated it – the town, the campus, the people- but college was a bubble that I had turned to plastic: unbreakable and suffocating and impossible to leave. But I was done. I loved my friends, and that was all. The rest of it could go to hell. Yr girl didn’t want no stinkin part of it. Thusly, I decided against attending mandatory "job fair/portfolio reviews," even though it was field trip-style to Urban DC filled with Studio Job Promise and I think I was graded on presenting my portfolio to at least a few potential employers. Alas, it never happened and I spent the weekends of those trips playing NTN trivia at the wings place down the street. (Sorry, Senior Adviser Trudy!)
I took a minimum wage job and additional internship all the way across the country. I packed shorts and teeshirts, a windbreaker, six books, a self-made Charletons UK retrospective and a mixtape from the boyfriend, and walked off that stage with my fake diploma in hand. Four days and participation in one friend's local wedding later, I was gone. Plane tickets were my college graduation gift from my parents, flexible return date. I was gonna let them sticky wet baby wings soar. I was going to Be On My Own, (granted, with free housing and no real bills.) Soar as they could, wheel-less, dogg, Volvo-less. Soar as they could in a town of -600. Soar as they could in the blackest night and quietest place and sleepiest corner on earth.
And I was a little lonely those months, a lot lonely then, because there were no people, no machines, no college drinking buddies, no domesticated dogs, no radio signal, no TV, a solitary pay phone, no trees (I am so East Coast Brand) and empty vast land of black lava and dark and buffalo and stars and wolves and cows and potato fields, vegetationless, punctuated by occasional snakes and broken vodka bottles against the back wall, maybe flailed by a German intern/US Western-snake-expert named Elmar; and once in a while, a squirrel I named Fred, who would sit on the laundry line in my backyard.
I read every stupid mystery fiction left behind in the maintenance room that summer. They all sucked, and I devoured them. I probably read 45 books that summer. On my days off, when I would sit outside in an orange bikini and glance at still-snowcapped mountains in the distance, I would read 3. Maybe 4. Books. A day.
I also played as much solitaire.
For reals, I was alone. I was *the* alonest person on the planet on weekends, when my terrible young roommate, a college sophomore who had never left the state of Idaho, would finally drive the two hours home; leaving me in the desert with not a single solitary sound.
Good news! Your hero of this extra-lengthy tale, she can battle loneliness (insert Wilco riff herr). I made friends with the only two people my age, (and one person much younger than me), in the entire county. I babysat and braided hair. I joined the summer softball league w/ my coworkers. I went to the rodeo and barbeques at my boss’s house. I bought beer at the gas station. I lived three days without electricity or water, as fires burned in the desert. I puked outside a bar called the Mell-O-Dee club after drinking Jaeger while wearing hiking boots. I set off fireworks. I borrowed cars to go to go grocery shopping and attend Minor league games two hours away. I introduced myself to strangers. I called my boyfriend back home on the payphone, weepy-san, even though I (think) I hid the tears well. I invited myself into people’s homes for dinner and sleepovers, a lost orphan stuck in an empty, foreign land, broken and cared for by the kindest people on god’s greeny earth. I went to the rural hospital when I had strep throat and no insurance, and paid those goddamn bills for years afterward. I lived on government property, ate out of Visitor Center vending machines when I ran out of food.
When I finally made it back to DC, unemployed and overeducated, I was thoroughly sick of myself.
It was possibly the best summer of my life.
* * *
One of those black nights, a Friday, totally alone, again, a big burly man pounded on my door. The parkland where I lived was closed for the night. It was 9:00 PM, it was 17 miles and 200 yards from the nearest town. He wanted to use my phone. I did not have a phone in my apartment, I would not open that door, and he yelled at me through the glass panes.
I wouldn’t leave, and I couldn’t leave, and he could kill me and no one would hear a sound but Fred. I was scared to fucking death of dying alone at the hands of a scary yelly man. I was 22, and I wanted to be alive.
Fastforwardblahs. A vehicle had flipped yards from the park entrance, a common occurrence in a land without law and speedtraps and lots of top-heavy farm pickups. He had crawled out the front window. His wife and child, unhurt, were still in the car.
Long story short, I was able to get to another ranger, who had a phone, who called EMS. EMS consisted of a few locals who willingly drove an ambulance, and carted the truck folk off to the medical center, same site of my strep throat curing doctor/vet/transplant from Minnesota.
* * *
And this is where I should say that maybe funds will help, and donating to Lost Rivers EMT would help, but cash doesn't bridge the gap caused by population decline.
Mr. Mozes, I hope you find warm bodies. I hope they have hearts of gold and are willing to drive into the blackest night to pull farmers out from tills, machinists out from under cars, staunch bloodflow from gunshot wounds and rescue all those hundreds of Ford-flipping 17 year olds named Cody. I would hate to see that town, who's already struggled to keep a hospital, lose a service they so desparately need. I can't imagine being hurt and in that black land and hours from help.
That would be very, very lonely.