Sunday, December 06, 2009

po po

When I was in college, I took a little detour and got my EMT Basic license. The EMT Basic is the first rung on the ambulance staff ladder. I was inspired by a paramedic friend and learned a lot of first aid, CPR, and anatomical terms and medical language.

I never followed through with it after becoming licensed, and one of the reasons was because of some of the EMTs, paramedics, and other medical professionals that I met during my ridealongs and emergency room shifts. They were rude and dismissive of sick people, calling them frequent fliers and bemoaning their lack of private health insurance. They didn't fuss with things like basic dignity. I was helping to insert a catheter into one granny and the nurse didn't bother to close the curtain. The old lady was distraught and embarrassed, and I rushed to close it. It was all old hat to the nurse on duty.

I know that instead of being turned off by the adrenaline jockeys and jerky docs, I should have risen above and aspired to be part of the solution. But I didn't follow that path.

I have a shaky relationship with cops for some of the same reasons. I have been unnecessarily harassed by police people who were bored or racist or on a power trip or needed to fill their quota. I've dealt with a lot of cops who seemed to think their position elevated them above other humans and gave them the right to treat people with less than respect. Most of the ill treatment happened in the States, where I think this kind of behavior is more prevalent, but I and some friends and family have been treated with suspicion or dismissal in this country, too. This is not true most of the time, and most of the police I come across on a daily basis are helpful and kind. This more benevolent behavior has caused me to reconsider my previous reactionary stance on police officers, with the angsty "fuck the pigs!" refrain.

Today in Machida, a couple of cops were talking to a transient guy curled up on the floor next to the ticket machines. He was inebriated or sick, very out of it, very filthy. The officers were talking to him kindly, saying,
"Oda-san! Are you okay? Hello? I know you're sleeping, but you're making people worry about you!
Hey~ Oda-san! Oda-san!"
(He had fallen back asleep mid-conversation.)
"Oda-san, this is not a good place to sleep, in the middle of traffic! How about a bench? Let's find a bench!"

Mr. Oda may be a familiar character to the cops; I don't know. There are a few transients who hang around the station and I can recognize most of them, but I'd never seen this guy before. It shouldn't be surprising and make me happy to see people in power acting with compassion and respect, but it does. I guess that's pretty sad.


  1. Pfff, my comments never show up if I use firefox. On your previous post, I just commented that I envied you for having cats. Voila.

    I've also seen a similar situation to the one you described above and was also struck by the general kindness. Your description of the lack of compassion towards patients seems to reflect articles I've read about the UK. France seems to be pretty good. That's all I know.

    Also Mademoiselle, as you do not have an email address on this page, if you fancy coffee and cake somewhere in Yokohama after the new year, just send me an email! I've decided to be a bit bolder this coming year instead of just checking out blogs and thinking "this person seems cool, oh well". You don't have to! But I'd like you to ;-)

  2. Did you just ask me out on a date?! J'accept! (That's the limit of my French. How'd I do?) Emailing you now!

  3. Ahh, J'adore! C'est la vie! Vive la moustache! Formidable!

    There you go, you know a bit more :-)

  4. That is a heartening story. Machida.

    It reminds of the idea of "beat cops" that knew everyone in the neighborhood (personalities not fingerprints). In my town when I was a kid there were two cops, Officer Happy and Officer Smiley. Those were their actual names! Unfortunately, neither were all that nice. Smiley was a little better than Happy in terms of how he treated us skateboarders. I always wanted to meet Officer Gnarly - I know he is out there somewhere!

  5. Hey Andy -
    There was an Officer Smiley in the town where I went to high school, too. He wasn't a very good guy, though. In fact, he was one of the most notorious skateboarder harassers. He famously dressed up as a bum in a sting operation to entrap some kids I knew who were piecing in the trainyard. Guy Smiley, he was not.

  6. Merci, Jen B! Bisous! C'est cool!

  7. Oooh, I'm so glad I came across your interesting and fun to read...and I love cats too :)
    This post in particular appealed to me b/c I've always noticed the respect police give to transients, even in my part of Japan. But on the flip-side, I've seen how little respect many police officers are given in Japan compared to back home for me. Hmmm...

    Anyway, glad to 'meet' you! :)

  8. Hi Julie Ann!
    Thanks for stopping by - your photos are beautiful! I've bookmarked you for further browsing. Where in Japan do you live?