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Monday, January 14, 2013

The Ugly Truth Behind Healthy Choices. #FixThePlus

When members of a community are willing to put aside differences and struggle together to achieve larger goals magic can sometimes happen.  Such was the case when citizens of a mid sized Midwestern city found their town at the bottom of the list of least healthy cities in their state.  They decided, in true mid west fashion, to roll up their sleeves, put on their work boots, and gloves, and apply a healthy dose of middle American sensibilities to the dilemma. 

City council voted almost unanimously to raise the taxes levied on cigarettes, alcohol and high calorie food, using all of the additional revenue to fund health and fitness classes at local gyms and city recreation centers.  Signs were erected encouraging people to commute by bike, or foot whenever possible.  Television, newspaper and radio advertisements extolled the virtues of a balanced diet, and exercise regimen.  It was a smashing success.  Weight, cholesterol levels and blood pressure plummeted across town.  People were feeling better, smiling more, and treating each other like family.

The town went from the least healthy in the state to one of the top ten in the nation.  There was a city wide celebration, and everyone was invited.

It was a boon for almost everybody, except for the Emergency Medical Personnel who made a living transporting sick people to the local hospitals.  At engine houses across town the mood was beginning to darken, as talk of layoffs became more immediate and intense.  Of course there were no plans to lay anyone off, but human nature is a paranoid beast, even in healthy people.  And the mood was turning foul.

On Wednesday, the 7th, ambulance 3-9 was driving back to Fire House 2 after making a grocery run.  Munching on a carrot stick the passenger talked about going back to technical school and learning to repair electronic maintenance.  All of the new treadmills, stair climbing machines and stationary bikes were “silly with gizmos, doodads, and whatnot,” he reasoned.  And someone had to fix them as they wore out, might as well be him, he figured.

The driver did not want to change jobs.  He liked being an EMT, saving lives was rewarding, and offered enough challenges and unique situations to make his days interesting.  Being a handy man was not for him.

“Fuck it,” he said, “I’m going to run someone down,” and he did.  Honestly, though, he did not really run anyone down, he just kind of bumped him with the front.  Enough to break a few ribs, and separate a shoulder, requiring transport to the hospital, and offer a chance to ply their trade, and it felt good.

An investigation revealed an accident, nothing more.  “They happen all the time, all over the world, to everybody.”  A spokesperson for the city explained. 

Word travels fast in the brotherhoods of employment.  Civil servants are no different.   Soon, Ambulance Technicians across the city were causing minor accidents.  Sometimes they would run into people with motor vehicles, normally cars they had stolen.  Other times they would bump into ladders, always dressed incognito, and run away as quickly as possible.  Business was booming.  People were still healthy and the ambulances and hospitals were hopping, once again.

Soon, though, people started wondering what was at the root of all of these accidents.  It had just started one day, and then it was epidemic, mostly just small things, sprains and strains, a few broken bones, nothing too serious, but certainly more than could be explained by “accident.”  It didn’t take long to develop a theory. 

People began forming militias, and looking suspiciously at strangers.  Roadblocks and checkpoints began popping up at the entrances to neighborhoods. 

At night, the ambulance drivers would infiltrate parts of the city and assemble booby traps, so there was always a supply of injured needing transportation.

One day, the North Side Brigade had had enough.  They lay in wait, two blocks from Engine House 14.  And when the paramedics went on a grocery run, they struck.  Thirty minutes later, the ambulance was sitting on flat tires, graffiti painted on the sides showing a man riding a skateboard down a highway filled with empty gas stations.  People from the North Side thought it would be a good idea to express a few green ideas while they were reclaiming their right to live without injury.  And the EMT’s were tied to a parking meter with sign that read “Marinate the pigs.”  Marinate had been crossed out and below it “Baste” had been painted neatly, and then crossed out.  Below that “Waste” had been scrawled hurriedly.

Soon, ambulances were only traveling with a heavily armed police escorts.  Even then they only traveled to areas deemed safe.  Patrols were sent out from the police station and the armed populace used every opportunity to strike first. 

It was decided, unanimously to disband the city council and the military was called in to occupy the city.  Soon, everyone was getting a little rounder about the middle and a little slower, and in need of more medical attention.  Doctors began to make house calls because everybody was confined to their district.  A trust began to build, a trust based on need and Meals Ready to Eat.

People began playing card games with neighbors and soon there were smiles, and things returned to normal.  With more calories.