First Responders, Last Call

We’ve all been there, or known someone who has.  It’s last call, we’re pushing the line of being over-served, a bit worse for the wear, maybe not staggering drunk but long past tipsy.  Time for the taxi or the designated driver or the dreaded phone-a-friend option.  We’re thinking about keeping the party going, and then sleeping it off.  Some of us have favorite hangover cure recipes.  Some of us just grab a couple of aspirin and pull the covers over our heads.  We probably don’t have rehydration at the top of the do-list, while the bartender recites the adage, “Closing time.  You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!”

But we should.  We’ve all heard the admonitions about it.  Even non-drinkers know the whole drink plenty of fluids drill.  And a binge leads to dehydration, which is only going to make things worse in the morning.


Since losing my sweet wonderful Larry back in February, I’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff.  Not just the emotional fall-out, but the actual stuff, not the least of which is a whole bunch of medical equipment and supplies.  I’m thrilled at the amount that went out with Larry’s home health nurse, which she was able to get to Doctors Without Borders in Haiti.  That’s fantastic.  But I have more.  Lots of it in Orlando, not just Maggie Valley.  It’s really overwhelming.  And I still have some of Mom’s old furniture in the house that has to go.  The really tattered stuff has gone to the curb.  The usable has gone to family, Habitat for Humanity, and I listed some medical equipment on facebook marketplace and craig’s list. 

I’ve had quick a flurry of responses on facebook.  Until today, my favorite was Jeffrey, in Tennessee.  I listed an IV pole for $15.  Jeffrey wanted to know if I could do a little better on the price.  I figured if $15 was going to be a stretch for this fellow, he could have the pole.  But I know better than to say free – because it encourages folks to not show up, and leave you waiting all afternoon at your meeting place.  (This is the voice of experience talking, people.)  So, I told him five bucks.  And told him I’d meet him at my favorite coffee shop because I don’t mind being left there waiting.  We agreed.  Next thing I know, I’m giving ole Jeff a quick tutorial in how to add someone to a conversation because his sister wants to talk to me.  This is when I found out he lives in Tennessee, a couple of hours away, and his sister will be completing this little transaction.  She agrees to the meeting place.  And then wants to know why we have to meet there.  What’s this place.  Why do I need to make her come to it.  Why does it have to be at that time on that day.  So, I say, the place is where we’ve agreed to meet.  I’ll be there for a couple of hours.  I can go back on the next day if that’s more convenient for you.  Nope.  I should drive to the next town over because that’s too far for her to come either day.  I should drive over to the next town and wait in a parking lot for her to show up.  So, again, I say I’ll be happy to wait for her at the coffee shop on a day that suits her schedule.  And the belligerence commences.  Am I refusing to come to the parking lot? Don’t I want to sell this pole? Why am I being so uncooperative? She has car trouble and doesn’t think her car will make it all the way to the coffee shop twenty minutes away.  At this point, I have to wonder how her car is going to make it the hundred miles or so across the mountains to her brother in Tennessee, but before I could voice my concern, good old Jeffrey pipes up with, “Nevermind.  I can get one for $10 right here in Tennessee.”  I busted out laughing when I read that!  Seriously?  Why would he have his sister spend her afternoon picking this up, and then driving 100 miles, each way, spending far more than that in gas, if he could get one locally for $10?  As a matter of fact, why would he contact me at all when mine’s listed for $15? This was getting really entertaining, as the sister blasted me once more for forcing her to drive out of her way for this now-$5 IV pole that she was going to haul across the mountains in her unreliable vehicle. I’m just watching this unfold.  Still taking the high road, I responded…

Gosh!  I’m so nasty!  The two of them proceeded to tell me all about myself and then closed with, “Have a good day.”  Hmmm.  I don’t think they meant it.  So.  If I can figure out how to get that IV pole to Haiti, off it goes.

But wait!  There’s more!  Because I have a NEW favorite story to tell you.  Today, I’m in Orlando.  Where I have yet another IV pole.  And yet another facebook marketplace listing for said pole.  And I got yet another, ‘Is this still available?’ message.  But I was out of town and said as much, to which this fellow said not to worry, there was no rush.  He was polite and friendly and frankly that’s not been my experience with these buyers so far, so that was nice.

Today, I’m back in town and contacted him and he said he could meet me at the 7-Eleven near me in 20 minutes.  I piled the pole into the back seat and took off.  How easy is this?  Traffic was ridiculous, and even though I was a few minutes late, this fellow was later.  We texted back and forth while he was stuck in traffic.  Jokes.  Polite behavior.  A series of cars came through the service area to get air for the tires, or gas at the pumps.  The best were the ones with all the windows down and Latino music blasting out of the speakers.  I stood in the hot Florida sunshine, leaning back against my car, sunglasses turned skyward, listening to great music, and felt like dancing!  Where was my ice cold cerveza? What a great day.  And my buyer arrives.  This big burly mustachioed guy climbs out of a monster truck with a fire station license plate and insignia on it.  Shakes my hand with his bear paw and introduces himself.  I take out the pole and push it across the pavement to him.

Nostalgia rolls over me in waves.  Any widow will tell you that grief comes in waves, sometimes tidal waves, and it’s impossible to know what will trigger them.  I was transported to all those different times and places I rolled IV poles around for Larry.  Larry, in the hospital, trying to sit up for the first time.  Larry, housebound, trying to get from the desk chair to the sofa.  Larry, having his bi-weekly infusions, taking the IV pole down the hall to the bathroom.  Larry, unable to sit up without help, and the pole is too far away so the hose is a problem.  Larry, with 27 (not kidding, 27) different wires and tubes going into him in the ICU.  It was stunning.  And I had a grip on that IV pole.  Like letting go of it would be letting go of Larry.  This all happened in a flash, less than a second, but I was changed. I tried to act normal. Act.  Not be. And this fellow comes to the rescue, albeit unknowingly, but that’s who he is.  That’s what he does. He gives me a big grin and tells me in a booming big voice, “My wife and I are paramedics.  Sometimes we like to drink a little too much and so we start IV’s on each other to rehydrate.”  Wait.  What?  Say that again, what?!  Nevermind the image of drunken paramedics starting IVs (now you know why I’m not telling you his name) this was instantly transformed into a party pole.  And a whole new wave of memories came crashing in.  Crashing, rolling, weaving, layering, replacing those earlier images with Larry, laughing to the nurse and demanding rum in his IV.  Larry, telling the rehab doctor, with a straight face, that he would like a prescription for limes to go with his IV cocktail.  Larry, insisting in the ICU that if his mouth had to be swabbed, it be with Captain Morgan instead of mouthwash (and much to my surprise, the doctor said, “Why not?” and I came right back with a little bottle of it). Larry, perpetually joking about what’s in the IV bags as he pushes the pole across the room, making nieces and nephews more comfortable with the scary sight.  (He was also likely to pull off his oxygen hose, and offer to it a teenaged nephew with a quiet, “Pssst, hey kid, want a hit?”) Again, all in a single second.  Big burly paramedic whips out a twenty, doesn’t ask for change, and takes off in his great big truck.  And I’m left standing in the sunshine, Mexican rap music blasting from the jeep that just pulled in, traffic pressing ahead and the little kid hanging onto a woman’s hand as they go into the store, “Please please can I have ice cream?” And all is right with the world.