I was on the 36th hour of a 48-hour ambulance shift. We had been up all night and had remained busy all day. I was starving, so I ran into a deli for a quick fix. The kid behind the counter told me they were closed. I paused, jaw dropping in disbelief.
“Just kidding, boss,” he cackled.
I snorted, then smiled at his mischievously winning grin. “You got me,” I said.
“You on break?” he asked.
“Sort of,” I sighed, “until this radio screams at me again.”
“I’ll hurry!” He efficiently began slinging my sandwich. “Busy, huh, like you get, like, no sleep? Phew! What kind of stuff you roll on today?”
I deadpanned. “Uh, heart attack, stroke, stabbing above the heart. Lots of accidents near the overpass, too—kinda weird, at least three this morning. No one hurt too badly. Even the knife wound was superficial. All of them’ll survive.” I felt the fakeness in my nonchalance.
But he kept bustling. “Did you hear about the one last week? Hit and run, car in a ditch? That was me, boss.”
“Really? I’m sorry. What happened?”
“On the two-lane route, a truck pulled up on me and purposely swiped into my back bumper. Gang initiation thing, I think. My tires skidded sideways, but I corrected before I crashed into the shoulder. I wasn’t hurt at all, but my car got completely totaled. But, you know, that’s just a material thing. I’m here, I’m healthy, and I’m happy, and that’s all that matters, boss.” He snapped a salute by his green visor and gave me a huge discount on my food.
All I had done was complain, but this friendly kid behind the deli counter (who, I now realized, was a wise young adult) had brought me back around to what I was looking forward to when my shift ended: a job helping people in need, followed by a long Thanksgiving weekend with my healthy, happy family. And that’s all that matters. Boss.
Grover Beach, California