Hello, Linebrook, What Is Your Emergency?


An actual report from an actual friend, an actual former Ipswich selectman (back when they were still called selectmen):

His adult daughter lives in my neighborhood, a neighborhood which I described (in a recent “Outsidah” column) as having a somewhat inscrutable layout of streets and street names, including the remarkable distinctive of three — yes, three — intersections of Charlotte Road and Randall Road in the space of about 30 houses.

So yeah, it’s confusing.

So my friend, the former selecthuman, was coming to my neighborhood, to visit his daughter, when he saw, in his rear-view mirror, an ambulance approaching from behind.

So my friend, the selectguy — oh, not giving him a name is awkward; to protect his privacy, I’ll just give him a random pseudonym — let’s call him, say, Pat McNally — so Pat dutifully pulled over (former selectpeople always obey all the laws, I’m told) and the ambulance passed him. The ambulance then made its way around a corner, out of sight, and Pat continued toward his daughter’s house.

This should have been the end of it. No Outsidah column here; move along.

But within moments, as Pat continued driving toward his daughter’s house, he was surprised to see the same ambulance heading back toward him, as if leaving the neighborhood.

Wow, that was a fast pickup, Pat said to himself. Some speedy EMT work! CPR, paddle-zap, ka-boom, done! These guys are good!

Uh, no. After the ambulance passed Pat, it slowed. Pat — ever the sensitive citizen — was watching in his rear-view mirror. Seeing the ambulance finally come to a halt, Pat pulled to a stop himself. He dropped his car into reverse, slowly backed up alongside the ambulance, and rolled down his window.

“Looking for someone?” Pat asked.

The ambulance driver was by no means masking his bafflement. “Yes, I am.”

It occurred to Pat that there didn’t seem to be much of an emergency. “What address do you want?” he asked the driver.

The ambulance driver scowled at a wad of paperwork, cleared his throat, and read out the address.

Of course Pat — intimately familiar with the entire neighborhood, as he is — could instantaneously envision the driver’s intended destination. At this point, then, it was just a matter of giving the driver proper directions, in simple English, the way New Englanders have been giving directions for centuries.

“Go back up here,” Pat began, pointing northwest. (I’ve forgotten most of the details Pat related to me, but I’m sure it was almost exactly like this.) “The road curves around. Then you want to take your first possible turn. If you miss it and take the second turn, you’ll know, because it doesn’t go anywhere. In which case, you’ll have to turn back, and go the opposite way you came. Anyway, go as far as the road will take you, follow it around, and go on up. You’ll see it there. Can’t miss it.”

I haven’t lived here long, but I can tell you, Pat’s directions were spot-on.

The ambulance driver was clearly a lifetime New Englander, because his face lit up with the joy-light of complete comprehension.

“Thank you!” he exulted. Then he pulled the ambulance around and headed, uh, northwest? I think so.

This incident makes me nervous, for multiple reasons.

Big Question #1: If I need an ambulance on Planet Outah Linebrook, can they find me?

Big Question #2:Before it’s too late?

Big Question #3:Are the house numbers painted on my mailbox, and on the historical marker on the front of my house, BIG ENOUGH FOR THEM TO SEE?

Big Question #4:Is there some reason New England ambulance drivers don’t use GPS? I know GPS works in my neighborhood. I have GPS. (I’ve programmed mine to speak to me with a female voice in a sexy Russian accent. I call her Olga. My wife hates her.) If there’s an ambulance driver servicing the Outah Linebrook area who has some kind of problem with GPS — technology paranoia, or a numeral-reading disability — I’m willing to donate my Olga to that ambulance driver. Please, Mr. Ambulance Driver, don’t be afraid. Come forward. Olga will read to you, in soothing tones. You don’t have to process any numerals or understand any technology. Just do what she says, and you’ll find yourself magically arriving, in the shortest possible time, at the home of the person who’s desperately clinging to life and hoping you’ll get there! The life you save could be my own!

Big Question #5:Did the ambulance driver who got lost in my neighborhood get there in time? Were Pat’s directions clear enough? Was the individual in need able to hold out long enough? Were they adequately insured? And maybe most important of all, did the ambulance driver understand the difference between “Beverly Hospital” and “Beverly Hospital Danvers”? I sure hope so. I still sometimes get them mixed up. Which one is for X-rays again?



Doug Brendel is feeling fit, utterly without need of emergency medical attention, except occasionally, after a party, at his home on outer Linebrook Road. Follow him by clicking the little “Follow” button, which will NOT lead you to directions by Pat McNally, so no worries.



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