Questions at the Walk for Hunger
Yesterday was supposed to be my day off. Instead, I worked a detail, staffing a medical tent at the finish line of the Walk for Hunger.
A detail, in EMS parlance, is an assignment at a fixed location, usually to provide medical support for a large event of some kind. Depending on the nature of the event, this may involve working in an ambulance, patrolling a race course, riding through a crowd on a bike, or manning a first aid tent.
Yesterday's event, the Walk for Hunger, is an annual fundraiser where some 30,000 people walk 20 miles through Boston, Brookline, Newton, Watertown, Cambridge, and back to Boston again. Along the way, walkers sometimes trip and fall, get hit by cars, have heart attacks, or get blisters. To be prepared, we have ambulances, bike units, and medical tents all along the route.
We started work at 8:00 am. We caught a ride to the Common in a Special Operations vehicle, met the first-aid volunteers affiliated with the event, set up our equipment, and waited for the walk to begin. A couple of hours later, as the first walkers began to stream across the finish line, people began to request Band-Aids. Since our job was to treat and transport patients serious enough to need hospitalization, we stayed out of the way and let the volunteers handle these requests. Someone occasionally came into our tent with an abrasion after taking a fall, but otherwise, the walkers needed only Band-Aids.
Meanwhile, I was only too happy to provide directions to anyone who needed them. Maybe it's because I worked on the night shift for so many years, but I really enjoy fielding such questions, because it's refreshing to deal with a sober public for a change. And besides, since I was getting paid to be there, and I didn't have any work to do, it only made sense to be as helpful as possible.
The most common question I fielded was, "Where can I catch the subway?" But not all of the questions involved directions. Some involved other kinds of problems--lost property, lost children, a stolen backpack. I have to admit that some of these questions left me shaking my head.
Here, then, are the three conversations I found most amusing at the 2009 Walk for Hunger:
Walker (at 2:00 pm): Where's registration?
Me: Registration? That's the registration tent over there, but there's nobody around. Why? What do you need?
Walker: I want to sign up for the walk.
Me: You're a little bit late. The walk started six hours ago. Most of the walkers have already finished.
Walker: Can I still do it?
Me: Well, sure. I guess so. I mean, nobody's going to say that you can't take a walk. But I think it's too late to sign up for it.
Walker: Okay. That's fine. I'm going to do it anyway.
Me: Have a good time.
Walker: I need some advice for my brother. Some first aid advice.
Me: Okay. What's wrong with him?
Walker: His legs are sore.
Me: Really? After walking twenty miles, his legs are sore? You don't say.
Walker: What should I tell him?
Me: Tell him to stretch really well, and then take a rest. Tell him that walking twenty miles is tiring.
Walker: Okay. I'll tell him. Thanks.
Walker: Excuse me, but has anyone turned in a walker?
Volunteer: A walker?
Walker: Yeah, you know, one of the square metal things that old people use to help them walk? My uncle thinks he left it at the Three Mile checkpoint. Do you know whether anyone has turned it in?
Volunteer: Your uncle left his walker at the Three Mile Checkpoint, and walked the remaining seventeen miles without it? Are you sure he really needs a walker?