It was a nasty crash: five vehicles, one on its roof, another ripped in half. One fatality. My job was traffic control. For three and a half hours, I stood by the orange cones, waving oncoming cars forward to the detour. It was one of the busier intersections in town. Beckon forward, point, beckon forward, point.
Inhabiting my current world is a cadre of emergency care providers who are often less than half my age. I feel humbly grateful to have the health and well-being to remain in their midst, and to feel accepted as one of them despite our generational differences.
It occurs to me, though, that as an elder in this crazy, wonderful world of providing assistance to those who call for help, I have perspective that they cannot. Although history sometimes seems irrelevant to those who have not lived it, perhaps it doesn’t hurt to be reminded, now and then, that today’s status quo didn’t come without someone proving it could be done.
My mom used to let up on the brakes at a stoplight while it was still red, but (like magic, to a seven-year-old) it always turned green just as she did that.
“How do you know the light is about to turn green?” I asked from my vantage point in the back seat one day.
“I watch for the amber on the light for the people going the other way,” she said, “and that way I can tell it’s just about our turn.”
That memory is so vivid, I think, because I learned two things. First: my mom observed things beyond the obvious. I’d never thought to do that. Second: she somehow knew exactly what I was getting at with my question. This led me to ponder the power of a well-asked question—a concept which followed me into my work both as a journalist and as a paramedic. Journalists and paramedics must gather extensive information, often quickly, in order to do their jobs. I like to joke that by now I can ask darn near anyone darn near anything. It’s what I do.