Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The March of the Ants

The ants weren’t concerned. They were just being ants. Probably some scout went out on patrol looking for a Kool-Aid spill or a cookie crumb and realized he had hit the motherlode. He sent word back through their intricate communication system. A system based on neurochemical transmitters and receivers 100 times more advanced than anything we have developed, but the ants seem to have figured it out. Go figure. I guess eventually, the word got back to the base camp that a line should be formed, something had been found, things needed to be done.

Busy feet, busy hands, busy mouths, busy ants. It was like clockwork for them and no source of worry, all in a day’s work. I wish I could say the same for my trainee.

“Do you think he’s dead?” he asked me.

“What do you think?” I sarcastically quipped. There was no way this guy was still alive. He was frozen in a pose like a praying mantis with his elbows bent and hands curled inward. How long had he been there? My estimation was at least a day. Probably not too much longer as it was warm out and I couldn’t smell him from the door as he laid face up on the pale yellow linoleum kitchen floor. Probably not how he imagined he would go. In his boxer shorts. On a cheap floor. In a run down apartment. Not the stuff dreams are made of.

The ants marched on.

“What do I do?” Jeez this kid was full of questions.

“What does the protocol book say to do?” Two could play the question game.

“I guess I need to check him out and make sure he is dead.” I could see his brow was starting to get that nervous sweat on it. Opening day jitters, performance anxiety, whatever you want to call it, he had it.

“Sounds good to me.” I vacantly replied. Ray Charles could have seen this guy was dead, but if my trainee wanted to get his hands dirty and get in there, who was I to stop him? Besides, I was distracted imagining the deafening din of thousands of microscopic combat boots hitting the pavement in perfect unison like so many jack boots in a parade. “Your left! Your left! Your left, right, left!” the miniature caller would shout, probably not as manly as in the army movies. Maybe more like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Yeah, that worked better.

The trainee got to work checking the dead man for any signs of breathing or circulation. Of course there were none. The sour look on his face told me that at least subconsciously, in close quarters, the smell was there to indicate decomposed tissue. The heart monitor was picking up a bit of artifact from the trainee’s movement that produced ripples in the EKG waveform from the familiar flat-line everyone knows from TV and movies. Artifact has given many green medics false hope that there was some activity in the patient’s heart. Classic mistake. The trainee bit.

“Is he flat line?” I asked feigning interest already knowing what he was thinking. This was a teaching moment I couldn’t let pass.

“I think so, but I might have something. Let me check a few things.”

“Sounds good.” I was fine to let him go as long as he wanted, and long he went through every possible check. I could tell he wasn’t sure about rigormortis and kept checking and rechecking for stiffness like a kid who keeps poking a sleeping dog expecting it to wake and snap at him at any moment. I remembered back to when I was a trainee and how the only way to learn about things of this nature was to jump in and just do it, so I let him go. Besides, a crowd was forming and the cops and coroner were just pulling up so I went over to chat with them and let them know the kinds of things they want to know.

With the police, fire department, ambulance crew and now the coroner, we were beginning to form our own version of the work line to and from the body. Lots of gathering of facts and opinions from witnesses and the unlucky fellow’s personal effects. More opinions than facts were offered.

“Your left, right, left!”

There was a lot of work to be done. Shuffling of paperwork. Trips to the ambulance and back. Radio reports back to base. Busy pens, busy boots, busy mouths, busy humans. It was like clockwork for us and no source of worry, all in a day’s work. I still wished I could say the same for my trainee.

After fifteen minutes or so, I started to develop a conscience and pulled the kid off the corpse. “OK, that’s enough, come on you have paperwork to do.” We did. Besides it was time for everyone to finish up. Very soon both production lines would be shut down.

Meanwhile back at the ant line, production was in high gear. They were moving morsel upon morsel back to the hill. They were completely oblivious to the fact we were there. Even more oblivious to the impending fact that their find would soon be snatched away as quickly as their meal’s life had been. I don’t know how or why this particular gentleman passed on. There was nothing to indicate either way, and it’s really not my job to figure that out. Much like the ants, for me it didn’t really matter, the fact was there was a body on the floor and there was much work to be done.

Copyright 2010 Jon Kuppinger

1 comment:

Wenderina said...

hi Jon - your sister pointed me in this direction. You have a powerful voice and I trust this blog helps you process the extreme things you experience every day. I'll keep reading.