Fun With Suits! · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Accident Letter

So, TINS, TIWFDASL, and responding to some sort of emergency or other. It was my day to drive, and I was merrily coding along. Approaching The Major North Bound Thoroughfare as I headed west bound, light and siren flashing and a-wailing, I slowed and observed cross traffic (who had the green light), stop on the rain slicked street.

That appeared encouraging. I began to accelerate through the intersection, when, lo and behold!, I beheld a driver swing into the center lane, pass all the stopped traffic, and proceed to strike the ambulance aft of the driver side dual rear wheels.

He had built up to fair clip, because he rocked the modular ambulance pretty good. Indeed, given my own momentum, the aft of the rig slewed to the right, and we entered a skid.

I corrected, steering into the skid, and noted in passing a pedestrian on the northwest corner determine that he did NOT want to remain standing where it appeared I was going to roll over, and so he started stepping lively toward the south.

Remember that “I corrected my skid” thing? Yeah, about that. It turns out that correcting a skid, in a, oh, let’s guess 5 ton truck, is not a fact, it is a process. So, when I had corrected our slewing-sideways-towards-the-northeast skid, we NOW had a slewing-sideways-towards-the-west-southwest skid. Less off axis, so there was that as an improvement, but our friend the pedestrian (remember him?), last seen high stepping to the south, did not think much of this as it portended his own immediate future. He demonstrated this understanding, as well as outstanding situational awareness, as he skidded to his own stop, about faced, and accelerated north.

I had noticed that we were skidding kinda sideways, in a west-southwesterly direction, and so, once again, I corrected, steering into the skid. Once that had been accomplished, we were merely proceeding catty-wampus, in a more or less northwesterly direction, and, it appeared, tracking our poor increasingly frazzled pedestrian friend as if we were a pedestrian seeking missile. With target lock.

Fortunately on several levels, all these gyrations had bled off considerable speed, and I was able to come to a complete, and rather abrupt, stop, short of squashing the pedestrian.

My partners were uninjured, as we had vicariously experienced many, many motor vehicle collisions, and had scant desire to recreate the experimental results we had witnessed. We were all buckled up.

While I was attempting to determine if my SVT (supraventricular tachycardia: an accelerated heart rate running around 150-200 beats per minute) was self limiting, or my new normal, Doug figured that (a) we were not completing this run, and (b) this might be a nice thing to share with dispatch. He did so.

We checked the other driver (who was fine), and awaited the police, city wrecker, and the inevitable chat with The Lieutenant. Fun times ahead, indeed.

The officer taking the report only had about 7,000 questions, and, once he was done, dropped us off at apparatus. There, we got to switch from our rig, into a back up rig. Back up rigs were too rickety to be in front line service, but not so obviously rattletraps that they could not serve as interim ambulances until our rig was repaired. Which in our case was likely to be sometime around the heat death of the universe.

We returned to quarters (with Doug driving!), where we awaited Lt. Evans. Once he had arrived, he directed me to write a letter (standard practice) detailing the events that had led up to our nice new truck getting bent up.

At this point I was the union’s chief steward, and was familiar with the contract. One of the provisions thereof was that any member, facing potential discipline, had the right to consult with a steward prior to making any official statement. I figured that, hashing this out with another steward might allow me to avoid talking myself into (harsher) charges (than I already faced for the collision).

Another peculiarity of Da City’s system, was that it appeared that the algorithm for assessing fault ran as follows. (each yes answer advanced you one more round) “Were you driving?” (Y/N) “Were you driving a city vehicle?” (Y/N) “Was that vehicle involved in a collision of any sort?” (Y/N)

“GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY!”

No shit: on one call, I had parked the ambulance in the street, four way flashers flashing, beacons in operation, I and my partner were IN THE REAR OF THE AMBULANCE, when some jackhole decided that, as IMPORTANT as he obviously was, he could not wait for us to roll off, and had to depart NOW! In the course of snaking his way out of the parking spot right next to us, he nudged the ambulance bumper, causing the vehicle to rock on it’s springs.

Like a dummy, I reported it. To my astonishment, it took the Accident Review Board SIX FREAKING WEEKS to ascertain that I was NOT at fault.

So, with these lessons in mind, I was reluctant to make any sort of official statement without at least having another steward tell me I was doing it wrong. I said so the Lt. Evans, and said, “So, sir, I officially request that I be allowed to speak with a steward prior to making an official statement, as guaranteed in our contract.”

He gave me the stink eye. “You’re the chief steward, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“So, go chat with yourself , and write my damned letter. Now would be good.”

“Uh, sir…?” I began.

“Mr. McFee, I am making that an order. Do so, at once!”

“Yes, sir!”

I therefore drew up a piece of Fire Department letterhead, and composed the following letter:

“TO: Superintendent of EMS

From: Reltney McFee, EMT

Subject: Collision involving Medic 23 this date

Date (date)

Sir: Lt. Evans ordered me to write a letter regarding Medic 23’s collision this date. I requested the opportunity to speak with a union steward prior to making any official statement, and Lt. Evans ordered me to write you a letter at once.

This is that letter.


Respectfully, Reltney McFee EMT, Medic 23”

I pulled it out of the typewriter, placed my carbon copy in the desk, and handed it to Lt. Evans. “Here’s your letter, Lieutenant!”

He looked at it for a minute, and glared at me. “McFee, this is unsatisfactory. Write this letter, all over again, and this time do it right!”

“Yes, sir!”

I assembled another set of letterhead and carbon paper, and captioned the next letter as before.

My opening line was as above. I asked the Lieutenant, “Sir? What do you want me to write now?”

He said, “McFee, I’m not going to tell you what to write!”

I typed in, “Lt Evans told me to write, “ ‘McFee, I’m not going to tell you what to write!’ “

“What’s next, sir?”

“Goddammit! Stop that! Just write what happened in your accident!”

My next line of text was, “ ‘Goddammit! Stop that! Just write what happened in your accident!’ “

“Yes, sir? What is next?”

He glared at me. Again. “McFee, get up from that chair. Do not type another word!”

I stood. He asked me, “McFee, what do you think you are doing.”

“Well, sir, you ordered me to write a letter about an accident prior to my having the opportunity to speak to a steward about a matter that might result in my being disciplined. I complied with that order, and wrote a letter citing everything that I was willing to say at this moment. You did not find that satisfactory, and ordered me to re do it. I was rewriting it to your specification, when you abruptly stopped providing me directions. Sir.”

Again, with the glare. “It is now 1300 hours. You will have that letter, and I mean the letter that you KNOW you have to write, in my hands no later than 1700 hours today, without fail! Am I making my self clear?”

“Perfectly, sir!”

He stormed out.

I got his letter to him, after a phone consult with another steward.

Oh, yes, And I got a written reprimand for my role in the collision.

Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

Crash of a Small Plane

So, TINS©, TIWFDASL©, working a mid city house, “Power Shift” (1400 to 0200) with Doug and Ed. It was one of those shifts wherein dispatch seemed to feel compelled to send us on a magical tour of Da City. We transported folks to hospitals that I had never expected to see in person. East side, west side, all around the town, as the song goes.

So, we were SNR’d on our latest run (SNR= Service Not Required. In this case, because the nominal sick person wanted no part of going to the hospital, and was only too happy to sign the waiver and bid us goodbye.) Since we had been out to the east side of nowhere that shift, well, I figured the Patron Saint(s) of EMS wanted us to head east.

There we were, motoring northwest along Alternate Main Drag Road, when Ed, looking out my window, saw a column of smoke. I wheeled north on Major Northbound Roadway, and, paralleling the airport, radioed in to dispatch, inquiring if there had been a report of a working fire in our vicinity.

Nope, they hadn’t heard a word.

Being inquisitive sorts, we continued northbound, until, coming to the roadway that formed the northern perimeter of the airport, we turned west, since the column of smoke was indeed to our west.

We found it, two blocks over, and turned onto the street in question. I pulled up in front of the house next door to the involved structure, thinking that our friends the firefighters might feel the need to place their engines adjacent to the burning structure. I noticed a light airplane sticking out of the roof of the burning structure, and supposed that the two were related.

I had no idea of what street we were on, so I called to the civilians milling about, asking for the name. They provided it to me. Then, I paused. I could see the house number of the house I had parked in front of, but had no idea of the house number of the involved structure.

Yeah, you’re right. After 2-3 seconds of reflection, it struck me that, if I could identify the burning house from my location, the highly trained, very experienced, thoroughly professional firefighters likely could replicate my feat of high level cerebral functioning.

I radioed in to dispatch, “Medic (number) on scene of a fully involved house, aircraft crash, casualties noted in the yard. Please send fire and additional ambulances.”

Then I unassed the rig. Ed had already pulled one fellow, laying in the driveway between the involved structure and the neighboring one, around the uninvolved structure and out of the radiant heat pouring from the fire. Doug was just getting to the other patient on the ground, and we pulled him, also, into the lee of the neighboring house and into their fenced in yard.

Once relatively safe, we conferred: Ed wanted a couple of backboards so we could rapidly splint these guys and get the hell out of dodge. I hopped the fence, grabbed the requisite materiel, and tossed it over the fence.

Doug and Ed rapidly backboarded the one guy, set the head of the board on the fence, and then one of them hopped the fence, he and I finished the lift, and trotted him to the rig.

We returned, helped Doug complete boarding the second guy, and back to the truck we went.

Once both were strapped into the ambulance, we were off. Coincidentally, the first engines were about set up and beginning to flow water as we departed.

I do not remember the run to TBTCIDC. I DO remembergiving report, and the smoke smell we tried to clean out of the ambulance.

Funny thing. A couple of months later, I was visiting my brother in Alexandria, VA. Since he was working, I played tourist during the day. Now, this was 1983, around a year after the plane crashed into the 14th street bridge. The very bridge I had to cross into DC. As The Fates would have it, an aircraft– a big passenger jet– was landing as I was crossing the bridge. I don’t want to say it was close, but….I could count the rivets on the bottom, as it passed over my head.

Yeah, I didn’t break out in a cold sweat, or anything. Except, I did.

Fun And Games · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Life in Da City! · Pre Planning Your Scene

“Hey, look! I’m fine!”

Winter in Da City is a special time. The snow, late enough in the season, covers up the litter in the gutters, the layabouts tend to lay about indoors, and generally you can almost convince yourself, if you squint just so, that there is hope for, and in, Da City.

And, then you meet people. Kind of an occupational hazard of being a medic for Da City’ fire department. Most of us held to the TRUTH! Of the aphorism that “sick people suck”. Daily (or nightly- kinda depends on your shift, amirite?) we encountered folks who, well, sucked. Both as people, and at life. Because, after all, the lottery winners infrequently phoned 911 to regale our dispatchers with tales of wonderfulness. Face it: nobody calls the fire department, to gush about he/she just now met The Love Of Their Life, and how this soul brought sunshine into their every day.

So, with that thought in mind, TINS©, TIWFDASL© one lovely wintry afternoon and we (Doug and I) caught a run for a man with a broken leg. Arriving on the scene, we noted the usual choreography of the “He’s In Here!” dance, oh so very popular in Da City.

We entered to find a gentleman on the sofa, ethanol fumes emanating from his every pore. One of the (more) sober bystanders informed us that our guest had fallen while shoveling snow, and broken his leg. I turned to the named patient, and he obligingly illustrated the point by waving his (no shit, notable from across the room, articulated in an unnatural spot between his knee and ankle) leg in the air, declaiming, “Hey! Look! I’m fine! There’s nothing wrong!”

As you may have already surmised, he likely had already been well anesthetized. Then, there was the question: if he broke the shit out of his leg, as he manifestly had, how, and why, had he made his way into the house? And, what parts of this tale remained untold?

I attempted to orient him to current events. “Uh, sir? It sure appears like you have broken your leg. We would very much like to take you to the hospital, to get that fixed up for you!”

“Naw, I’m fine!” was the reply, accompanied by more broke-the-shit-out-of-it leg waggling.

The citizens on the scene were ever so helpful. Or, not so much. They contributed, “He broke his laig! Y’all cain’t leab him here!”

Thank you, Dr. Schweitzer, for your orthopedic consultation. Certainly gonna have to factor that into our clinical decision making!

I looked at Doug, and he looked at me. He handed me the handie talkie, and went to the ambulance to retrieve the cot and assorted helpful goodies. I attempted to elicit something along the lines of allergies, medication and medical history information, figuring that sort of information would be kind of mission critical to our friends in anesthesia. I was certain that a tour of the OR in the presence of the orthopedist was in his future. Oh, and vitals. Vitals would be nice.

Once Doug returned, and I noticed that he had preplanned the upcoming goat rope, including a long backboard, backboard straps, and plenty of roller gauze.

We approached out new friend, and pinned him to the sofa. Doug bandaged his arms…yeah, THAT’S the ticket! Bandaged, not restrained! Once he was hindered from “lending a hand” to the festivities, well, we rolled him onto the spine board, secured him with straps, and, laying a nice wide rigid splint between his legs, secured bandaged them as well.

The foregoing accomplished a couple of things. First, he quit flapping that grotesquely fractured leg around. Secondly, he was a considerably more stable package to carry out to the rig. Finally, all the citizenry was placated by how thoroughly their friend had been splinted. Everybody won!

Once we arrived at TSBTCIDC, and debussed Mr. Leg Fracture, well, the nursing staff couldn’t help but unsecure him, since they simply HAD to evaluate the fracture. That set off an entirely new round of protestations that he, the patient, “was just fine!”, accompanied, again, with the semaphore wig-wagging of the demonstrably unfine fractured leg.

Cool story. I finished my trip sheet, and completed and signed a “Petition for Involuntary Hospitalization”, citing my new friend’s manifest unconcern for a clearly broken leg, documenting his inability to comprehend his need for hospitalization.

All in a day’s work!

Fun And Games · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pre Planning Your Scene · Protect and Serve

The Leviathian Comes Alive!

So, one time we got dispatched to an unconscious person run on the east side. We arrived to see a number of police officers from DBCPD standing around. One of them pointed out a large slumped soul, leaning up on the steps on a rear stairway of some house.

He was not entirely flaccid, and he WAS breathing on his own, both desirable attributes from my point of view. Even so, leaving him to metabolize towards mobility appeared to be a bad plan, so Porthos and I attempted a hold-him-under-his-arms walking assist. It worked, sort of. Well, it appeared to be working well enough that we could maneuver him to the truck, and thence to TBTCIDC, where he could indeed metabolize to freedom, under the loving and watchful eyes of the TBTCIDC Emergency Department nursing staff. For bonus points, he would then not be our problem.

Porthos and I were making progress, of a sort, toward the ambulance, and the police were doing their police type stuff, when I got the bright idea that perhaps a whiff of an ammonia capsule might energize our guest.

Now, with the wisdom that comes with hindsight, THAT might have a good idea to, ya know, DISCUSS with my partner. That discussion might have elicited several beneficial outcomes, like problem solving IN ADVANCE, and anticipation of ways in which this brainstorm of mine might have turned horribly wrong, for example.

As might have become evident, I did NOT discuss this little plan of mine with my partner, and simply retrieved an ammonia cap from my pocket, snapped it, and allowed Mr. Leviathan to breathe deeply of the healing aroma.

He abruptly, and I mean RIGHT FUCKING NOW! Became considerably less stumbling, and way, way more energetic, shaking loose of my grasp on his arm, and turning on my partner.

This might be a good point in my tale to note that our guest was tall, and big, and outweighed me, as well as Porthos, by a considerable margin. If he should commence to some wrasslin’, well, whichever one of us was the object of his affections, would not enjoy being so objectified.

Porthos had noticed our guest’s reanimation, although he was a fraction of a second slower than I in so noticing, and so King King, our newly energized patient, was advancing upon my partner, hands outstretched, and backing Porthos rapidly into a corner.

I realize that things happen quickly, and it appears that time stands still, nevertheless those officers sure appeared to be statues, while this shambling wreck of a man-mountain was advancing, cornering my partner, presenting a clear and present danger of laying hands on him.

I found my Mag Light in my hand, and advanced, on my toes, behind him. My flash plan was, once he had indeed grabbed Porthos, well, I was going to go for that line drive, featuring his head as the baseball.

So, Ninja like, I was advancing upon Leviathan, Leviathan was advancing on Porthos, the cops were unmoving, and I, catlike, managed to step on his foot.

Good news: he forgot about Porthos.

Bad news: he figured that I was oh, so very much more deserving of his attention than my partner. He began to turn on me, so as to show me some love. Of some sort.

Good news: whatever was the source of his previous lethargy, it slowed his synapses, and so the insight that he would rather be thumping on me, rather than Porthos, took him a not inconsequential amount of time to process, and then to act upon.

Good news: Porthos took that opportunity to zig to Mr. Leviathan’s zag, and begin to beat feet to the truck.

Good news: I accelerated to warp speed promptly, and so managed to arrive at the ambulance about the same time as Porthos.

Good news: our officer friends were, themselves, in motion, and they converged on Mr Leviathan, and dissuaded him from pursuing any further laying-on-of-hands ceremonies.

Indeed, they were so persuasive, that they elected to transport our new friend to TBTCIDC, themselves.

Porthos and I had, well, I suppose you might consider it “a teaching moment” once we were back in service. My ears stopped burning after a couple of hours.

Fun And Games Off Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pre Planning Your Scene

Car Fire

So, before Mallory and I had begun to live together, I had one of my ex partners, let’s call him Adam, as my room mate. Mallory would come over from time to time, and the three of us would chat, or share dinner, or simply hangout.

One day, she came into the house, and asked us to hurry out and see what was wrong with her car. Now, this was her baby, one she had purchased because, as she termed it, “I look so good driving that car!” It had been her very first new vehicle, ever.

So, Adam and I threw on some shoes, and trotted out to see what was the matter. She had told us that it was smoking, and once we got outside, it became clear why. The smell of burning plastic emanating from beneath the hood told the tale.

Mallory was starting to get excited, hopping around and beseeching us, “Can’t you guys do something?”

Adam looked the vehicle over, and asked her, “Do you REALLY want us to do something? If we let it burn, or call the fire department, then it will be totaled, and you can get a brand new one. If we extinguish the fire, you are gonna have to get all that burned shit replaced, and it may never be altogether right, again.”

Mallory was nigh unto break dancing by now, and simply couldn’t bear to see “her baby” burn up. Adam asked her again, simply to be certain, “Are you REALLY REALLY sure you want us to do something?Again, she pleaded with us to act. Adam looked at me, I looked at him, and we charged the garden hose, donned work gloves, and sprayed it down through the grill as well as we could. Once it had dampened down, I opened the hood, and stood aside, while he blasted it (or, at least, “blasted it” as much as one is likely to be able to, with a garden hose!). It was evidently sufficient to the task, for soon the smoke stopped, the smell abated, and we were unable to identify any further burning stuff after diligent search.

Mallory called her insurance company, they sent a wrecker, and she got a loaner.

Several weeks later, her car was returned to her. She subsequently had repeated complaints about this, that, or the other thing not performing properly. Soon, she turned to Adam, and admitted, “If I had listened to you, and let it burn, I’d be driving a new car by now!”

guns · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Life in Da City!

“Just wait a while. He’ll stop doing that!”

So, TINS ©, while I was FDASL© as a medic for Da City, this one crew had gotten a run on a jackwagon who had engaged in a shoot out with the DCPD, and had lost. The story ran that he had shot at officers, secured cover behind a utility pole, and then had exited cover to fire, again, at the officers. It seemed one of the officers had, indeed, paid attention at firearms qualification, because Mr. Gonnashootacop received a bullet in his face, that exited the back of his head and took a substantial portion of his brain along with it. Not an outcome likely to promote his long term high level wellness, in my opinion.

It seemed to appear so as well, to the EMS crew that caught the run, as they determined that he was DRD (“Daid Raht Dere!”, as we say it in Da City), and they went in service and left the cadaver to the care of the investigating officers.

Unfortunately for that crew, Mr. Gonnashootacop had not attended to that memo, for it was told that after EMS had departed, he took another (final) (agonal) breath. The officers, unsurprisingly, freaked the phenomenon out, called for another ambulance, which crew read the writing on the wall (which explained, “This Way To Department Charges And Unemployment!”) and transported Mr. Gonnashootacop to the friendly local ED, where he was pronounced (again), this time by a physician. Finally.

The story continued relating that the first crew was granted 6 weeks of unpaid time off, in order to allow them to fully deliberate upon, and repent from, the error of their ways. The rest of us recalled the aphorism that “there is no teacher like experience, and a fool will learn no other way”, and figured that OTHER PEOPLES’ EXPERIENCE would work just fine for our own educations, thankyouverymuch!

That touching little parable, leads into a tale of (nearly) my own. I was, at the time of this tale, working a three medic house, with Marielle, and Tim. Tim was a new hire, and had come to the department as a transfer from being a bus driver for Da City. It came to pass that I had/took a day off, for one reason or another, and, when I returned, I entered the firehouse to find an very, very agitated Tim.

“You sunovabitch! Where the hell were you yesterday?”

“Uh, I had the day off?”

“Yeah! And you left me with Marielle! Did you know that she is crazy?”

“Uh, she hasn’t struck me as significantly more crazy than any of the rest of us.”

“Well, let me tell you what happened, yesterday! We caught a shooting, and once we were on the scene, found that this dude had been shot in the head. Pretty bad, most of his cranium had been emptied. It was my day to drive, and so she was on the bag (doing the patient care). So, she sauntered up to this dude, looked him over, and turned to go. I was a bit behind her, and so didn’t really contact the guy, myself, at all. I heard her say that he was dead, and so we wouldn’t be transporting him. While she was standing up to go, he took an agonal breath. Well, the cops freaked out, and started yelling, ‘He’s alive! He’s alive!'”

“She turned back to him, shined her light into the gaping hole in his noggin, showing that there was not hardly any brain left, and said, ‘Oh, just wait a while. He’ll stop that!'”

“Dude! I cannot afford to be suspended for a month and a half! You gotta talk some sense into her!”

Nice. Don’t give me a Herculean task, or something!

Fun And Games Off Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pre Planning Your Scene

Are We Ever, Really, Off Duty?

Are you ever off duty?

I had spent some time praying at The Altar of The Overtime Fairy, and with the proceeds had decided to take The Long Suffering Wife on a cruise. Now, one of her idiosyncrasies is that she is allergic–VIOLENTLY, anaphylaxis, throat swelling, red faced allergic, to tree nuts. Remember that. It will return to feature prominently in this “war story”.

The cruise line we selected had gotten our business previously. The personnel are unfailingly pleasant, professional, attentive, and on their game. The food is excellent, the accommodations are pleasant, the cabin stewards are magicians who ghost in and make the beds and change the linen without our seeing them. There are reasons that we are repeat customers.

We select the formal dining room each time. There are large tables, so we get acquainted with fellow cruisers, the food is outstanding: as good as, and generally superior to our own home cooking. On this cruise we joined two folks from Minnesota, a contractor and his girlfriend, and two other couples, the men both volunteer firefighters from a small town in Canada.

Firefighters are part storyteller, as am I (surprising, no?). It develops that our other two companions were storytellers, as well. So, mealtimes were fun, great food, round robins of telling tales, and no workaday cares.

Now, it seems that, for some reason, we had failed to make clear to the serving staff my wife’s allergy to nuts. (likely, because we had failed to, ya know, TELL THEM!, or something.) So, one evening, when my wife took her first bite of the chicken that she had ordered, she chewed it for a moment, then spat it out, turning to me with a peculiar look on her face.

I asked her what was the matter, and she told me, “I don’t know, but my mouth is burning as if I had just eaten a nut.”

From the corner of my eye, I noticed our firefighter companions in still life, forks immobile in mid air, as Mrs. Stretcher Ape and I had our conversation. I asked her how her breathing was, and she told me that was fine, but that the burning was concerning. I agreed.

She keeps an epi pen in her purse, which, of course, presently was in our cabin. She did have benadryl on her person, and I directed her to take two, right now. She did so, and we all watched her for a moment. I then directed her to give me a third capsule of benadryl, which I opened, and poured onto her palm, directing her to “lick that up, now!”

One of the firefighters shuffled his chair back a bit, as if clearing for lift off, and asked me if I needed any help. Our contractor friend, with whom we had gone on shore excursions, observed that I was an ex medic, ex ED nurse, and presently a Physician’s Assistant. I looked at the firefighter,  perched on the literal edge of his seat, and his partner, similarly (not so very) relaxed, and said, “It looks like things are OK for now, but I’m anticipating the possibility of that changing. Let’s give it 20 minutes to see how things develop. Thanks for the back up.”

I turned my attention back to my wife, and pasted a fake, but encouraging, smile on my face. “How you doing, Honey?”

She thought for a second, and answered, “OK so far.”

The waiter had noticed our diorama like table, and the absence of conversation, and walked over to see if he could assist us. I briefed him on the foregoing, and our suspicion that the chicken may have been cross contaminated with some sort of nut in some manner. Alarmed, he told us he’d look into it and be right back.

He was. Along with the Maitre D’. Both assured us that there were no nuts whatsoever in the recipe for my wife’s selection, although it was possible that there were some nut oils remaining on the surface upon which the chicken had been prepared. Effusively, they both asked after my wife’s well being, and apologized for this occurrence.

By this point, she reported that the burning was receding, and no swelling nor shortness of breath, as well as no itching was present.

I noticed that everybody else at the table, finally, resumed their meals.

Once I was convinced that her symptoms were, in fact, receding, and appeared likely to continue doing so, we retired to our cabin for the night. She, and I, thanked our companions for their vigilance, and reassured everyone that it appeared that her reaction was on the way to being resolved.

So, the question: are we ever REALLY off duty?