The Start Of The Season Of Watching My Tongue

I've just had a week off*

I was coming off my first set of night shifts in some time, I've been burning my annual leave allowance to avoid doing them and it's been a right trauma trying to reset my body-clock back to day shifts.

Winter is approaching, and with it my Seasonal Affective Disorder. During this week off I've been unable to be motivated about anything – I've been sleeping between nine and eleven hours a day and I've been alternating between not eating and binge eating. There are other symptoms, but you don't want to read me moaning.

So I've dusted down my SAD light and checked that the bulb still works – time to start blasting myself in the face with it.

I hate this time of year.

The problem is that you have to be careful not to let it affect your work – it's incredibly easy to start snapping at people, and that way leads to written complaints and warnings from those above me in the LAS pecking order.

It's been said that over half the complaints against our service are due to 'attitude', so as the nights draw in I try and be a bit more mindful of what I say and do and of the way I present myself.

Of course it doesn't always work; take the drunk who was asleep in the street. We were getting run ragged and this was the third person of the night who'd decided that going home wasn't for him, instead he'd just kip down in the middle of the pavement.

Be aware that it's only around seven in the evening.

So we parked next to him and I deployed the 'diagnostic boot'**. Essentially it's not a good idea to kneel down next to someone who is drunk, you never know if they are going to take a swing at you. If the person doesn't wake up to me shouting at them, I gently kick the sole of their shoe with my boot, not with the purpose of hurting them, but just to shake them awake.

Sure enough he woke up and I introduced myself and asked if he was alright.

'Fuck off!'

I informed him that he couldn't sleep on the pavement, someone might trip over him.

'Fuck off!'

I let him know that if he kept sleeping here we, or our colleagues, would keep being called to him as a 'unconscious male, caller refusing to approach'.

'Fuck off!'

I asked him if he would like to go to hospital, it was less than 200 yards away.

'Fuck off!', he then spat a gobbet of drool at me.

'No', I replied through gritted teeth, 'You don't get to tell me to “fuck off” four times and then spit at me. If you don't 'fuck off' yourself I'll get the police down here to have you nicked. And they are a lot less pleasant than me – but I would guess you know that already'.

At this he got up and wandered home.

I am, after all, only human and I don't get paid to have drunks swearing and spitting at me.

The trick, is to not lose my temper when it's a cold and dark February evening and turn the 'diagnostic boot' into the 'your head is a football, you annoying twerp boot'.

Fingers crossed.


*I'm typing this while manning ORG's stall at the Green Party conference. I really like being able to write things in advance – comes in handy for the twelve hour stretches.

** Before I start getting emails of complaint, I was told to do this at our 'self defence' course. I didn't have the heart to tell the course leader that we'd all been doing this for years.

18 thoughts on “The Start Of The Season Of Watching My Tongue”

  1. What's it called when this 'season of watching my tounge' lasts all year round? Because I have that.As for drunks, they won't remember if you're rude – and if they do, no one cares – they're drunks! Next time, hide them with a plastic tarpe and people will stop calling – either that, or deploy “police – do not cross” tape 😀

  2. Ditto on the SAD and much sympathy. It's definitely kicked in early this year so I've just started on the St John's Wort again after some success with it for the latter part of last winter. It's a lot easier on the system than SSRI's and much easier to come off when you don't need it any more.

  3. Perhaps you need an 'Ambulance Service Aware' sticker for drunks, rather like the police put 'Police Aware' stickers on crashed or abandoned cars to stop getting called out all the time

  4. Having migrated South, I don't start till November, mid-October if I'm unlucky and start to come up mid-feb when I take the kids to slide off mountain tops. Just realised this sounds so gloating, whereas it's meant to come across as 'I feel your pain' and sympathise. Mind you, though shorter in length it's more intense lately. Do you think that's because there's some kind of misery quotient?

  5. I have seen a homeless man with a bit of cardboard saying 'Homeless and Sleeping. Please Do Not Disturb. I'm not dead – Don't call 999!'I guess they got fedup of being woken up. It makes a change from 'I'm not drunk or on drugs, just down on my luck' The first person locally with that sign was genuine but its amazing how these marketing messages spread. I did a project some years ago photographing local beggars and homeless folk and it's amazing how careful they are about how they want to be perceived. Even the cup of tea or pack of crisps they had was well hidden before they would let me take a picture!

    Incidentally, was the self defence course internal or external? I've been looking for something focused on avoiding trouble or injury and some conflict management rather than the traditional knee in groin and run off as I think it would be useful for VAS members but management dread the possibility of someone in uniform being seen in a fight and seem to think we will be ninja first aiders or something. Any useful references I can find might be persuasive 🙂

  6. Tim K- Conflict Management – VAS.IMHO, that is something that your H&S people should be addressing!(If nothing else they should “dread” the paperwork involved in an 'Injury on Duty')We have had a 'session' from local Police, and there is something called “Fend Off” by a SECAmb bod on our programme.

  7. Kneeing people in the groin may work well in comedy films but is actually very difficult to do and involves getting a bit too up close and personal in reality. Much easier and extremely effective, if all you want is enough time to get away from a situation, is a good, hard kick in the shin. Having played hours of football when l was a kid (jumpers for goalposts etc) I know how it feels to be kicked in the shin and it hurts, boy does it hurt, and certainly takes your mind off whatever you are doing at the time.

  8. All year round? If it's not the 'two-year cynical hump' then it's a sign of burn-out, something I'm gradually suspecting I'm starting to show signs of.

  9. Sometimes the urge to do as instructed by someone like that must be unbearable! I have noticed that, after a summer where it barely got light some days, much less sunny, many of my clients (and not a few of the staff ) are already very depressed. We don't need light boxes, we need to tow the whole soggy Island further South….

  10. Is this person calling you a “dim bulb”? :-DI remember a course that was offered in house where we learned to be creative; swinging your stethoscope around and smacking the guy upside the head with it or shoving the bedside stand or IV pole at them. You could start a list of all the things you have at hand We had a lot of fun with it. . . (P.S. I, too, feel your pain)

  11. Can I swap your SAD symptoms and reactions with mine. As the winter goes on my brain seems to hibernate and I just get quieter and quieter and less responsive to everything including the idiot I have to call a boss asking me stupid questions and getting the arse when I don't do the things he hasn't told me to do (he seems to be under the impression I'm a mind reader.) so I could do with a shorter temper…

  12. This is only going to be of use to you once in a blue moon, but I find it incredibly useful to go outside, even for only a minute, in the morning when the sky is dark blue and getting lighter. It doesn't matter if this is after waking or before going to bed: it's something about that particular light that helps me. Once a week seems to be enough as of last winter.I can't take antidepressants, can't use a light box and am reluctant to end up on lithium so I have ended up with a hundred coping mechanisms, from making sure I make my bed, to getting dressed even if I don't plan to go out, to cooking proper meals even when not hungry. It is *bloody* hard work and often fails to keep me 'normal', but it's kept me alive so far.

  13. i feel like SAD season is starting early here in Ontario too. usually i don't start using my light until the equinox. perhaps it's the 18 straight days of rain we've had lately.aside from the light, the two things i've found most helpful are Vit D & multi B complex. i take 400IU of the D a few times a week (since it's produced in the skin using UV rays) and the Bs any day i think of it. just don't take it before bed, B vits make you sweat & give you wicked dreams :p

    really, people who make complaints about “attitude” should be forced to do a ride-along, and see how chipper they feel by the end of the second drunk-laying-wherever call.

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