Medical Transport Driver; Part 1 - Jumping out of a speeding car!
The Self Mutilator said, "Can you lock the doors, please? I am feeling kind of manic today."
That is what she said as i opened the back door of the toyota for her. She got in the back and swiftly put on her safety belt. Not looking me in the eye as she had a hundred times before.
This wasn't the first time I had picked up Marilyn from her day program, but it would be the last. As a medical transportation driver in New Jersey I was not paid much to do the job. There were no benefits, sick days or paid vacations and most assuredly there were no regular raises. We only did livery which means we transported folks who were able to walk into and out of the vehicle without any kind of assistance. For the most part these were medicaid patients and some elderly who had both medicaid and medicare. There were plenty of folks who needed assistance and I helped them regardless of company policies.
Marilyn was a middle aged woman who was a self mutilator, schizophrenic and paranoid to the extreme. It strikes me now how odd it was that someone who had no medical training was given the responsibility to deal with a troubled person such as this. A half hour ride with a mentally disturbed person can be the longest ride of your life. Take my word for it. I took so many of those long, uncomfortable rides that I became oblivious to the threat of danger.
That rainy, chilly spring day I was about to get a wake up call.
Marilyn had always been chatty. Usually she would claim the front seat and pepper me with pointless questions and comments about the day and our current surroundings. Not much of a talker myself I was always happy to let the client do the talking and at the proper intervals I would feign interest and nod or agree when appropriate or sometimes asking the right question at the proper time would allow me to concentrate on driving while they talked.
Patience had always been a personal issue for me. Getting this job was like fate taking a hand in my destiny by forcing me into a situation that would daily test my patience. Every day there was something, either the traffic, unruly clientele or even an unorganized coworker that tried my temper. After the first year I had reigned in my temper for the most part and found a new me buried beneath the veneer of disgruntled avarice.
I could see the way her eyes were darting back and forth in the rear view mirror. I could sense that she was in rare form today and I knew somehow that I needed to keep an eye on her. It was rush hour and we were going to be forced to take a busy highway in the rain to get her home. It was still early in the storm when the road was at its slipperiest so I needed to keep both hands on the wheel. The traffic in some Jersey areas is a killer and the people can literally be ruthless cuthtroats. As someone who drove nine hours a day five days a week I was very confidant in my driving skills. Many of my clients had often remarked that of all the drivers in my company they felt safest with me and this was a great compliment. It didn't pay my bills but it was still nice to hear.
My skills were about to be tested.
We were nearing a bottleneck where I was going to be getting on the main highway by taking an exit on my left. Meanwhile the three lane road was packed and when the light turned red I was at the front of the pack. At this juncture in the road people usually start slitting one another's throats just to get over to the exit. Going forty miles per hour in the fresh rain with cars on either side of me she called out from the back, "I have to get out of here!"
I heard her unhook her seatbelt. I looked back at her as she was trying to pull up the lock on the door. In her panic she didn't recall at first that she could unlock the door simply by opening it from within. "What are you doing?" I asked with concern.
Her eyes were as wide as saucers. She wasn't bothering to answer me, she lifted her feet up and pulled the door handle.
"No, no!" I called out. I pressed on the brakes evenly without jerking them. The worst thing for me to do would be to start fishtailing in the middle of this traffic. She flung the door open while I was still going over twenty! A car horn blared as the person behind us sped around me and nearly took the door off on the right. Marilyn pushed her feet out the door and I just reacted.
All thought had stopped as I went into action. With one hand I held the steering wheel and with the other I reached back and grabbed a hold of her. She had a puffy winter jacket on, another sweater beneath and then her bra. I had them all in my hand cursing, "No your F***ing not! Get the F*** back in the car! What the f*** are you doing!"
Meanwhile she is pleading with me to let her go. "I have to get out! Let me go, I want to die!"
I had finally brought the car to a stop and both her legs were sticking straight out the door and waving up and down as she puts all of her considerable weight against my single outstretched arm. Still she pleaded with me as horns are blaring all around us and the inconsiderate jerks are simply roaring around us on either side. If I had not grabbed Marilyn I have no doubt that one of those jack asses would have hit her. No doubt.
I realized I was cursing like a sailor and that I had a firm grip on the woman's bra strap and then I realized the ridiculousness of my situation. No one would believe this one! I got paid how little? And people are trying to jump out of the car when its moving? Man, you need to get yourself a better job!
That's just some of the comments from my friends when i told them about this event.
Its not over yet though. I had finally gotten through to Marilyn apparently because she suddenly looked at me as if seeing me for the first time that day, sat back in her seat and put on her seatbelt, closed the door and purposefully locked it back up again.
She said not a word as I hit the gas and pulled onto the highway that thankfully was so packed the fastest speed was twenty miles an hour at the best of times. But, this made a very long and uncomfortable drive the rest of the way back to her home. As she got out she looked at me real quickly and said, "I'm sorry Joe, I'm really sorry!" Then she went to her apartment and went inside.
My dispatcher at the time was a no nonsense kind of gal. After I told her what happened she called Marilyn's program and told them we would not be able to transport her any longer. Our drivers are not trained or equipped to deal with those sort of situations.
She was right. We were not trained nor equipped to deal with that. Mailmen get paid twice what I was making to deliver mail. I was delivering living, breathing people but that was somehow less important and judging by my unsuccessful search for a new job it was less respected. Really? Really. Its more important that people get their magazines and bills than it is that people on medicaid get to their medical appointments safe and sound. As an American I am embarrassed by this to no end. Pizza guys made a lot more money than I did because they were allowed to accept tips!
I recently went to a similar company looking for work and they wanted to start me at their starting rate! They had no consideration for the fact that I had 15years experience! This is just one of the many hair raising experiences I was faced with while driving for medical transportation. Oh, the stories I could tell you, do you have some time?
- Medical Transport Driver Part 6
Enjoy another harrowing tale of a medical transport driver in New Jersey! You make so much more just transporting envelopes, why does anyone do it?
- Medical Transport Driver Part 5 "Women Drivers!"
A tale of thirteen car accidents and one close call from a new jersey Medical Transport driver! Hold onto you're seat!
- Medical Transport Driver - Part 4
Real life take on the downfalls of being a medical Transportation driver.
- Medical Transport Driver Part 3
Follow the true life tales of a medical Transport driver in Jersey. You won't believe what you read!
- Medical Transport Driver; Part 2
Hear the true accounts of a medical transportation driver in Jersey.