101 Things the Fire Department wishes you knew



Friday, August 7

Language Barrier

I do enjoy when a Saturday Night Live sketch comes to life on an emergency response. Sure the Massive Headwound Harry bit with Dana Carvey is hilarious, but sometimes the subtle misunderstandings between cultures can trigger a good Garrett Morris memory.

THE EMERGENCY

The local nursing home reports a woman unconscious.

THE ACTION

It's 4:30 in the morning. Most of the City is unconscious, but here we go anyway. I have been witnessed more than one time sliding down the pole crying out, "Where's my ambulance? I'm not alert, I need one too!"

The engine pulls up in front of the high end nursing home geared towards persons of Chinese heritage and we have to wait to get buzzed in. The staff usually speaks only Chinese and the decorations, food and activities are geared towards these folks in particular. Not unlike the Jewish Home we respond to often as well. Only completely different.

Up to the floor, again at 4:30 in the morning, we find a resident fully dressed, bag in hand and holding a hand over her stomach. As I introduce myself she clearly doesn't understand a word I am saying so I go into my standard fumbling Chinese assessment. Seeing a 6' 3" white guy in turnouts trying to speak Mandarin is apparently very funny to the staff who makes no attempts to help. Halfway through either asking where it hurt or ordering another round of rum and cokes, one of the staff members steps forward, I assume to help translate. Like I said, they all speak Chinese and have been chatting all the while I've been trying to communicate with my patient.

"Can you ask her what hurts or why she needs us?" was my question.

Instead of speaking the patient's native language, she leans in and begins to shout at the patient in broken english, "What wrong with you!"

I laugh and ask her to stop as the engine crew retreats into the hallway to let out the giggles. The caretaker looks at me and says, "I no speak her language."

"Who does, more importantly, what language does she speak?" The staffers look at each other shrugging their shoulders and decide they don't know. My white boy's ears hear an Asian dialect for sure, but can't tell. I break out the translation flip charts we carry, each page with basic questions in a number of languages. Maybe if she can at least point at one we'll have an idea.

She takes the chart, flips through it, hands it back and shakes her head in the negative.

The ambulance crew had no luck with a native Korean speaker either, so back to square one.

On the ride back to the firehouse we laughed about how we were reminded of the Saturday Night Live sketches with Garrett Morris. He would appear in a bubble over the shoulder of then anchor Chevy Chase and shout the news "For the Hard of Hearing."

HERE is a clip, you can watch the whole bit or skip ahead to 2:03 to see Morris. When you watch it, imagine a quiet dorm full of the elderly and a tiny 90 pound Chinese woman yelling.

4 comments:

TBChick said...

I click on "HERE" and it tells me "The video you requested is not available for viewing in your country". I'm in Canada. What has this site got against us?

Never mind, I started laughing as soon as I started to read "Seeing a 6' 3" white guy in turnouts trying to speak Mandarin". I can easily imagine that. So funny.

Little Girl said...

Don't you like us Canadians? EH??!!

sniff sniff sniff

What did I do to you??? I never woke you up from your little medic bed to send you on a 26A.

The Happy Medic said...

Little Girl, first of all, you and your group send me on 26As and XMs all night long so SHUSH!

Secondly, apparently the Canadian government is filtering Canadian comics on American shows. Not my thing, sorry.

I'll look for a .ca link, but there are so few! ;P

word verification: SCTV

Little Girl said...

me and my group ... the way you say that Happy its like 'the dispatcher' is a weird creature with 2 heads, and 8 eyes, and a mouth - that should only be observed from behind glass .... just because I can survive on a die of Aero Bars and caffeine doesn't mean I am any more different then a medic. We all work in the same crazy zoo.

DAMN YOU Harper!!! Stop censoring the internet!!!