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Friday, April 8, 2011

Standard Issue: Pink Hair Curlers

I was going to write this morning about allergy season and alternative therapies. I'll still post that article- maybe tomorrow. But I'm recycling some old writing and came across this article I had first published in Canadian Emergency News, a medical responder trade magazine, about 15 years ago. No big message, no bach flowers, nothing heavy. I was feeling nostalgic and thought I'd try it out here...

Standard Issue: Pink Hair Curlers

My father has probably always been my hero. Standing well over 6 feet tall, he can be an imposing figure if you don’t know his easy going nature. He provided my first exposure to EMS work, and I owe him a lot. For as long as I can remember he has been a fire fighter. As the fire chief of the small village we grew up in, he responded to both fire and medical calls.

My father has many sides to his personality. He is a great father and put up with a lot from his two daughters. We used his chest as stomping grounds, used his shoulders and back as modes of transportation, and experimented on him. I doubt the “boys at the fire hall” knew that many a Sunday evening was spent watching Walt Disney while we groomed our Dad. He patiently let us pretend to “do” his nails and hair. My mother, perhaps sadistically, often lent us her array of hair curlers to lend some realism to our imagining. His thick hair curled willingly around the pink Velcro and we created some very becoming styles. Did I mention he is a very patient man? Once his hair had been properly coiffed, we undid the styling, he read us a story or two, and we trundled off to bed feeling loved and secure.

On this particular night I must confess I was the hair stylist, my sister the manicurist. It is pertinent to note I am not a perfectionist by any means and do not pay a lot of attention to details. I had tired of the styling and was safely asleep in my bed when the phone rang.

In those days fire calls came in through private citizens dialling our home phone number to report an incident. They gave the details and directions while my father flew about the house in a mad rage to don his turn out gear and get out of the house. My mother, no matter what the time of day or night began the call out. She phoned a certain number of firefighters who then called a few more etc. etc. Let’s just say response times weren’t great but it worked. My father then was left to his preparation as my mother made the calls. My sister and I flattened ourselves against the nearest wall and waited until Dad was out of the house to avoid being run over. All our friends were briefed on the procedure before entering our house for the first time.

That Sunday night, the call seemed particularly urgent as it was a bad car accident. It had been drizzling a freezing rain earlier in the night and had turned to snow making the roads treacherous. My Dad raced to the four car pile-up still buttoning his coat and adjusting his boots.

The call had been serious and people were mangled in an ugly wreckage. The fire department had had to direct water streams to the cars while ambulance personnel worked to extricate the patients. Dad came home cold with the mist frozen in icicles around his face and hair. Mom always waited up for him and patiently listened to his recall of the events. That night she poured a hot bath for him in an attempt to unthaw him. He told her how he thought the call had really affected a couple of the guys. When he arrived back at the hall to clean up he had found them laughing. He said the laughing had abruptly stopped when he walked in but he suspected they were stressed and trying to relieve it in inappropriate ways. He had made a note of it and planned to check the next day to make sure they were psychologically okay.

Exhausted, he climbed into the bath and dunked his head, letting the warm water unthaw the icicles and clean off the sweat and soot. When he raised his head again he looked down at the water. Floating on the surface was a very pink, rather large hair curler. I’m sure his face flushed in the tub as he suddenly realized the cause of the fire hall laughter. I had missed one of the curlers when I undid his “do”. He had attended the entire call sporting a pink hair curler at the back of his fire helmet. Not sure of his reaction and only too aware of his size and potential temper, no one had pointed out this fact to him.

To this day my father is one of my best supporters. When others told me girls don’t do that kind of work, or I couldn’t move West, or I would never get a job, my Dad said “go for it”. He willingly let me “practice” defibrillation on his chest while watching Johnny and Roy on “Emergency. He has supported almost every crazy idea I ever suggested. There has been only one exception. He has never encouraged hair stylist school and the hair curlers were banned from practice except on dolls.

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