This is Kevin Hazzard’s memoir- he was a journalist, until 9-11, and then, he decided that he needed to work a job that gave more back to society. So, he decided to become an EMT and, eventually, a paramedic. This is the sometimes insane, sometimes touching, and, many times, yucky record of his ten years in that profession.
It is shocking, but I learned a lot about the physical and emotional toll the job takes on these professionals.
Frankly, I’m surprised that anyone is able to do this job. I know that I couldn’t.
A Thousand Naked Strangers invites the reader to examine their own mortality or, if not examine it, just remember it like a literary memento mori.
I, like most other people, want to pretend that I’m going to live forever when I know I’m not. A Thousand Naked Strangersdoesn’t allow room for that.
Hazzard’s stories can be ridiculous, gruesome, or uplifting. This book has a little bit of everything.
Why Kevin decides to become an EMT: (his first day of class) “…Alan (the instructor) tells us, right out of the gate, if we’re not sure we can handle this, now is the time to leave. A couple of people laugh as though the mere suggestion is ridiculous, but I’m not one of them. I didn’t grow up wanting to be an EMT, nor do I know if I’ll like it. What I do know is I want to get hip-deep in things that matter.” pg 19 ebook.
He certainly manages to do that.
Learning the ropes: “It’s all so new, so foreign, so much like that period of childhood- first or second grade, maybe- when you’re old enough to know you’re alive and one day will die, yet young enough to still believe that a thin vein of magic runs just beneath the surface.” pgs 26-27 ebook.
I still feel like that, most of the time.
Why Kevin stays: “Every word the radio breathes into the stale air of the station sets me on fire. EMS is the greatest show I’ve ever seen, except it’s not a show, it’s all real. No, it’s more than that- it’s reality distilled and boiled down to its essence.” pg 59 ebook
At times, I had trouble connecting with this memoir. He almost felt too excited to be out there… inviting disaster because he was going to be the one to pick up the pieces. I’ve never felt like that.
Why it’s so hard to read A Thousand Naked Strangers: “In a job where it’s possible to scoop up a stranger’s brain, it’s important to have levity. But after a while, I lose the ability to judge which stories to tell my friends and which go beyond the limits of good taste.” pg 90 ebook. That’s it- in a nutshell.
Finally, how Kevin’s job is sort of like everyone else’s: “Like a recurring dream, every working day holds the same frustrations, and the working days never change, they just stretch out for all eternity. For months I’ve wondered how it will end. Maybe I’ll reach my limit and quit.” pg 206 ebook
I think, anyone who works a job for any amount of time, feels like this at some point or another. Kevin’s job was simply more intense and invited that type of introspection more quickly.
My book club picked this memoir as its monthly read. I’m not certain I would have ever chosen to read it otherwise. But, I’m glad I did.
Thanks for reading!