Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A is for...

Well, here we are at A, and if you are blogging about EMS what should A stand for? Ambulance? Nah…to predictable. How about…Adrenalin? Already covered it. I know…A is for Acting! It makes no sense, but believe it or not, I came to this career through acting. Before I became an EMS maven, I was a professional actress. I studied theatre in college (the first time around) and I spent eight years hitting auditions, doing commercials, traveling the country in search of work (living out of my car) and I was totally, 100%...miserable.

Oh I loved acting in plays. In college, I was able to portray some of the finest heroines to grace the stage; Portia in “The Merchant of Venice”, Maggie in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, and Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire” to name a few. But, acting in college plays and making a living as a professional actress is not the same animal. There isn’t a lot of artfulness in hawking laundry detergent, and doing silly farces night after night in dinner theaters while people pick roast beef out of their teeth doesn’t get the old creative juices flowing. Something was missing from my life, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was.

One thing I did figure out early in my show business career was that I would have made a terrible famous person. I like my anonymity and if I want to go out looking like a reject from the trailer park, I’m going, and if you don’t like the fact that my bra strap is held together with a safety pin and falling off my shoulder, then don’t look at me! No, if someone jumped in front of me with a camera they might be pooping lenses and f-stops for a week. I would have made Sean Penn look like Pat Boone.

Trouble was I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had no skills other than the requisite table waiting and bar tending kind that are a must when you are a “professional” actress, and I had no burning desire to acquire any. I couldn’t type, and would have self-combusted in an office environment anyway, so I didn’t see the need to learn. I was drifting in a sea of perpetual dieting and meaningless auditions that might net me a cereal spot or a voice over and then it was back to the grind of just trying to find some work. My life lacked meaning and that’s when I met…the Captain.

He was a part time actor and we had the same agent. I had done a couple of shoots with him and we were on “friendly acquaintance” terms. We got stuck together on a really long auto dealership shoot that went over time and budget and lasted several days. We had a lot of down time and that’s when I learned that he was a fire Captain when he wasn’t selling cars on TV. Cool…I’d never met a fireman before. I bent his ear for two days and by the time the shoot was over I had procured a coveted “ride along”.

I showed up at his fire station breathless with excitement. You might have thought it was at the prospect of seeing hot sweaty firemen, but I had a wrinkle in my brain that I couldn’t quite smooth out and it had something to do with the chat I’d had with him about his life’s work. I began to put a name to what seemed to be missing in my life. It was…a sense of purpose. I had never been able to find it in my show business pursuits and I was starting to think that I had missed my calling.

Don’t misunderstand me. There is a higher purpose in the arts. I am still an avid lover of all things cultural, but as an observer. I personally did not find happiness and contentment in my attempts at creating; I am at home being the one who the culture is created for, and by the time I left the fire station at the end of that shift, I knew I had found my calling.

The journey itself is too involved to completely cover here, but I returned to college, received a degree in Emergency Medical Science and have blissfully been plying my trade for the last 25 years. The odd thing that I quickly discovered about my new profession was I had more acting challenges in EMS than I ever had in the theater. Such as, acting like I wasn’t scared out of my gourd or acting like I knew what I was doing. And these acting gigs are all improv…the calls aren’t scripted, the bad guys don’t throw stage punches, and I love every minute of it. People often ask me if I regret not pursuing my acting career any further than I did. My reply is, “Why would I want pretend drama when I can have the real thing!”


  1. Fate steps in! I LOVE those moments when everything just becomes so clear.

  2. I know...right? Now, if I could just have one of those moments every time I lose my keys!!!

  3. You know how much I love this post. 1)because I 'knew you then' and 2)because of the uncanny way our lives have paralleled since our acting days. This is wonderful and I'm so proud of you for finishing the challenge. And see, Cyndi, we don't have to be on stage to entertain people. Our writing can do that. And, we can do it with our bra straps held together by safety pins and trailer clips in our dirty hair.

  4. Well I can't comment on the bra straps but my youngest son has just started an EMT career and thus far gets a huge sense of accomplishment from his choice. I personally couldn't do it but I"m glad people like you Cyndi and him - can and do! Wonderful writing.