The call was routine, inasmuch as a 911 call for a potential stroke victim can be. The station tones came through right after lunch, and we rolled out in a cacophony of lights and sirens, me grinning from ear to ear as I watched the mad-dog soccer moms swerving all over trying to get out of the way. Being on the east side, calls for stroke patients were relatively common, what with the abundance of seniors living out their sunset years on the “nicer” side of town.
We roll up and a large lady in a pink sweater is waving her hands around in some sort of psychotic interpretive dance, flagging us down as though it is inevitable that we will somehow shoot right on past her home. The captain on the rig, nearing retirement and caring very little about any interpersonal interaction, promptly occupies himself with paperwork in the cab and staring at rocks in the driveway. My partner and I grab the medical gear and head towards the house. Mrs. Hysterical-In-Pink steers us away from the house and points us towards a large portable building in the back yard. As she places her hands on the door handle, she turns and looks at me and my partner and says, in an oddly calm voice, “You have to promise me not to freak out.”
What the hell did we do? Mentally, of course, we were freaking out. What was in this shed? Was Grandma chained to the floor and found dead? I look back at my partner and we’re both wondering if this is a situation where police presence might be a good idea. We both look back to find the captain kicking stones in the street and daydreaming about slaughtering bass on the lake. Too late now, I suppose, to turn and run. And, of course, I am curious as hell as to what she has going on in there.
She opens the doors to reveal the largest S&M sex torture chamber that one might be able to fathom, complete with a leather and studded cross in the center, whips, chains, saddles, video equipment, candles, a microwave oven, and a polyvinyl covered bed across the back. The entire room was painted black with chicken wire and insulation on the walls and a couple of window-unit air conditioners. There was even what looked to be some sort of five gallon pail filled with prophylactic devices. Apparently, one can’t be too safe in this kind of environment. In the center of this room are two very large women in an unflattering menagerie of skin tight leather outfits with one very skinny old man wearing little more than a pair of cutoff shorts. As we stumble in, jaws dropped and eyeballs the size of saucers, he points to the woman with purple spiked hair and says “She is exhibiting classic stroke symptoms with drooping on one side of her face and slurred speech patterns”. Okay, I’m thinking, is this guy a doctor, because that would make this already madcap scenario THAT MUCH BETTER!
Our patient looks up at me and says “I bet you ain’t never seen nothing like this before, have ya?” In this, she is absolutely correct. As assessment begins, I assure her that no worries, discretion is key, no one is the wiser. She then looks at me as though maybe I am the one with the condition, and proceeds to tell me how she LOVES this kind of thing, “Ain’t no shame in my game”, and that things just got a little out of hand, that’s all. In between stealing glances at weapons of sexual intimidation on the wall and attempting to get a blood pressure reading on a super-sized dominatrix, my mind was reeling. There is no way that anyone is gonna believe this story, that this is happening right in someones backyard, right in town, right in the middle of the workday. This is so awesome.
About this time our captain stumbles in and, seeing the air conditioners on the wall and not much else due to the incredible darkness of the dungeon, asks out loud if these people have a working smoke detector in this outbuilding. We ALL stop what we are doing, turn our heads (patient included) and start breaking out in small fits of incredulous laughter. About ten seconds later, as he is idly pushing a swinging chain back and forth, his eyeballs adjust, and any semblance of discretion flies right out the door as he blurts “Oh GOD! OH MY GOD! I GET IT! OH! OH! OH! What the HELL am I touching? CRAP! Boys, I’m gonna wait outside for the ambulance to get here!” He then shimmied out of there as though his backside was literally on fire.
Our patient then looks up at me and says “Discrete, huh?” At this point I shrug my shoulders. What can I say to that? She has a point. After returning to the station and taking a bleach based shower, the whole situation got me to thinking: we all have our own versions of a hidden S&M chamber in our life. For some folks like The Wife, it is a closet obsession with all things Star Wars. Not too many people know that I harbor a secret job fantasy of being a steam locomotive engineer or a touring member of the Drive By Truckers (a favorite band). One of my unhinged neighbors is sitting on over 1.3 million records (45’s only, thank you very much) and spends his free time cataloging and listening to them on one of his 13 jukeboxes. We all have our little escapist havens. For some it just happens to occur while wearing leather and participating in stroke-inducing rituals. Ain’t no shame.