Rick is standing against the wall of the EMS room when I walk in to write my report. “My hero,” he says. “No, you’re my hero,” I say. Rick has been a medic a few years longer than I have, but he has been in EMS way more years. He started as a boy and dates back to the Cadillac days. When I started as a medic in the city in 1995, back when our smaller ambulance company covered the entire town, I was a medic in the north end and Rick was a medic in the south end. We never had more than six medics on at a time, and occasionally just had the two of us. Sometimes I went south to help him on a bad car wreck or he’d come north to back me up on a multiple patient shooting. Things have changed. We got bought out by a large national company and our new company ceded the south end to another service as part of a politically negotiated settlement. Our company has a lot more medics now (it isn’t unusual to have 15 on at a time) as well as a dispatch policy that often doesn’t seem to differentiate between ALS and BLS units so we are as likely to be doing a transfer as a 911 call. Instead of being posted in the same location when we weren’t on a call – for Rick it was Area 4 – the city hospital, for me it was Area 3 — the catholic hospital, we are now constantly on the move from street corner posting to street corner posting, from town to town. Some days we can drive for two hours and never do a call or reach a destination. Area 9, no make that 13. Area 16. Back to 9. Go Downtown. Head to this suburb. Head for 8. Back to 13. It takes a toll on an older body. We get to talking about work. It’s just not like the old days, he says. I share the same complaints. The calls aren’t as good. There are a lot of new medics who seem to practice only out of the cook book (To be truthful, I have heard this complaint ever since I started). Half the time you are working with a new partner who doesn’t know the streets. People aren’t as passionate. It’s a business now. We talk about some of the medics and EMTs we used to work with. Two are doctors, one is a lawyer. There are a few nurses. Some left the medical field all together to do sales or work construction. A few are in mental institutions. A few have dropped off the face of the earth. Several are dead. And then there are those of us still out here on the streets, a little blurry, worse for wear and tear. I ask him if he is burned out and he says, “No, I still love my job.” It’s just that the good calls don’t seem to be as good as they used to be and there aren’t as many of them. I tell him some stuff is for the better. We have twelve leads now. Capnography. CPAP and the EZ IO Drill. He just shakes his head and says nothing and I get the sense he thinks when it really comes down to it, technology is all a lot of toys. Some days I watch him, as I wait in the triage line with my patient, and he walks by with a new partner, wheeling their stretcher into the hospital to pick up a patient upstairs going to a nursing home for rehab or taking someone home to a distant town, and I think what a waste of talent. Not like the old days when I’d be standing in the midst of chaos and look up and see him step out of his ambulance like John Wayne with a smile on his face – the cavalry come to save the day. “Good to see you,” he’d say, walking over to shake my hand. “What do you have for me?” Today, his pager buzzes. He looks down and reads it. I can see his eyes straining to make out the message. “Transfer coming out,” he says. “My hero,” I say to him as he leaves. “And you are mine,” he says. Oh, for the old days. To be ten feet tall again.