Our employer, the co owner of AID Ambulance in Indianapolis, created a behavior mod program offering the use of a motor home as incentive. The objective: improve our paperwork and our adherence to company policies. The plan worked well. Every employee suddenly improved their attitude toward the complex pile of paper that accompanied each patient transport. We all wanted to have the intended reward; the use of the motor home for three days. What we failed to realize was that our part of the process was only the beginning. The staff of five ladies in the front office, including the bosses wife, did the remainder of the hard work to turn our paperwork into a payable claim, long before computer processing was available.
Ten seconds after the offer was made I knew we had to make a customized plan. I knew that we did not want to be the second (group) to claim the prize. The first group might spoil it for everyone, if they did something weird (like we were about to do) But no one had yet mentioned a group using the GMC. I’m sure the boss thought that someone with a small family would pick a weekend and go to a state park 50 miles away, park in a campsite and the Contest prize would get a weekend of gentle use. Well……Everyone had waited for the good behavior period to pass. We had all anticipated the calendar to be posted for everyone to reserve their three days. The great news was the incentive motivated the EMT and Paramedic crews to accurately complete their paperwork which improved processing and reimbursement times. For that we were thanked and congratulated and it improved the temperament of the front office personnel. Everybody wins! However, skulduggery was afoot! And I was the perpetrator!
Our secretly planned nine day trip! Nobody suspected what we had conspired to do! We simply stacked our names on consecutive days on the calendar.
Gently driving the GMC did not exclude switching drivers while on the highway. It felt so natural to us to do something that most people would consider risky. While traveling we cooked, used the restroom and switched drivers at our leisure. And it was one of the keys to our quick drive time there and back. Nineteen hours from Indy to Fort Lauderdale a motor home with five friends, eighty gallons of gas, no reason to stop to eat, food was prepared on the way and no rest stops needed!
Changing drivers while moving to expedite the trip!
We all worked in EMS. We were all Paramedics and began as EMT’s and as such did a lot of emergency driving. Every month there were dozens, sometimes hundreds of runs per week, many of which were emergencies that required us to “Expedite”! (Lights and siren) In addition we worked in a GMC motor home that had been expertly converted to an ambulance. So even though we had driven that special ambulance as if it was a giant Go- Cart, we knew we had to be gentle with this vehicle.
Few people we worked with knew that we were combining our days, including management and owners. On departure day we all stepped into the GMC. We drove out of the garage into the alley that lead to Meridian Street. There stood the owner who generously offered the incentive program. No matter what he was about to feel, the incentive worked and accomplished the goal. He was likely, not prepared for what he saw next. He knew that someone was leaving with the G.M.C Motor home. He may have intended to say a few words of caution and urge kind and careful driving for his “baby”. He just didn’t know ALL of us were leaving at the same time. He gets credit for being intelligent. He recognized our plan as soon as he saw us, all five of us departing, his eyes dropped , his shoulders slumped. He asked where we were going. After a noticeable silence someone blurted out “FLORIDA!” It was difficult to gauge his reaction as a break in traffic gave us immediate access to a right turn onto Meridian Street! POOF we were GONE before any further questions. We went straight to Mike’s house first for the dive gear. Mike had a box of 8 track tapes, 96 to be exact, that would serve as our; “in flight entertainment.”
As we left Mike’s driveway he was at the wheel, he lit a cigarette and shoved “Born to be wild” in the 8 track! That set the tone for the entire trip! The music made the trip fly by! Some of those days the music was on 24 hours! Driving to Florida was a thrill knowing we didn’t have to hurry, we didn’t need to stop and that meant plenty of time to enjoy The Sunshine State!
When we reached Fort Lauderdale, in a little over 19 hours, I felt we were obligated to go to a great “sports bar” that I had visited with a friend ( Joe Humkey) the previous year. “It’s on the causeway”, a stranger told us. It’s full of beautiful girls and two for one drinks. As it turns out there are a thousand things that can be described as “On the Causeway” Even from a distance though “Buttons” bar seemed to scream to men ; “Here’s Da Girls!” it was easy to find !
But that was last year! It didn’t look right!
I was in the drivers seat when we arrived at “The Button” bar was the new name. It was immediately apparent that the bar had changed hands and was a “Gentlemens Club” now! I immediately tossed the GMC into REVERSE!! The back up alarm sounded, as it should. The sound attracted an employee, seen bursting out of the nearest door. As I started cranking the wheel to back around and to my right a car pulled in behind us . Someone in the car behind us began honking just as “Martin” stuck his head through the tiny sliding window of the GMC! ” HI GUYS, THIS IS SOO BIG”; referring to the Jimmy! In a flash my friends on this years trip began questioning ; “I thought you said this was a strip bar !” ” What did you and Joe REALLY do on your trip last year?” ” Yeah, I bet you went diving!” ” Did you go to Largo or just stay here?” “The truth was going to come out sooner or later!” “Congratulations to you and Joe, much happiness!” So I whipped the wheel to the left and moved my foot from the brake while Martin was still welcoming us to “The Button” and the car behind us was still honking! We are now inching forward and left with Martin’ head still in a window small enough to be a “noose”! One more cut right and in reverse! Martin is suggesting we come back soon and I was wishing we had a siren to make some space to continue on our trip to Key Largo. We got right back on the road. We slept in a parking lot by Air Force Beach arriving at 02:30 end of day one!
We were all accustomed to short nights like most folks in EMS / Fire service. We were back on the road at first light. Key Largo, our intended destination, is more or less a days drive down the majority of the length of Florida. But being playful to a fault we couldn’t resist the tennis court that suddenly popped into view on the west side of Highway One! Now we also noticed that the courts were attached to a really nice hotel! No problem! We changed into some nice clothes grabbed our tennis rackets, which of course were mandatory for a scuba diving trip! We acted like Chevy Chase in “Fletch” posing as guests we got everything we could get from the hotel staff for free! The Chase movie “Fletch” was produced two years after our trip! Watching Chevy goof around in that film made me think he got his movie idea from us! We didn’t really or actually get any item for free but with the promise of “We are checking in later” we had the staff delivering food and drink to the pool or court as if we were foreign dignitaries! After abusing our privileges long enough we got back “On the Road Again” which was one of the few songs we did NOT have on Mikes 96 8 track tapes! ““The road goes on forever and the party never ends” could have also been about us! As we depart to the south for our holy grale (scuba diving off the coast of Key Largo) we have no regrets of spending a day of pure tomfoolery. We have the motorhome for nine days and we can only dive one day. So off we go into the approaching evening! I thoroughly enjoyed THAT day but to THIS day I still can’t play tennis without launching the ball over the nearest building, we had a weeks worth of laughs being the biggest GOOFBALLS ! But then again we needed that R and R. We had all been in EMS for a decade!