Jumping in the Barrel

It’s crazy how often I have been summoned to a nuthouse. Crazier still how often the nuthouse can be returned to order simply by not joining the fun. Just because people are acting like monkeys doesn’t mean I have to jump in the barrel.

People call 911 when things have blossomed out of their control. If things were not out of their control, they wouldn’t have called. Usually. Emotions are frayed; common sense locked in the back room, behind closed doors, dead bolted, chained and put away. We hold the key, but the choice is ours whether or not to use it or throw it out the window.


The top ten ways to throw the key out the window:


10. Stride into the chaos, cross your arms across your chest and ask, “Are you people nuts?”

9.  Enter the fray, find the lead lunatic and tell him or her to “CALM DOWN!”

8.  Stand outside with a bullhorn and bark out orders.

7. Step inside, open the fridge, make a sandwich and ask, Where’s the mustard?”

6.  Saunter into the middle of the mêlée and simply state, “Hey, cut that out.”

5.  At any time during the incident tell the emotionally charged people to, “Relax.”

4.  Throw in the towel and jump in the barrel.

3. Yell, “If you people don’t stop it this instant I’m calling the cops!”

2. Start throwing haymakers

And the number one way to throw away the key to actually calming down an emergency scene on the brink of losing control:

Pull up a chair, put your feet up and ask somebody, “Where’s the remote?”

Things get nutty now and then, people have different thresholds for coping with things that frighten them, or confuse them, or worry them. Objectivity is imperative at an emotional scene, people need somebody to take charge, and lead them out of the jungle that has invaded their space. Most people absolutely despise giving up control; it is a challenge to their self-image, and their confidence. It’s not as hard to do if the person they are conceding the scene to is calmly, and non-judgmentally trying to make things better by finding out what is wrong, solving the problem and getting the right resources to the scene.

Whatever the problem, there is a solution.

a dead body in a bedroom?

For some weird reason people (myself included) feel better when a person in an official capacity arrives and begins sorting things out. There is no manual to check when a person dies at home; even the best hospice programs seldom prepare a family for the end. Act like the official the family needs. “I’m sorry for your loss,” works wonders. “Is there clergy you can contact” is good. “I’ve contacted the proper people, they will help you through this” will begin the calming down phase, the crisis is over, the healing can begin.

a sick child?

Treat the child like your own. Works wonders when the family is concerned. I’ve never seen a troubled scene calm down faster than when I gently put my hand on a feverish kids forehead.

an argument that has gone out of control?

The cause of the argument is none of my concern. Separating the arguers is. Assessing the severity of the ensuing panic attack is. I’ve never solved an argument that had nothing to do with me and probably never will.

a person with a gun in the basement threatening to kill himself and everybody else?

Now is a great time to leave the building, taking whoever will come with you, break rule #3 and CALL THE COPS!

a heart attack?

Getting to work gives the hostile crowd something to focus on. I like to put one or two of them to work, clearing a path, opening doors, or my favorite, holding the IV bag. It keeps their hands full, and most people who don’t deal with emergencies for a living are absolutely petrified of breaking or somehow screwing up the line, or dropping the bag.


Focusing on the solution rather than the problem works every time. Except when it doesn’t. But hey a perfect world would be a dull place to live.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *