Ambulance work is not for the squeamish, and neither is reading about it.
In the late 1960s, Scardino worked on a New York hospital’s ambulance crew in order to pay for his college tuition. He started on the pre-med track, but by the end of his ambulance job, he had no interest in becoming a doctor. “The truth is, I don’t want to be around the injured, sick and dying any more than I can help it,” he writes. It’s easy to see why the job soured his stomach for medicine. In one gruesome passage, he describes a body barely recognizable as such: “Where his hair ought to have been, there appeared to be long gray and white filaments of mold. Instead of a face, there was a flat, oval plane covered with maggots. No sign of a nose. Just one wet, gray surface with its seething, ivory-colored veneer of larvae.” Readers may wonder if Scardino took detailed notes or wrote the entire book decades ago. The latter seems doubtful; it doesn’t seem likely that an admittedly poor student would have had such command over his material as a teenager and then decide to let it sit for decades. Perhaps he told these vivid stories often enough that somebody persuaded him that there was a book in them and he re-created the stories from memory. The author claims that he could never forget them, and readers will have trouble doing so as well. There’s a baby thrown from a window, a drug overdose, morbidly obese people who had to be maneuvered out of apartments and into ambulances, and one crashed-and-burned airplane. Scardino, who has since pursued a career in advertising, emerges as a different person at the end of these experiences than he was when he began the work. “Something in me had changed, not for the better, but surely forever,” he writes.
Some say that everybody has a book in them, and this author has found his in this memorable, often grim work.