I was living in North Dakota, working as an EMT. This was quite a few years ago, before I worked as a pretend psychic, but after I worked as a real supermarket produce manager. This was also before the current oil boom in North Dakota. Back then, people not only ran from North Dakota, they also walked, drove, flew, whatever it took, to get the hell away from it. Those who couldn’t do any of those things dreamed and drank and snorted and mainlined their way out of it, probably with tears in their eyes.
North Dakota, in case you’ve never been there before, is America’s Siberia. It’s flat, barren, and frozen, the geographical equivalent of Adolf Hitler’s soul. There is nothing—NOTHING—in North Dakota. Imagine, if you will, the surface of the moon. Go ahead, close your eyes and conjure it up. Ok, now imagine if that surface was sparsely covered in dead grass.
Welcome to North Dakota.
Things are very different there these days. The place is rich. I have seen people pack up their bags and actually move there, on purpose and everything. In the towns near the fracking fields, rent is on average higher than in downtown Manhattan, and that’s the truth. $2,400 a month for a studio apartment!
Don’t get me wrong, North Dakota is still a shithole, but thanks to fracking it’s a wealthy shithole. In Dickinson, a McDonald’s employee starts out at $15 an hour.
When I lived there, a McDonald’s employee with three years service made 25 cents more than minimum wage (if not Native, that is. Natives, if they managed to get hired at all, always made minimum wage). As an EMT, I made 12 bucks an hour, but I was paid even if I didn’t do anything.
My job was to go to what we called “the clubhouse”, which was basically an apartment over the ambulance garage, and wait for 911 to send us out. Half the time they didn’t. This was, as I pointed out, a flat, barren, frozen place. Half the time I would sit in the clubhouse drinking tea and watching tv getting paid 12 bucks an hour. Then I would go home.
The other half of the time I was slipping around in afterbirth and dragging the torso part of a cut-in-half person off the highway. I would give CPR to people and even shock them with the paddles. On tv, people you shock with the paddles almost always come back. In real life, almost never. I knew what to squirt on a severed hand to give it the best chance of being reattached.
I know exactly what brains look like on the soft leather seats of a high-dollar Beamer.
It was a helluva job and I don’t recommend it. My partner, Don, was the driver. He had taken an additional EMT course given by the North Dakota Highway Patrol on high-speed emergency driving and thus was my superior and made 14 bucks an hour. He was a good guy and I was glad I got partnered up with him. Glad, because, as opposed to me, he clearly knew what he was doing, but also glad because he was completely fucking hilarious.
I am serious. The guy was the funniest person I have ever met. One time, we were racing down the highway, sirens blaring, easily going 90 or a 100 miles and hour. I was strapped in, hanging on to everything, terrified. He turned his head and looked at me.
"Gee," he said, grinning, "I hope no one’s hurt."
Anyway, I’ll let Don himself take it from here: