Don’t Quit Your Day Job – Jerry Fowler

Jerry Fowler EMT / Ambulance Driver

After passing several months of training and tests on human anatomy and physiology, Jerry Fowler became a qualified emergency medical technician and ambulance driver, a job he has enjoyed for over a year in the Boston area. One of his teachers described the job to him as, “Ninety percent boredom and ten percent pure hell,” which he has learned is a fairly accurate description. He says that most of his work involves patient assessment and making fast accurate decisions-usually in less than ten seconds-on the treatment required for each accident. He also enjoys working in the community because he feels it has made him more outgoing and improved his people skills.

Jerry has been a highly regarded professional skater who at various times rode for Televsion, Toy Machine, Rhythm, and DNA Skateboards. His technical board control and unique trick selection and style could almost be described as surgical.

Have you ever had skating interrupt your job or ruin your reputation at work?

There were some people at work who, if they’d known that I’d skated, it would just be another way for them to give me shit. When you first start working somewhere, sometimes that’s the only relationship you have with people. So I wasn’t too eager about my past-I’d take it very personally if they had dissed skating. So I didn’t talk about it much at first, not because I was ashamed of it, but because I knew what route it was going to go. It’s annoying when people try to relate and they can’t relate no matter what. The more I got comfortable with people, the more people I told and they were like, “No f-king way-that’s awesome. Tell me all about it.” It was cool ’cause it was genuine.

Have skating-related injuries ever affected your work?

I’ve had people notice. I’ve had cuts and people say stuff, but that’s about it.

Was there any particular incident that made you want to become an ambulance driver?

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I did know what I didn’t want to do. The last couple of years when I was still pro, I realized that I couldn’t skate forever-I’m sure a lot of pros hear that. It was something that I never really wanted to hear, so I had my options open. This friend of mine, Joey in San Diego, was doing this course for fun and he mentioned that I should try it ’cause he thought that I’d be into it. He was somebody who I respected. There’s nowhere to go but up once you get your foot in the door, and I thought I could bang it out in a couple of months. Now I’m into it and happy. I’m hooked on working in a community and doing things that benefit the city. Certain parts of what I do are satisfying in that way, even if I do something completely insignificant. I’m helping someone and the city to work.

What are some of the rewards of the job?

One of the selfish rewards for me is that it’s opened me up to be more of a social person, which I like ’cause I have to deal with strangers every day and have to learn how to talk to people. That was an issue I always had. If I didn’t know anybody, I was always awkwardly silent. Only a few times has something I did really helped someone. I know if I get people to the hospital in time then, it’s no big deal-that’s my job. If it weren’t me, then it would have been someone else. But there has been times when I’ve done stuff and I know if I hadn’t done it, that person would have been f-ked up. It’s the little things, but it’s cool.

What are some of the gnarlier incidents you’ve seen on the job?

I haven’t seen that much. Last winter I got a lot of scary calls back-to-back-to-back, which is how they told us it would go down at school. I had to deal with a homicide once-that was kinda crazy. Showing up places where people are dead and having to deal with that, plus a few scary car accidents. What shook me up the most was the homicide-the kid was younger than I was, and it was awful. We can’t do shit at a crime scene, which is hard ‘cau we just wait for the cops to show up. It’s really kinda eerie, hanging out with a dead body waiting for the cops. Shit happens all the time.

Skaters get hassled from The Man all the time-how does it feel to be on the other side of the badge?

One of the things that shook me when I got hired was a shitload of these no-brainer calls. I wasn’t getting anything serious. One thing that I was freaking out about was all these cops being so nice to me. When there’s a 911 call, everyone gets dispatched. You show up and everyone’s there just for the “what if” factor-“What’s up, buddy?” and patting me on the back. So in the beginning it wasn’t the calls that were freaking me out, it was the fact that if I wasn’t in my uniform and I was skating down the street, I’d probably get f-ked with by the same cop.

So when you’re in uniform does it make you feel like a traitor?

No, not even. It’s crazy, I even said it to my partner last week, it’s crazy the amount of respect that people give you-the head nods and the waves that you get. It’s about how much nicer people are to you when they see that you’re working in the city and you’re working and doing what you’re doing. It’s like, man, I’m the same person that was skating down the street last week getting f-ked with by the same cop who’s cool to me right now just because I’ve got my uniform on-it’s definitely a culture shock. Boston has the rep for the police here, so they don’t really f-k around. They’ll grab you and do weird shit to you. You kind of skate on eggshells here anyway, and then to go from that to pats on the back and “What’s up, buddies”-it’s definitely weird.

Did you catch any beef or compliments from other skaters because of your job?

Yeah, definitely. It’s not like I’m on the other side. I’ve had people say, “You’re an EMT? That’s awesome!” And that’s happened at the skatepark. I’ve had people ask how I got into it and about the stories I have. The majority are older skaters, and it’s cool.

If you had to choose between an ambulance driver or only riding a skateboard, which one would you choose?

If it’s possible to skate for the rest of your life and make money and not have a job-I definitely miss the skate life-I would say skateboarding hands down. I still think about skateboarding every day, and I still look at the city through a skateboarder’s eyes. For one thing, skaters are real street smart and you can kinda use it to your advantage. It’s awesome, but I definitely miss skateboarding at the same time. I’m proud of what I’m doing, and it’s just the part of growing up. When you’re caught up in the skate world, you think it’s going to be there forever.

Which do you find more satisfying and why?

Skateboarding, because it’s something that you can create, manipulate it, and learn a trick. It will take you forever, but you can learn it and put a twist on how you want to do it. You might have your favorite skater do it a certain way, but you do it your way and it’s more representative of who you are. Stuff like that is obviously satisfying when you want to do something and you just go out and do. It’s gratifying.

You were talking about working for the city and using it to your advantage. Can you explain in detail, for example, finding spots from being on the job?

Definitely, but that’s not what I meant. I meant skaters hang out on the streets, so they have more knowledge of city life. More than the person who commutes into work every day, who lives in the suburbs. I think skaters are a lot sharper than the normal person just because they’re tougher than most people. They identify with failure a lot more because of what they do and no one as good as they are learns anything first try. You get used to thinking, “All right, I’m going to do this and struggle with this.” Skaters are no strangers to hard work, because nobody learns any trick they do first try. I think having that way of thinking just helps when you work in a city environment. When you’ve been skating for so long-I’ve been skating for more than half my life-you learn how to think and identify with what you enjoy, and I still think I figure things out the way I figure tricks out.nvironment. When you’ve been skating for so long-I’ve been skating for more than half my life-you learn how to think and identify with what you enjoy, and I still think I figure things out the way I figure tricks out.