I Got Re-Certified in CPR (And Re-Certified as a Laughaholic)

I spent the past two nights re-certifying myself for CPR and First Aid (and AED) at the San Francisco Red Cross. I went a few years ago for this eight hour class because 9/11 taught me an emergency could happen anywhere anytime and if there’s a chance I can save a life I want to.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t torture to sit through the cheesy videos and commonsensical how-tos. It was the instructor’s first time and he told lots of jokes that were so bad they were funny. The other people in the class represented a fantastic cross-sampling of the city: a painter from the UK, a brainless 40 year-old Asian dude, two ship "captains" who lived on a boat, an educated social worker, a well-to-do Latino guy, and my friend Danielle, one of the few girls at my HS who I have a meaningful relationship with and a lot of respect for.

As our instructor dropped bomb after bomb, and as this motley crew of adults reacted in all sorts of ways, my laughter got the better of me. I started laughing, at first quietly, and occasionally with my trademark yelp which I inherited from Mark Perelman. Soon it became uncontrollable. As our instructor continued discussing, say, the sequence of CPR compressions, I completely lost control. I searched frantically for anything that could remedy the situation — jacket, hands, arms, anything to stuff my mouth quiet. It wasn’t long before the tears of laughter started streaming down my face, prompting Danielle, herself an active murmurer in the peanut gallery, to remark in a whisper of astonishment, "You’re crying!" Could it possibly be true? Could Ben, unemotional Ben who has a shell, be crying?

What prompted such an onslaught of laughter? Example: Before a citizen responder can apply first aid to a victim you need consent from victim. If they’re unable to say yes or no then you have implied consent. But what if the victim is conscious and says "no" to your offer of first aid? Instructor: "Well, you can probably just wait a minute, until they keel over and go unconscious, and then you’ll have implied consent anyway." Right.

After class I strolled home in the beautiful San Francisco weather, admired the tan I had worked on so hard during the day, and got on the N-Judah streetcar. I got out a book. Alas, a black homeless man on the train started screaming and yelling all sorts of racial epithets, sometimes in song, sometimes in impassioned prose. One zinger, "The Mexicans are doing the jobs even the blacks won’t do." Wait — didn’t a head of state say that? Oh yeah, it was the President of Mexico Vicente Fox.  As we Americans like to say, don’t misunderestimate those homeless people.

If you want to take a Red Cross First Aid/CPR class, and promise me you’ll focus at the tasks on-hand, check out their locations.

Summation: laughter is carbonated happiness.

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