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Extreme Stress Cases

Five excruciatingly harried New Yorkers explain how they cope.


Occupation: Emergency Medical Technician

When EMTs arrive at a scene, a lot of people don’t want us there. They hit us, spit, kick, say dirty things, attack. In situations with substance abuse or psychological emergencies, we’ve had to physically remove people from their apartments because they were a danger to themselves and people around them. If it’s a traumatic injury, a shooting or stabbing, there’s blood everywhere. A lot of people live in absolutely deplorable conditions, and not just the homeless people who can’t bathe every day—we’ve walked into $25 million apartments that are filled with garbage, roaches, and rats. You see families with lots of money but no love, and you’re witnessing sad people at the end of their rope. When someone gets hurt in a park or a subway station, we have to exercise crowd-control methods, and shake off the podiatrist who thinks that he knows how to do my job. Parents with hurt children go into pure panic, yelling and crying, and suddenly we have two patients instead of one.

There are certain cases where, no matter how kind I am, the situation escalates to the point where I have to physically remove myself because I start emotionally reacting. In times like those, I remember that this is my job, and I love what I do, but I’ll be in medical school next year. I get lost in my schoolwork, and I spend a lot of time going through the Frick Collection, because it’s so intimate and off-the-radar.

Anna Margaret Hollyman at Momofuku Ssam Bar.  

Occupation: Hostess, Momofuku Ssäm Bar

Saturday night at Ssäm bar is not unlike being trapped on the L train during rush hour, except imagine everyone is a 5-year-old and constantly bombarding you with the following questions: “How long is the wait?” “Is it a ‘real’ 45 minutes?” “What if I give you $20?” All while you are playing a game of human Tetris in your head, trying to figure out just how many people you can fit in a very limited amount of space. Oh, and all of this is happening at rapid speed. The place thrives on chaos theory, and our seating policy is no different.

I usually try to adapt a very laissez-faire attitude, and various customers have made comments about how laid-back and poised I look. But I am also an actress, so although I appear to be stress-free, I am constantly reminding myself that all the money I spent on acting lessons has really paid off, because in reality I am always freaking out.

There are nights when people don’t really seem to understand our seating policy, and I’ve had people take it very personally. I can deal with that, but the worst is when little old ladies call you a “bitch” because of it. Also, people really enjoy backing me into a corner, usually right behind the door, and I always feel like I’m in Hitchcock’s The Birds. There are moments when I feel like jumping on the bar just to reach higher ground.

After work, I have trouble forming sentences, so I am having a love affair with my DVR. Give me a glass of Trader Joe’s rosé and some episodes of Gossip Girl. But now with the strike, I will go out and spend too much money on elaborate dinners with lots of wine, and be so nice to the hostesses they actually think I’m hitting on them.

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