Baby, You Can Drive My Ambulance

LONDON - Never mind why, but the other day I was sitting in the waiting room of a medical clinic in an English suburb when I witnessed one of the the most extraordinary things I've ever seen.

Always happens when you don't expect it, doesn't it?

British clinics aren't much like New York clinics. There's no complaining. Nobody gets flustered and calls the staffers anything ending in "head."

Also, the Brits don't mind waiting on lines. It's like sex to them.

So I'm sitting there minding everybody's business but my own when I notice an ancient British woman tottering along on a pair of legs that didn't look strong enough to support a pigeon. She weighed about as much as a kite, and she needed every bit of her strength to stagger to the exit door.

Without a doubt this woman lived through World War II rationing, and she probably had to hide in cellars when German bombs fell.

She put her hand on the doorknob, leaned on it for support and let out a long sigh.

This sound awakened an equally ancient British man, who happened to be snoozing in a chair by the door. This guy may very well have fired bullets at the Germans who dropped the bombs on London.

His bony hands gripped the head of his cane. He cleared his throat and said to the woman, "Are you all right?"

"Oh," she said, "I've just had a blood test and I couldn't have my breakfast this morning, so I'm awfully dizzy." She hoisted a plastic bag from the nearby shopping center. "Now I have to go to Kingston to return some things."

(Note: suburban Brits are always buying things at the local shopping center, then going back to return them. In between the purchases and the returns they have tea and scones. The entire tea and scone industry relies on British people changing their minds about what they buy.)

Anyway, the old man seemed alarmed by the old lady's condition. "Are you all right to travel?" he asked.

"Well," the woman said, "I suppose I oughtn't to be driving."

Oughtn't. They actually use words like that over here.

"No, you should not," the man said. "I'm going to Kingston, and I'm getting a lift. Would you like a ride?"

"Oh, I say, that would be good," the woman said. "Are you sure there's room in the car?"

The old guy hesitated, gripped the cane one more time. "Actually," he said, "it's an ambulance."

It was all I could do to keep from breaking into applause.

I thought I'd heard it all when it came to great pickup lines, but even in my wildest, most desperate dreams I've never imagined any guy picking up a woman in an ambulance.

I'm guessing that old guy must have been quite the boy on the London pub scene, circa 1944. And he was doing all right in 2011 with the ambulance line.

The woman was stunned. Her eyes widened at the prospect of an ambulance ride with a strange man. She didn't want to interfere with what seemed to be an emergency.

"I'd best not ride with you then," she said.

The old man waved aside her concerns. "Nonsense," he said. "Plenty of room!"

Sure enough, the ambulance pulled up to the clinic five minutes later. The two of them walked off together, shoulder to shoulder for mutual support.

The old guy undoubtedly had a lot of physical ailments, and so did the old woman, but here's what I learned in that clinic, boys and girls, and you might want to write it down for future reference:

The heart dies last.

Charlie Carillo's latest novel is One Hit Wonder. His website is He's a producer for the TV show Inside Edition.