I can't believe I can say this after only a few years in the ambulance service - but - I remember when...
I remember when the calls were manually dispatched, each call either rolling off a printer followed by a phone call to confirm which crew was going, or given out over the radio requiring details to be taken with pen and paper.
I remember when the only radios we had were vehicle based, no personal radios at all.
I remember when vehicles weren't tracked, the all-seeing eye up in control flying blind as a bat and relying on the good will and honesty of the crews.
I remember when you could guarantee that Wednesdays would be the quietest day of the week. To this day I have no idea why.
I remember when pushing the accelerator pedal on the old ambulances used to make a hell of a lot of noise, but the speed remained exactly the same.
I remember when the GPS, or sat-nav, or Doris, or whatever else you want to call your guidance system was nothing but a hardcover book called the London A-Z.
Ten years later, calls are dispatched to a computer screen, each member of a crew has a personal radio on shift and every vehicle is followed to within an inch of the crew's life.
There's no such thing as a quietest day any more.
Pushing the noise pedal still makes noise, but there's a little bit of improvement in the speed, and now, the GPS is a GPS.
Having started when no such thing existed, on ambulances at least, it meant that learning the streets, or at least the general area, was a necessity. Around where I worked it was fairly simple, almost grid like. An area surrounded by four main roads, with another two criss-crossing the centre. However, as the times changed and technology controlled the ambulances more than the humans did, we started to be dispatched further and further afield. In an area the size of London, with it's thousands of miles of streets, hundreds of train, tube and bus stations and almost ten million residents, local knowledge had to spread a little. Eventually, the sat-nav came in and made that job a little easier, but local knowledge was still local knowledge.
Today, however, the newer generation of EMS staff in London rely on Doris from the start. It means that as soon as a call is dispatched, rather than heading in the right direction, there's a need to wait for the technology to kick in, pick a route and suggest turning either right or left out of the station. The skill of map-reading seems almost lost forever.
Maybe it's because I learnt to read a map early on. Maybe it's because I don't trust technology. Maybe it's because I'm just awkward like that - but if I'm going to rely on the GPS, I'll check the map first, just to give me an idea. Having that vague idea without having to open a map book is all the better. Doris has a habit of not being up to date with new roads, or changes to one-way streets, or even trying to send you to the wrong Station Road. Do you have any idea how many Station Roads there are in London? Me neither, and not for lack of trying.
My advice, particularly to the new people? Stop relying on Doris. She has her faults. I dare not say anything about asking for directions from a woman at this point. One of these days Doris will fail - either the screen won't work, the roads she's sending you down have been closed, or she's just having one of those days where she seems to be three streets across from where you know you are, and you most certainly know that you aren't driving through that reservoir or along those railway tracks.
Learn your area - learn the important points - the places that give you your navigating markers, your wayfarers stars. Learn that from your favourite coffee shop to your favourite take away is a rat-run of streets where you'll do fifty percent of your calls. Travel and take notes, be they written notes or mental ones. If you get some down time as you leave the hospital, go for a tour of the area.
And for the sake of all that is holy, learn to read a map.