Monday, September 14, 2009

The Post Remco Years and The Birth of MAST

As I explained in the last chapter of The Remco Years, Dan and I wound up sharing a house at 65th and Oak.

After leaving Remco, I could no longer afford my apartment in Raytown and no longer had access to the Remco delivery van for my personal transportation. All I had was a 10-speed bike.

Living with Dan was supposed to be a short term solution on my way to bigger things.

I had a high school buddy who moved to San Francisco. His older sister was an architect out there who helped him get established.

I was going to to room with Dan for a while, save up some money, and take my 10-speed and meager possessions to San Francisco where I would room with my friend Chris.

This was my reasoning.

Most of the guys in SF are gay, therefore any straight, single women in SF will be "easy pickin's" for young straight guys! Did I mention I was like 23 years old and STUPID?

I viewed San Francisco as what Dan, a formal Naval Aviator, would have referred to as a "target rich environment" with plenty of opportunity for me to "lay down a load of ordinance", if you know whet I'm sayin'!


But this was a time when on a Friday or Saturday night, I would ride my 10-speed down to Westport (all downhill, btw), chain it to a lamp post and start whoring around at The New Stanley, Kelly's, Buzzard Beach, Blaney's, Lone Star or anywhere else within walking distance.

If I "got lucky", we would toss my 10-speed into the trunk of her car and head back to my place. So even before I got her home, I had "junk in her trunk". Hellz yeah.

However. If I didn't get lucky (more often than not), I was pedaling my drunk ass home from 39th and Broadway to 65th and Oak, uphill all the fucking way. Not as easy or as fun as it sounds!

But I digress.

After a few months of drawing unemployment, I finally got a job as a bill collector for an ambulance service.

My experience collecting payments for Remco made me marginally qualified to be a bill collector. The location of the office at 58th & Troost put it well within my 10-speed commuting radius.

I don't remember the name of the ambulance company that hired me.

This would have been 1978-79. Kansas City was littered with independent ambulance companies. Anybody with enough cash to buy a van, toss in some medical supplies, bolt a flashing light on top and meet a few basic criteria could start up an ambulance business.

This was the unfettered, free market, capitalist version of providing emergency services.

Needless to say, it was complete shit.

These small business entrepreneurs only wanted to do business where it was profitable. Places like Johnson County, where everyone had insurance were peppered with services. You couldn't swing a dead homeless person without hitting 3 brightly painted, well equipped, state of the art ambulances.

In the inner city, you'd be lucky to find a single converted ice cream truck with the old Circus Delight stickers still in place equipped with nothing but a Katz Drug first aid kit, an old Army cot. They didn't have flashing lights or sirens. They just rang the ice cream truck bell REALLY LOUD with a sense of urgency!

Needless to say, this FREE MARKET arrangement left a lot of room for uneven and inadequate service. A lot of people died because they were poor.

Kansas City made the (correct) decision that this was unacceptable. They decided to buy out all of the independent ambulance companies and consolidate them into a Municipal Ambulance Services Trust (MAST).

That's right. in 1979 Kansas City SOCIALIZED ambulance services because they recognized that having a central authority with a consistent set of standards for customer care was superior to having a DECENTRALIZED, MARKET DRIVEN approach to caring for people who need emergency care.

Kansas City had the contract for manging the new MAST system up for bid. All of the existing ambulance companies wanted that contract!

The company that hired me hired 2 other experienced collectors. Their goal was to get their accounts receivable in order REALLY QUICK so they could come out on top as the most fiscally responsible municipal ambulance company and win the bid to control MAST.

Despite our best efforts, our company lost. But we must have been a major player, because our office became the HQ for the new MAST.

I stayed long enough to wind up with some legacy business cards with the MAST name and logo. Don't remember if I quit or was a victim of the consolidation of all of those different ambulance companies.

With all of the recent news about MAST being absorbed into the KCFD, it's interesting to reflect back on a much more chaotic environment.

It's fun to watch the city attempting to make an already socialized service even more socialized.

Funny shit!


Anonymous said...

YOU LIE! There is no way that socialized ambulance service is better than free market ambulance services. It just doesn't happen. :)

Donna said...

So now I know how old you REALLY are! You remember Katz! I loved that store; the one my family patronized was in Northtown. My cousins and I usually walked there on our lunch break (NKC High) and spent our lunch money on candy bars and soda.

Thanks for the memories, you old coot.