Stitching up faces at Oktoberfest
We all know what the Wiesn (what Germans call Octoberfest) looks like: shitloads of Bavarians and even more Italians and Australians trying to look like Bavarians. What happens is also fairly well-known: visiting the amusement park or drinking beer. Or both. Continually. For three days. It's also a good place to meet paramedics.
Most of the doctors and paramedics at Oktoberfest work for the Red Cross in a building that looks like a bronze colored cheese grater with the Bavarian flag stuck on it. All you have to do is drink until you pass out and you get whisked off here in a yellow buggie. If you can still talk at this point, you're allowed to choose if you want a cover over your head while in transit. They lay you out flat on your stomach, which often creates a little lake of slobber under your chin as you're being driven through all the jolly party goers by a team of friendly paramedics. Because of this peculiar mode of transport and your state of over-refreshedness, you'll undoubtly miss what's actually happening to you during the whole process. But don't panic! Here's a detailed look at what's (and who's) been going down at this year's celebrations...
The young guy in front of the Coconut Shy had already lost the power of speech. If you drink all day in a beer tent and then wander into the fresh air, you don't need the roller coster to bring on uncontrollable fits of puking and collasping. When you notice that your date has passed out in a pool of his or her own stomach lining then you simply pick up the phone and call 112, as long as you haven't "misplaced" your phone in one of the tents, of course.
This phone call mobilizes six paramedics, who hang around behind their station or sit in the cellar eating spaghetti bolognese. They receive a little piece of paper with the words "Coconut Shy," "Lumberjack Tent," or "Moritz 3" written on it. This doesn't mean that the young man in need of assistance is called Moritz though, it's actually the code name for a beer corspe.
The paramedics then push the yellow stretcher buggie through the crowds, shouting, "Watch out!" every two seconds. In the hospital I used to work in near the Isar river, they also had a similar stretcher, called the "Silver Rod." It wasn't yellow though, and was used exclusively for the transport of dead bodies. Besides the transit of amputated legs and breasts, which had to be taken to a special laboratory in see-through plastic ice-bags, the jobs with "Silver Rod" were always the most interesting.
Anyway, back to Oktoberfest. The young guy is now being heaved onto the strecher and carted back to the station, where he ends up in an observation room. There are lots of stretchers in here, plus rubber mattresses and a bucket with a yellow bag in it. There are also plenty of blankets, because your body often has a tough time telling if it's currently freezing cold or boiling hot when housing ten liters of beery goodness. The blankets are inflatable and remind me of those hoods from the 60s. You also get a drip so you sober up faster.
Next door is a room where lots of doctors and paramedics take care of small to medium wounds. The really big ones get sent to the hospital.
One guy from Johannesburg decided to enter a beer tent in flip-flops. Unfortunately he trod on a pile of broken glass and severed a couple of toes. "Hmmm," says the doctor, "this is a little more complicated. When the tendons get severed, they retreat into the foot and you have to find them again before you can sew the toes back on."
Straight after this another man with pink sandals gets rolled in. His feet are wrapped up in toilet paper and an array of Band-Aids. It transpires that the stitches of his freshly amputated toes have burst open again. Later on, a Somalian guy comes in and asks if he can have a two-week-old gunshot wound treated. In a seperate room the sliced open hands and heads are sewn back together. A guy who looks like Lemmy is wheeled in, and the atmosphere immediately improves. "Weren't you here just a minute ago?!" someone asks him.
"Well, yeah. I just popped back into the tent and it got me again." The treatment: Clean the wound, sew the wound, repeat ad infinitum.
Another man comes in with a shaved head bearing an wound. "It's nothing," he says, "I'm in the Rocker Club." The next skinhead had a huge blister, as if a new baby skinhead was trying to come out of the bigger one. Then there was an old guy who had fallen down the stairs in the subway. Because his nose and cheekbone were broken he was sent away for an X-ray. Other potential role models: a fat man who collapsed by the cotton candy stand but had crawled over to the schnapps bar where his friends were, a spoiled teenager who threatened to call his attorney if they left a scar, and a weeping girl, who turned out to be absolutely fine.
The Wiesn is just one big party!