I've come to dread Mardi Gras.
Blasphemous words here in
South West Louisiana for sure!
Billed as the biggest free party on Earth,
Mardi Gras is known worldwide.
Colorful costumes. Spectacular parades.
Elegant pageants. Masked balls.
People dancing in the streets to rhythmic, intoxicating music.
All with an air of carefree abandon. As the music reverberates, alcohol flows.
Wildly elaborate floats glide down the street, with frenzied masqueraders onboard.
Crowds of onlookers shout encouragement.
This may come as a surprise,
but Mardi Gras long predates Christianity.
The earliest record comes from ancient times,
when tribes celebrated a fertility festival that welcomed the arrival of spring, a time of renewal of life.
The Romans called this pagan festival Lupercalia in honor of “Lupercus,” the Roman god of fertility.
Lupercalia was a drunken orgy of merrymaking
held each February in Rome, after which participants fasted for 40 days.
Am I a party-pooper?
No, I am a rare blood courier,
and I see the bloody toll the partying and alcohol-fueled driving and anger takes on my community.
Countless times today I was delayed and detoured on stat runs
to make way for the parades and for drunken people staggering to line up hours in advance of the parades.
When a patient is bleeding to death,
and a drunken woman staggers off the sidewalk directly in my van's path, I sigh.
The parades all seem to be routed directly in front of the hospitals.
Waiting for a traffic light to change,
I watched the crowds on the sidewalk as a grandmother bumped and ground like ...
an exotic dancer.
I was impressed with her limberness,
saddened by her two young, perplexed grandsons watching her, a bottle held tightly in her fist.
Laissez le bon temps roulez!
Roughly translated, it means: “let the good times rule.”
The French saying comes alive during Mardi Gras.
Surely, Mardi Gras must be good for the economy, right?
Tell that to the short-staffed nurses
(since many of their co-workers call in sick with the Mardi Gras Flu)
as they struggle in the E.R.'s and the I.C.U's dealing with the aftermath of those good times.
The jobs that support Mardi Gras in particular
and tourism in general tend to be service industry positions that oftentimes do not pay high wages.
In fact, frequently the wages are so low
that employees have to work multiple jobs to keep the lights on and the cupboards from going bare.
My supervisor long since stopped taking his young daughters to the parades
since one was knocked down to the sidewalk by an adult lunging to catch cheap beads --
and his other daughter had her ankle mangled by a stomping foot of a drunken reveler.
has become a sad term to me.