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Defibrillation!

defibrillator, some rights reserved, http://flickr.com/photos/gradin/3361527/ and http://flickr.com/photos/ddaarryynn/522885793/Jersey City, NJ – In eternal wise-guy fashion, regular riders of the PATH train have adapted the emergency defibrillators recently installed in their stations to a wide variety of uses.

The PATH train, which stands for Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation, is a train which runs from New Jersey’s eastern border across the Hudson to New York city. It is a popular commuter train and, as it turns out, daily plays host to carload after carload of resourceful people – people who know how to abuse a defibrillator in ways the rest of us can only dream of.

Jose Vallarta was one early user of the defibrillator. “I was just waiting for the train one day,” says Vallarta, “and this guy was standing next to me with a hot dog. I guess this hot dog of his had gotten a little cold by the time he got down to the tracks. I say I guess, but really I know because the guy was talking out loud about it as if someone was listening or would respond or care or something. Anyway, this guy just strolls right up to the defibrillator and shocks the hell out of his hot dog, commentating the whole time and making a big fuss about how good it was. The next time I rode the subway I bought a cold dog at the stand near the entrance just to try it out. The guy at the stand thought I was crazy, but I tell you what, it’s so good I do it every day now.”

Only a few short weeks after Vallarta’s first defibrillator cooking experiment there are now lines every morning to use the emergency medical device to heat up any number of foods such as breakfast rolls, eggs, bacon and other breakfast items. Coffee is often heated in mugs, although there have been a few incidents involving metal thermoses.

“It’s pretty nuts,” admits Vallarta, “that all these people heat up their food waiting for the subway instead of at home. They’re not really saving that much time, but the shock from the defibrillator flash-cooks it so much better than any normal way of cooking.”

Food scientist Tyra Johnson says that this theory has absolutely no validity whatsoever.

For Alfred “Alfredo” Allen, head of security at the Journal Square PATH station, the defibrillators have been more trouble than they’re worth. “People are having a good time with those defibrillators,” says Allen, “but that’s not what they’re for. Besides being such a grievous misuse of medical equipment, it is quite clear from the overhead security announcements that you should not be eating, smoking, or carrying on in the station, and people are using the defibrillators to do all of three of these things.”

One of the biggest problems Allen has reported dealing with are the groups of teenagers and children who are not afraid to grab the defibrillators and play with them. These children have devised games in which the odd man out or the loser are subjected to quick shocks, an eerie echo of the old “Johnny Third Rail” games that used to be played in the dark days of the 1970s and 80s.

“It seems like kid’s games keep getting more violenter and violenter,” says passive observer Julius Milton. “At first I didn’t really get it and I wanted to tell those kids they should play something nice like quarters or butts up or knives. But they look like they’re having fun so who am I to stop them. Besides, it’s good practice for them in case they have to shock some crazy person who’s hanging around by the tracks, which is what I use it for.”

While homeless advocacy groups have spoken out about ending the kind of amateur, DIY shock therapy treatments Milton describes, community safety groups are thundering about their benefits.

“It’s about time we had a way to keep ourselves safe right down there in the subway that helps not only everyday commuters, but the crazy people they’re so scared, threatened and annoyed by,” says Fran Fishyakker, head of Stand Up for Sitting Down, a subways rider’s rights organization. “The fact that you can shock a crazy person into passivity right down there by yourself makes riding the subway a lot more comfortable. And the homeless people benefit too because I’m sure not being able to remember who you are for more than 10 minutes at a time is a big relief considering the state they’re in.”

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