March 1, 2009 9:37 PM   Subscribe

I witnessed the oddest thing driving in Los Angeles Friday afternoon, and I wonder... could you help me figure out what happened?

I was on my way to work, driving West on Beverly Blvd. through what I believe is 'The Fairfax District'. It was about 3:30pm, and I was stopped at the light at Fairfax Ave, right in front. Perhaps my favorite thing about driving in L.A. is the ridiculous number of people-watching opportunities the crappy traffic and crowded sidewalks provide. So I was looking around, hoping for another gaggle of blondes at the CBS Studios gate, and instead my eye caught on a guy approaching the intersection from the opposite side of Fairfax.

He was a normal looking guy. He had a blue sweater on, some slacks, casual dress shoes, a yarmulke, average height, weight, like I said, normal. Considering the other folks I was lucky enough to observe so far on the drive, in all their gloriously deranged splendor, he actually stood out for how normal he seemed. He was about fifty yards away from the intersection, walking East at a regular pace. Didn't seem to be in a hurry, didn't seem to be lagging or limping in any way, again just normal.

Anyway, by now the light is green so I step on it. About a hundred yards later I hear sirens, check the mirror and yep, here they come, pull over and stop. I'm watching in the mirror as the flashing lights gets closer and the siren louder. Sounded like a police vehicle, but as it neared it turned out to be an FJ Cruiser, blue and gray with gold striping and lots of flashing lights, top, front, etc. It goes through the intersection, coming up behind me, and screetches to a halt just past Fairfax. That guy, Mr. Normal, darts off the sidewalk into the middle of the street, the back door of the truck opens, and he jumps right in. The second both his feet are off the ground the Cruiser is squealing off, and it zooms blaring right by me. On the back of it, in very large, reflective print, was the phrase HAZZOLA RESCUE. I didn't recognize any city badge nor do I recall whether there was any other text on the vehicle.

My life proceeds in its usual fashion thereafter. I've asked just about everyone I know in this city if they could tell me what HAZZOLA RESCUE is, why they exist, or just what exactly was going on there? To shaking heads and no ideas and that's weirds. I've tried google with no results. (Well, OK, 1 result, an OCR error for 'Mazzola' in the back pages of Swimming World Junior Swimmer Magazine, March 1973.)

So now I'm asking you. Do you know what is, who are, and/or whyfor HAZZOLA RESCUE?
posted by carsonb to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: this may help.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:40 PM on March 1, 2009

Best answer: Hatzalah is a Jewish volunteer ambulance corps.
posted by lullaby at 9:45 PM on March 1, 2009

Oh, it seems that website's for the New York branch or something, but it's the same thing. They operate in a bunch of places across the US (and Israel).
posted by lullaby at 9:47 PM on March 1, 2009

Response by poster: OK, so do I just remember the word on the back of the truck wrong? Granted, it's totally plausible that it was an ambulance or an Emergency Services supervisor rig, like those pictures suggest, but I'm pretty sure it said "HAZZOLA". Could it have been a variant spelling?
posted by carsonb at 9:49 PM on March 1, 2009

Huh. I still have hard time wrapping a narrative around the story. So maybe the guy on the street was one the volunteers, they phoned him when they got the batsignal and picked him up on their way?
posted by hattifattener at 9:51 PM on March 1, 2009

Perhaps that guy's name was Hazzola, and he was in trouble?

Is "HAZZOLA" really "ALOSSAH", but inverted, so you can read it in your rearview mirror?

Or maybe this is a private emergency response enterprise? Perhaps for private companies or the like? Medical transport? Check the phone book, maybe.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:52 PM on March 1, 2009

I think lullaby might be on the right track. You could possibly find some pictures here if you can handle the agonising layout: Hatzolah of LA.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:55 PM on March 1, 2009

It seems very likely that 'Hazzola' is some other spelling of the same word - Hebrew words spelled out in English are often kind of weird.

I know guys who are part of Hatzalah in NYC and they do randomly get emergency calls on their phones or radios. The idea that a Hatzalah emergency vehicle would stop and pick a volunteer and rush off doesn't sound that strange to me.
posted by lullaby at 9:56 PM on March 1, 2009

More hot Hatzolah action here. The yarmulke the dude was wearing seems like a massive clue now that lullaby has put us on that track.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:03 PM on March 1, 2009

I live in the neighborhood, and while I'm not sure about the dude you saw jumping into the truck, I am 100% sure you got the spelling wrong. Those vans are all over the place.

"Hatzolah’s volunteer corps consists of individuals who reside in and – in most cases – work within the community. Consequently, there is always Hatzolah members available seconds away from any potential emergency in the community." More here.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:12 PM on March 1, 2009

I know guys who are part of Hatzalah in NYC and they do randomly get emergency calls on their phones or radios. The idea that a Hatzalah emergency vehicle would stop and pick a volunteer and rush off doesn't sound that strange to me.

I don't know the organization, but I'm with the hive here.

And here's the narrative:

It doesn't seem weird at all that he's a trained EMT, doctor, paramedic, or something of that flavor and got a cellphone call two minutes before you saw him saying, "Yo, meet us at Makerpsy and Ginger, south-east corner." And that he then proceeded to do exactly that. He wasn't in a hurry in his walking because he knew he could make the rendezvous in time, and he didn't see or hear the truck yet.

For instance, I heard something on NPR the other day where a firefighter was have a coffee at the cafe up the street from the firehouse. When the siren rang, she started running back to the firehouse but instead got picked up by one of the engines.
posted by Netzapper at 10:13 PM on March 1, 2009

I drive through your neighborhood all the time, and I too have been overtaken (and scared shitless) by the bat-out-of-hellness that are the Hatzolah ambulance corps. They're going to Cedars, most likely. And for the folks who haven't experienced it, these are not your usual fast-but-careful, slowing-down-at-intersections, top-heavy ambulances. These guys drive like maniacs at top speed -- I swear I was passed at about 90 mph on Wilshire once. They go so fast the doppler effect doesn't kick in, and they adorn their late-model SUVs with the latest in seizure-inducing strobes in all possible "emergency color" combinations. I'm surprised it's even legal.

It reminds me of growing up in a town with a volunteer fire department, when the local yokels would trick out their pickups and Chevelles with red strobes and drive very importantly on the wrong side of the road every time the firehouse siren rang.

(Of course, if I were in need of their services, I suppose speed would be of the essence, so more power to 'em.)
posted by turducken at 10:54 PM on March 1, 2009

Apologies to roger ackroyd, who was the first to come up with the likely answer - I couldn't check those images from work.
posted by turgid dahlia at 11:53 PM on March 1, 2009

It seems like most people on the right track here, I'd agree with everyone. And to those not from LA, the Fairfax district is one of the strongest/oldest/populated Jewish areas of Los Angeles.
posted by mattsweaters at 12:03 AM on March 2, 2009

It's the local Jewish emergency crew. Nothing else. Rest assured.
posted by watercarrier at 12:52 AM on March 2, 2009

Here's a clip on what Hatzolah does in LA
posted by watercarrier at 12:55 AM on March 2, 2009

The YouTube clip is worth watching if you, like me, have waited your whole life to hear the phrase "crime-fighting rabbis" in a newscast.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 7:26 AM on March 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

Batman and Rabbi? Oh my.

Gotta say, I can't believe I've missed this in LA. Haven't seen one of those vehicles yet. Now I know! Good job, hive.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:45 AM on March 2, 2009

I'm pretty sure it said "HAZZOLA"

The LA group seems to spell it HATZOLA and it's very easy to mistake the "t" for a "z" in that context and with the font they use.
posted by flug at 10:08 AM on March 2, 2009

Best answer: As a member of the Los Angeles chapter of Hatzolah I would like to set the record straight. Firstly, the correct spelling is "Hatzolah" and it means "rescue" in Hebrew.

Hatzolah consists of volunteer EMTs who are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to respond to emergency medical calls. Members of the community call Hatzolah directly for assistance and all members carry 2-way radios for instant dispatch. All of the members have their own full set of emergency medical equipment and respond to nearby calls whether they're asleep in the middle of the night, at work during the day, eating dinner with their family, or simply going for a stroll around the neighborhood.

What you witnesses was one of our fully licensed and authorized "Code 3" response vehicles picking up another EMT member on the way to an emergency call.

The entire Hatzolah organization is run on private donations and no member of the group receives any compensation. All responders, dispatchers, supervisors, and board members donate their time (and in many cases their own funds and equipment) to ensure that Hatzolah of Los Angeles is ready to meet the needs of the community at a moment's notice.

Hopefully that clears up any confusion and next time you see one of our vehicles responding to an emergency call you'll know exactly what's going on. We work hand-in-hand with the LAFD on many calls and have a close working relationship with both the local fire department as well as the LAPD.

As far as all the flashing lights....we equip our vehicles not because we're trying to show off but because we want to respond as safely as possible.
posted by LAMedic at 12:26 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just as a follow up I wanted to dispel the myth that Hatzolah will only help fellow Jews. Hatzolah answers the call without question. We do not discriminate. Although our membership consists of Orthodox Jews we are here to serve our entire community. In fact, back in 2003 when a small aircraft crashed into an apartment building in the Fairfax district, Hatzolah was the first emergency crew on scene and immediately began helping anyone in need.

In Los Angeles you will likely find Hatzolah responders in the Fairfax and La Brea areas of the city (Hancock Park), the Pico / Robertson area, as well as North Hollywood / Studio City area of the San Fernando Valley.
posted by LAMedic at 11:31 AM on December 11, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for your answer, LAMedic! Also for your service.

Also, thank you for providing a spy-movie moment (however fancifully imagined) in my daily routine.
posted by carsonb at 12:58 PM on December 11, 2009

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