“Have you ever ridden in an ambulance before?” That was the EMT’s first question. “No,” I responded.

“You’re going to love it. This vehicle costs a quarter of a million dollars, and this thing MOVES.”

He was right. We were definitely doing 90 MPH on Route 287, with my wife in the back on a gurney. My father-in-law got yelled at first, though.

That evening, our family had gone out to dinner for our anniversary. Afterward, we went back to my brother-in-law’s house, and my wife went in to the bathroom. She hadn’t returned 20 minutes later, so I asked my sister-in-law to check on her. My wife had crawled from the bathroom to their guest room to lay on the bed. It turns out that a cyst had ruptured and she was bleeding internally, but we didn’t know that yet.

The police came, then the EMTs. I got to ride in the front of the ambulance while my wife was in the back. We ran a couple of red lights. My father-in-law was driving behind us, and he ran the red lights too. I was impressed.

“Can you call whoever’s following us and tell them not to do that?” the driver asked. I called my father-in-law, but he didn’t answer. The ambulance driver pulled over, threw the vehicle in park, jumped out and told my father-in-law that he wasn’t allowed to run red lights. Upon getting back in, the driver told me that if my father-in-law got in an accident while following the ambulance, the driver would get in trouble. “The amount of paperwork I’d have to do!” he told me.

As we hit 90 on 287 with the flashing lights on, I started asking questions. I recognized this wasn’t the best time, but who knows when I’d get to ask these questions again.

“Have you ever had anyone not get out of the way?” I asked. “Oh yeah,” he replied. “I just get their license plate number and call it in. The person will get a nasty ticket in the mail.”

“Have you ever had anyone not get out of the way – and you were on the way to their house?” I asked next. “One time,” he told me, “there was a guy who wouldn’t get out of the way. Sure enough, we were on our way to his house for his mother-in-law. When we got there, this guy started yelling ‘what took you people so long?!?!’ I calmly asked him, ‘Sir, were you just on such-and-such road?’ I called in the police, they came, took care of it, and wrote him a ticket.”

Everyone has great stories. Even you. You probably think you don’t, but you do. To hear great ones, the key is taking out your earbuds and putting away your phone, and just talking. The best stories come from people you’ve never met before and will probably never meet again. Ask them questions. Find out the details. Take their stories, share their stories with others, because they never will. After having lived the story, to them, it’s just life or “part of the job”, but you recognize the value that stories have and the impact they can have on others.

To make your own stories, don’t sit home on social media, pretending that counts as a social interaction. I recently read a quote from a writer saying “liking your photo on Instagram is the equivalent of a 45 minute phone conversation”. Even though it feels that way, it’s not.

Don’t block out the world all the time. Engage with strangers. Get your friends to open up. Ask the deep questions. And listen carefully to the great stories you hear.