Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Paycheck.

Yeah, we don't talk about it enough in the Volunteer Service, but we are all aware of it. We are all looking for that paycheck and we know it when it comes. Many times they are few and far between.
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  It's fine fine Sunday near the end of February, I remember it like it was lat year. I was taking the opportunity to get some sun and wash some of the winter dirt off the Engine over at Station 1. The Station Captain is also here doing chores in the warm 20 degree weather. I like getting the truck clean, but lately the weather has been so cold that the water freezes before I can rinse it down. Today is THE day.
 A car pulls up on the ramp and I hear the Cap groan. He's not much of a people person and figures this is one of the City folk stopping in for directions like they do almost every time we are at the station. He finds something to do in the bay and leaves me out front to provide cover for him. He knows I like to meet and talk to anybody and figures he's dong me a favor by walking off.
 A middle aged woman gets out of the car and walks on over. "Hi" she says "I own the house down the road where the fire was a few weeks ago and I just wanted to stop by and thank you for saving my house." I smile, thinking about the Cap's instincts, yeah she is what we call a 'weekender', she lives in an apartment in the City during the week and comes up to her second home on the weekends. "Yes ma'am" I say, "Very sorry about your home. we did the best we could under the conditions. I'm real sorry."
 "Sorry?" she says "You're SORRY!?"
 Oh shit!, I think this isn't going right. Then she smiles and says "Sir, you have nothing to be sorry about, you saved my house!"
"Yes Ma'am, we sure tried but the weather was surely against us."
"Yes, I did hear how bad it was that night. I spoke to the Captain, or Sargent, or whoever he is and he told me that you had one fella that got there really quick and knocked the fire down and bought time for everybody else to get there and save the house." I asked her some questions to figure out who she had really spoken with. "yes Ma'am, that was the Chief you spoke with, he played a good part in saving your house with some pretty quick thinking. I am really sorry the we had to rip open that corner of the house, but that's the only way we could get to the fire inside the wall. I know it looks like a mess, but it could have been a lot worse, you were very lucky that night. 12 inches of heavy wet snow, trees down across the roads, most of our firefighters out of town plowing snow. You got real lucky."
 "Were you there?" she asked.
 "Yes, I was."
 "What did you do. are you one of the firemen?"
 "Yes, I'm a Firefighter and an EMT, I do many different jobs, but that night I was just the Engineer. I ran the pump on the Engine."
"Thank you so much. Your Chief said that there was one fireman who really made the difference in holding the fire down until everybody else could get there. Do you know how I could find that man? I'd like to thank him."
 "Well Ma'am, we work as a team. Sometimes one or two of us arrive first and do what we have to. We work as a team and nobody is any more important than anybody else. He was just doing his job."
 "Yes, but the Chief told me that when the alarm came in at 2am, this fella realized right away that everybody was busy plowing snow and he got the truck there through the storm and pushed the trees away with the truck to open the road and knocked the fire down, by himself. That is AMAZING!"
 "Yes Ma'am, sometimes we get lucky, and the firefighter was not alone, two of your neighbors called the alarm in quickly and then stood by to help that single firefighter who arrived with the Engine by carrying tools and spreading out the hose as he directed."
 She looked at me a little sideways. She smiled and said "You were the one! You were the guy, am I right?"
 "Well, yes ma'am, but like I said, you were lucky, and it's a team effort. People started showing up ten minutes after I arrived." (I didn't tell her it was the longest 10 minutes of my life.)
 Then she grabbed me around the waist and gave me a hug, squeezing a little too hard and a little too long for my taste, but I got the point. I could see the Cap inside the shadows of the bay looking at us and shaking his head, he went back to what he was working on.
 She said "You know that house was built in 1886? I figured that if there was ever a fire in it, that it would go up like a matchbook. I still can't believe you saved it."
 "I'm a little surprised myself ma'am, but like I said, you were very lucky that night."
 She thanked me a few more times, got in her car and as she drove off the Cap came back out on the ramp.
 "What the hell was THAT all about?" he inquired.
 "She owns the house we had that fire job at a few weeks ago."
 "I suppose she stopped by to complain that we didn't wipe our feet or left a mess? Damn city people."
 "Nope" I said as I got back to the truck washing, "She just dropped off my paycheck."

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