Friday, December 31, 2010

Our Constituants are clueless

I read this article on a Boston TV website and it really didn't surprise me much. Then I read the comments, all of which almost completely agreed that the Firefighters were whining. I left a comment myself. But the point is that the public largely has no clue what the Fire and EMS Services do, and why we are here. Until they need us. Moreover, they think everybody is in this for something. The other night I 'babysat' some live wires crossing a road with a partner and our Engine sitting vigil, waiting for the utility guys to show up. We didn't have the tools or training to handle it ourselves, and leaving these live wires would have created a public hazard. Should the wires get run over, and moved, they could have easily shorted out on the car they were draped over. The car would have burned and the radiant heat would have started the garage next to it on fire, which would have started the woods on fire...... You get the picture. As stupid and cold as we felt, we had to stay there and re-direct traffic around the wires. And let me tell you, with a 20MPH wind, it WAS cold. None the less, the 3 hours went by fairly quickly. This is what we do. Whatever it takes. Boring, exciting, frightening, whatever.
 The owner of the house from which the wires had been ripped came out an apologized for having to call us. He said the power company was surly after his third call and told him to call 911 if he wasn't happy, so he did. He was worried about somebody getting hurt. He was right to be worried. I assured him he did the right thing.
 After a couple of hours, he came out of the house to warm up their second car. He apologized again and also said that he had to go find a place to keep his 2 small kids and his wife warm. I passed along the info about what shelters had just been opened because of the storm and gave him directions. He thanked me yet again. "You guys are amazing. It's so damn cold out and you stand there for hours, but all you are concerned with is that we have a place to go. It boggles the mind. You guys are amazing." I shrugged my shoulders. "It's what we do. No big deal. We are used to it. You go and get your kids warmed up." He gets it, I thought.
 Slide back, many years. It was 3 days of non-stop duty around the clock for all of us, we ate and slept, when we could, in the trucks or in the station. We have never ever seen water this high and many people would not believe what were telling them. I had been standing at a roadblock for over 12 hours re-directing traffic during a 100 year flood incident. After all those hours I had heard EVERY excuse for letting people slip through the roadblock and I was getting a little punchy. I had been nearly hit by several cars and actually struck by one of them. I was getting testy.
 Late in the evening one guy pulls up with a pretty good attitude. I told him he couldn't go west on the main road and asked where he was headed so I could offer an alternate route. "Oh, OK man, look, we were just headed out for a late dinner, but if it's as bad as you say maybe we'll just go back and cook something." I Smiled, "Good Idea, go home and enjoy your evening, getting around tonight is no easy feat." Then he started to go into chat mode, which was fine until cars started to back up behind him. "Hey man, how long have you guys had this road closed anyway?" "Gee" I had to think, "What time is it? 11PM? Well we closed it at just around noon today." "Wow" they guy said, "that's a long day. Well look on the bright side, at least your getting overtime." and he pulled away. I was dumbfounded, but I caught myself at the last second and before he got out of earshot, I hollered "OVER TIME?! HELL, TODAY IS SUNDAY, I'M GETTING DOUBLE TIME!" I laughed way too hard on that one. My partner turned to me and said "Dude, you are loosing it, time for a break, when did you sleep last anyway?"
 So if you volunteer, what does it matter if you get straight time, overtime, or double time? To tell the truth, I don't know if anybody could pay me to do this job. I do like doing it for free though. Like thousands of others, I'm just funny that way.

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