Well, ok…so “Probie-ness” isn’t a word, but I added it to my Word dictionary, so according to MY word processing software…it is now. Maybe I’ll add it to Wikipedia too---dazzle them with confusion….it lets you get away with all KINDS of hijinks and lunacy.
Anyhoo….”Probie-ness” … When I first joined the department, I felt so stupid and clumsy and green (read some of my “Chronicles of the FNG (irl) " posts right here on FFN to get a sense of just how dumb I felt). Keep in mind that I was working for a firematic organization at the time, and despite that, I was still flummoxed by some of the terminology. It doesn’t help that a lot of departments use different terminology to describe the exact same thing (i.e. Mattydale vs. Cross Lay).
Every drill brought a new task, a new skill (I still hate trying to start the K-12 saw—I think it’s possessed by evil gremlins); something to overcome, or a fear to surmount (some heights, spiders, tapping the hydrant in a timely fashion…). I asked so many questions…and I’m still asking….every meeting, every drill.
Then there was the social aspect; most of the members in my department have not only been members of the department since right around the time that Moses parted the waters….they’ve also lived in the village since infancy. That’s a tough clique to try and break into. I’ve finally “arrived” , but it wasn’t an overnight thing.
One year into this…and I still haven’t popped my cherry in a real interior structure fire. Oh, I’ve come close….exterior fires that threatened to spread, the odd gardening shed, interior burns at the training tower….but I’m still a “fighting the beast” virgin…and I’m not a patient soul. Those that know me are laughing and thinking to themselves…”Well THAT’S the understatement of the decade”. I’ll get there…but sheesh….you’d think there would be more careless smokers in my village or something….
Then an interesting thing happened; I got a little complacent. We don’t run a ton of calls, we hadn’t signed up too many in the way of new members, and I was getting myself into a very dangerous comfort zone of “I’ve got it…it’s cool”.
Then you run a call where you encounter everything that you can NEVER prepare for…no matter how many years on the job; and complacency goes right out the window.
It happened to me during the Big Ice Storm of 2008 (and yes, you grammar snobs…it SHOULD be in caps…it was a very big effing deal in my village, and the county, and the region…). We ran everything from basement pump-outs, to a personal injury due to chainsaw, to rollovers, to arcing wires causing exterior fires….and it was one call right after another.
I had a few “Come to Jesus” moments during those 48 hours:
• I’m still not fast enough getting to the station and getting in my gear
• Spare socks in my locker are a must –a spare set of jeans is a luxury that you’ll thank yourself for
• I work with some amazing people—Mentoring is critical for newbies and I’m seriously lucky in that arena –develop your mentoring relationships
• There is a lifetime’s worth of practical skills that I still need to learn –complacency is for a$$holes.
• Learn your frigging compartments and what they contain on EVERY rig you run….it was a hard lesson, but I know it now
• Hot dogs and coffee is the breakfast of champions when you’ve been out in frigid weather for seven hours---I can eat my body weight in hot dogs if I’m really hungry
• Stick your cell phone in your pocket while you’re donning gear; it doesn’t hurt to have the siren running in the background when you’re calling your day job to tell them that you won’t be in because you’re tied up on a fire call –it lends credibility
• You’re going to be washing and drying the apparatus after a call while the senior members hustle inside to grab some coffee and a seat. Deal with it…and take pride in the appearance of your rigs.
• Wash your nomex hood every now and then…otherwise….Phewwwwww
• Spare gloves in your bunkers….you’ll be amazed at what you’ll forget when you’re trying to make the truck
Man, I have a lot to learn. I can’t wait!!!
Until next time…Stay safe, and wear your seatbelt to EVERY call. Everyone Goes Home.