I was recently sucked into the time-wasting vortex that is Facebook, and I saw an exchange between a couple of brothers that had me shaking my head.
Now before I go off on another rant, let me be perfectly clear, I HAVE BEEN GUILTY OF THE VERY THING I AM ABOUT TO RAIL AGAINST.
This is an issue that spans the generation gaps and the seniority range.
And it's on par with the query of knuckle-dragging, meatheads at every gym; "What do ya bench, bro?"
"What is it?!", you ask.
It's the quintessential...."How many runs do you guys do?"
There is only one or two real reasons that question gets asked.
It's either because you figure you do more than they do, and want to make sure that they are aware of that
you are attempting to defend yourself because someone, somehow has questioned you level of "firemanship".
Now before you get all excited and state, "Not me! I'm really interested for clinical reasons only!"...fine...you are the 1-in-10,000 that actually cares for non-ego reasons. You can quit reading, safe in the knowledge I know not of what I write.
For the rest of us, we need to stop it.
I have travelled around a bit and have been incredibly fortunate, having met thousands of our brothers and sisters. Big departments to some of the smallest; from FDNY to the Boston Bar/North Bend FD. All shapes and sizes, so to speak. And I can tell you that the "run count" rarely, if ever, dictates the quality of the firefighter that stands before you.
We all know "small town" firefighters that have had calls of a severity and caliber that would cause any "hairy ass" city guy cause for pause; ...epic, career-level calls.
And we also know big city firefighters that have seen slightly more fires than the average Walmart clerk.
And the small town folks don't get a pass either.
If I have to listen to one more diatribe from a country sister or brother about how that ,” if you do the math ( run count, multiply by service area, divide by available rigs, subtract the fourth week of the leap year, and add the square root of who-gives-a-shit ...) we really do more than "fill in the blank" department. “
I have met folks from FDs, great and small, who I would have on my truck in an instant and, conversely, I've met "big job" guys, and also tiny town FFs, who I wouldn't let hold the exhaust hose as we left them standing in the bay.
The qualities and attributes of a firefighter run far deeper than how many times they've left the Hall/Station with the lights flashing, or some imaginary algorithm you invented on your last craft beer-fuelled, "war-story" binger with your shift mates.
I'm NOT saying stop sharing stories. That is an amazing part of who we are. What I AM saying is share the lessons learned, share the funny stories, and share the sad ones too, with the folks that can really understand.
But stop with the measuring stick! There isn't one yet invented that can sum up who we are and what we do in a simple straight line.
It's about your character, your integrity, your discipline and your commitment to become better than YOU were yesterday.
Quit worrying about how you may "stack up" to the next guy with a FD T-shirt and continue to develop the quality of firefighter you are; the one that will be showing up for your friends and neighbors next week, tomorrow and today.
So next time you feel that question coming on, instead ask, "Hey bro/sis, tell me a story!”…and get ready to laugh a lot, learn some stuff, and maybe cry a little…all of which is good for us!
See ya on the Road