Monday, September 10, 2007

The First Day

The department had given an entrance test, and had held several agility tests. We had lost several members due to retirement that year, and needed to hire a large number at once.

Cindy was in the group of folks hired. We knew she had been hired; it had been a rather big event. Luckily, we didn’t have to go back through that silly “us and them” class we had been forced to endure before. The administration did get a bit worried about us though. They made sure to get everyone a new t-shirt and workout shorts to wear to bed at night. They were worried about our delicate sensibilities. They didn’t want to take a chance that our new female might want to see us in our underwear. It was for our protection I guess.

One of the big controversies was which station and which shift to assign her to. Some stations didn’t have separate restrooms and showers. Some stations had just a large bunk room full of beds with no dividers. Some of them had divided beds but large open locker rooms. And then there were the shift personalities to deal with.

Now, anybody who works in any fire department can tell you that each individual shift has it’s own personality. Those personalities change over time, often many years, but the shifts never share the same personality at the same time. Most of the personality is driven by the officers on the shift, but the firemen have a lot of influence on it too. It’s always possible that an individual station on a shift will have a different personality, but that is an exception rather than a rule.

Now A-shift ”wouldn’t care if syrup went to a dollar a sop.” If you understand that, you have a pretty good understanding of A-shift. IF you don’t, it just means that A-shift doesn’t sweat the small stuff, and they think it’s all small stuff. Laid back, easy going, not to worried about the day to day things. But they know what they’re doing on an emergency scene. One thing A-shift knows is fighting fire. They have a lot of "country boys" that have experience building houses and other construction experience. They know how to find fire in a house, in the hidden spaces and voids.

In my department, you can pretty much count on “B” shift to be the most anal of the bunch. By that I mean the most by-the-book. If the SOG’s (Standard Operational Guide’s) or Departmental Directives don’t specifically allow something, as far as A-shift is concerned it is not allowed. SOP's don't say anything about watching TV during the day, so in many of the stations it's not allowed until after 5pm. Oh, and you better damn sure have your paperwork in order. Make sure your EMS reports have the "i's" dotted and the "t's" crossed. Not so important if you actually helped the patient or not, but have the paperwork right!

C-shift is a cross between the two. They are fairly easy going, as long as your uniform is in order, and pretty good at fires, as long as there aren't too many construction features to keep up with.

Don't get the wrong idea about what I'm saying. All of our guys (OK, most) are great guys. It's just that there are some differences in the groups.

Well, we get word that Cindy is coming to our station and our shift. She had been through the fire academy, and paramedic school before coming to the station. She will need to do her paramedic "field training" when she gets there. For that she will be assigned to a FTP (field training paramedic). Where at our station could they find a paramedic to be her FTP? Where could they find someone to put up with all the additional paperwork and bull pucky? Who would have to be the first to ride with our first female?

Can you see where this is going?

3 guesses who was tagged and the first 2 don't count. And did I mention that the new EMS officer had decided that this would be the first group to even have FTP's? Joy of joy's, when it rains it pours. Yes friends, I was it.

My captain and I talked about it before she got there. We had a plan. Treat her the same, and expect her to do her job. I, being the older (by only a few years) and more experienced (I had been in the department longer at least) and not to mention wiser (quit laughing, it's my story) paramedic would set the example she would follow. I would be an inspiration to her. Someone to look up to, to want to be like. I would blaze a path of perfection for her to follow. That was the plan. And a damn good plan as plans go if I do say so myself.

The day arrived. This would be her first shift. I got up early at home, took a hot shower and sat on the edge of the bed, trying to wake up. I awoke again an hour later, 10 minutes later than I usually leave for work.

I began the chant "shit, shit, shit!" as I dressed quickly.

I ran outside and jumped into my truck. I turned the key and the old diesel engine groaned and sputtered. It was cold out that night, and I didn't have the truck's block heater plugged in. My glow plug relay had gone out, so without the heater it was hard and slow to start. I cranked for several minutes. As the battery started to die, and with me getting later and later, I got battery charger out and hooked it up. Several cranks later, the old bastard started. 30 minutes late now, but that I could make up with sheer speed. I would have made it up too. It's amazing how much difference a half hour can make in traffic into the DFW Metroplex.

I walked into the station not the 45 minutes early I had planned on, and not the 20 minutes early I usually arrive. Neither did I arrive at the 7am shift change time, No! I arrived a grand total of 38 minutes late.

As I walked past my Captain (who is and was also my friend) he said "Great example your setting there!"

I shot back "Shut up" as I walked out to the ambulance.

I had trails to blaze.

Mr Fixit

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