On thought and space

A few minutes ago I passed by a local fire station and saw something, perhaps mundane, but it nonetheless took me back about 30 years ago.

Some firefighter was outside in front of the station fire engine. His head was down and his hands in his pocket as if he was pondering something mighty. Penny for his thoughts? Not really. Not even a dollar.

The site just made me think of a time in my life when I worked at a fire station and would sit on the porch watching whatever went by. I would think of college classes, if I happened to be attending at the time. Or I would think of a girl. Funny, I say girl. I suppose back then that many of the women I knew thought of themselves as girls. They might have been a year or four out of high school, in college. Some were a few years older and had been in the workforce a little while.

Just having a place to park my butt and be to myself for a few minutes was a pleasing part of my firehouse routine. That isn’t to say I would be unhappy if one of my fellow firemen joined me. No, I think it was more of a sign that I could be alone most times without being lonely. I can still do that.

I usually worked in Station 2 with two others. Or with only one other on quite a few occasions. But generally I worked with a lieutenant and chauffeur —¬† the latter called a driver or technician or whatever in different departments. The lieutenant was the station officer who was in charge. And like the name implies, the chauffeur drove. The rank is a bit of a misnomer because the chauffeur pumped the truck at a fire and had to watch all the gauges and make calculations. Such figuring would ensure we would have water, but not so much water that it would make the hose we were using fly off — with us on the end of it.

Generally, the fire ground or accident scene or whatever emergency we had was about the only place where rank was applied. Even then, we would usually have someone higher in rank than the LT in charge if the situation called for it.

Mostly, we slept in our idle hours, watched television, worked on our cars, and in my case, studied for college classes. And we cooked, sometimes.

That is not to say we did nothing but f**k off and fight fires. We would train in the mornings. We would do maintenance on the equipment. Sometimes we would ride in the district and check out new businesses in case they caught fire. We would use a weed whacker to cut vegetation around a fire hydrant or sometimes even paint the hydrants.

We weren’t totally worthless and lazy. Maybe some people might have seen us in that light. We did sit in front of the station watching the world go by. Maybe by today’s standards we were lethargic. But many of us did more than others. For instance, I was the only person back then in this 50-something-man department who was certified as an emergency medical technician. Some of us would lift weights or shoot hoops. The latter is how I broke my first bone ever. My left pinkie was resting at a 45-degree angle before I went to the ER and my doctor set it.

Mainly I had a good time back then. Going to college was, overall, fun. Working as a firefighter and being a firefighter were both a great job and status. I would work 24 hours and have two days off. What’s not to like?

A little space, or maybe that term is pass√© these days, is essential in any job. It doesn’t matter whether you are saving lives or saving Coke cans. Does that mean thought is the final frontier?

Okay, when I make Star Trek references I know that is enough thinking for one day.