Saturday, October 10, 2009

Strangers in their own land.

The doorbell rang at work the other day. As I was in the office, I answered the door. The visitor happened to be Ricardo, a retired firefighter from my agency. I hadn't seen Ricardo in four or five years. He looked great, retirement apparently is agreeing with him quite well.

Ricardo was in the neighborhood on business and thought he would stop by. He had heard that I worked at this station. Ricardo and I had worked together at the Big House of Pain for quite a few years. One summer, I went on vacation and returned to find that Ricardo had retired, he had enough and was done.

I asked Ricardo into the station and gave him the tour. I introduced him to the rest of the crew, only one of whom was on the job when Ricardo pulled the pin.

Later, we went into the kitchen and had a cup of coffee. Ricardo admitted to me that he was reluctant to drop by, as he was afraid the entire crew would be new enough that he wouldn't know them.

I have seen that happen. One morning at a district HQ, the doorbell rang and a gentleman in his seventies was standing at the door. He introduced himself as retired Captain So and So. I recognized the name, but I came on the job on after he had retired. I asked him in and showed him around. He didn't recognize the building that he spent so much of his career in, as it had been remodeled several times over the years. Our conversation was pleasant enough, but I could tell that he wasn't really there to chat with me. He was looking for something that I wasn't able to give him. Maybe a link to his past, a familiar face, I didn't know.

After fifteen minutes or so, I glanced at my watch and realized that we had an appointment to inspect  an apartment complex. Now, I began to feel anxious as I didn't want to blow off this man  who contributed thirty plus years to my beloved agency. Yet, I had an appointment to keep. One that I had spent a considerable amount of time and effort to arrange. I was really torn and was trying to figure out a graceful solution when, out of the blue, a reprieve was granted to me.

The doorbell rang again. This time, there was another gentleman standing at the door. He turned out to be an engineer from our agency who had retired long before I had come on. I didn't recognize his name, but my first visitor did. Apparently they had worked together at some point during their careers. It was old home week at the big house of pain. They were both extremely happy to see each other and hugged like long lost cousins at a family reunion.

As I watched these two old veterans converse, I saw the look of happiness on their faces. I understood that my first visitor had found what he came here for. I also realized that although we shared the honor of working at the Kinda Big Fire Protection District - the culture, people and experience was entirely different for them than it is for me. The bond they shared was much stronger than wearing the same badge or patch, it was the bond of sharing a life.

My time issue was now acute. I did the only civilized thing I could do. I led them upstairs to the kitchen, made sure the boot had a fresh pot of coffee on the Bunn-o-Matic and told these old dragon slayers to make themselves at home. I explained that we had an appointment to keep and told them to stay as long as they like.

The last I saw them, they were seated at the table talking it up. We did the inspection, ran a call or two, then came back to the barn. They were gone when we returned. I hope they had a nice visit and that they keep in touch.

Ricardo's fear of not being recognized and the old dragon slayers chance reunion remind me that my time with the K.B.F.P.D. is just a small segment of our agency's history. There will be a time when every member of the district will have never met me, likely never heard of me. Hopefully, I will live long enough to see it.

After Ricardo finished his coffee, it was time for him to go. We promised to keep in touch. I hope to have breakfast with him occasionally. I don't want to wait for a chance encounter at the Big House of Pain to see him again.

Thanks for reading,

1 comment:

  1. I'm begining to experience those very feelings. It seems like just yesterday I was in the right seat. Today, new people are there that have no idea who I am. It reminds you me of death- you know the world goes on without you, but you love it so much you hate to see it go. Thanks for your great post.