Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Buzz - A work of Fiction (part 3)

From Al Haines, Captain, sta. #22 "C" - I was surely surprised when I heard the news. Mitchell always seemed to work hard around here and was doing OK on most of his drills from what Hardy said. He seemed to keep his ears open and his mouth shut. I just don't know what to say.

From "Fast" Eddie Garza, medic, sta. #13 "C" - All Riiiight, another vacancy on "B" shift. More O.T. for me!.

From Rich Bischkegel, engineer, sta. #21 "B" - I heard that there are pictures of Mitchell that were taken at "Burning Man" last year. I hear he doesn't look so good with his schlong hanging out. What was he thinking?

From Gary "Go Hard" Moran, firefighter, sta. #21 "A" - I say good riddance. If he couldn't hack it, screw him. You have to live, breathe and be this department every second of your life. If not, you don't belong here.Obviously, Mitchell got distracted and he wasn't focused.  His captain isn't that strong either. Hopefully the new guy will be more committed.

From Dennis Johnson, Captain, sta. #18 "B" (President IAFF local #1543) It's always sad when we have to let a probationary firefighter go. As a probie, they can be terminated for almost any reason. They have no protection under the law, so there's not a lot we can do for them.Fortunately, it doesn't happen that often.

From Richard Bong, Division Chief, Administration and Personnel - This is the part of my job that I hate the most. Here we have a guy, doing OK on probation, someone who is probably going to get through it and then something like this pops up. When we were made aware of the situation, we had to run it through H.R. Their attorney said that Mitchell was too big of a liability for the city to retain. I have to agree. Even though this was necessary, I still hate to see it happen.

From Cyndi Brennan, engineer, sta. #22 "B" - Oh my god. I am so sorry that this happened. I can't believe they fired him. I was there and I saw the whole thing. Things just got out of control, but it wasn't that bad. I've known Katy, Mitch's wife since high school, we hang out all of the time. She just had a baby six months ago. What are they going to do now?

From Bob Hardy, captain, sta. #22 "B" - Some days, I just absolutely hate this damn job.

Thanks for reading,

Spiccoli Speaks - A work of fiction

I thought it was trouble when the buggy drove in, I knew it was trouble when that goddam sedan pulls up. I mean what else is going to get the A/P Chief out of headquarters at eight in the morning?

As soon as Hardy and the boot go inside I whip out my phone and call Dennis. I know that Dennis probably knows what the hell is up,  but I wanna make sure.

Dennis knew alright, he picked up on the first ring. Look Spiccoli" he tells me "I can't tell you what happened, but Mitchell is gone. It's righteous and there is nothing that we can do about it. He's on probation and has no rights. Trust me, if you knew what went down, you'd be OK with it.

Shit. Aint that a mother. Eleven months in and getting the axe. I wonder what the little bastard did? I liked him OK. I mean for a boot, he did a pretty good job around here. I know he's a a few bad drills, but hey - who hasn't.

I know whats coming next, so I round up Cyndi and we finish up the buggy. Cyndi is clueless, she didn't even know the Chiefs were here. I tell her what happened and I let her know I called the union president. She looked pale, like she was going to puke or something. She went to school with Mitchell's wife and knows her pretty good.

Cyndi runs inside to change into her "B" while I move the buggy and put the car wash stuff away. I am just reaching for my shirt when Hardy comes over the PA and tells us to meet at the engine.

I get there first and I pretend like I don't know what is going on. Hardy walks over to the rig and starts pulling the boot's stuff off. He makes this neat pile against the wall. Turn-outs, brush gear, class "B" shirt - all of it. Cyndi shows up just about the time Hardy gets done. I can tell she didn't take a shower, but at least she got her uniform on.

Hardy asks us if we know whats going on. I tell him no, Cyndi nods yes. WTF, that makes us look brilliant.

Hardy tells us we gotta go for a ride. We done this before, the chief's don't want us in the station when they count all of the boot's stuff and he empties out his locker. I was glad to see the last one go, that guy was a prick. I ain't so happy about losing this one.

Hardy decides we'll go get a coffee. That'll get us out of the cold and maybe there will be a corner or somewhere that we can talk about this situation. Me? I hate freakin' Starbucks. Four bucks for a big cup of yuppie coffee. What a joke. But I knew Hardy was buying and Cyndi lives there anyways so why not.

We get to Starbucks, get our coffee and find a table back in the corner. Hardy starts in.

You guys know why the chiefs were here this morning, Hardy says. Mitchell had an off duty incident last week and somehow they found out about it over at headquarters.They started looking into it and didn't like what they were seeing.

I look over at Cyndi to see if she was going to ask the hundred dollar question. By the sick look on her face, I can tell that she isn't

Not only that, but Mitchell had an issue with the training guys during the academy, Hardy continues. Something about maybe he was cheating on his Friday tests. They couldn't prove it, but they were convinced. When they added it all up and ran it by HR, they all agreed - Mitch has got to go.

I chew on this for a few seconds. Then I gotta ask. What did he do?

Hardy looks at me, looks at Cyndi and then tells us this bullshit that he doesn't know exactly, but the cops were involved and it didn't put a good light on the department. I'm not buyin' that Hardy doesn't know exactly what went down. He's too close to the Chief and he went to the academy with Dennis. He knows exactly.

We just finish our coffee when we get a call for a man down in the bushes. Turns out it's a homeless guy who died sometime in the night. We open up his tent, the ants are already having quite the picnic. By the time we wait for the detectives and all that, the Chief gets on the radio and says that we can go back to the station.

When we get back in quarters, the boot and the Chiefs are gone. Mitch's locker is empty, even his food shelf is empty. It's like he was never here. Then the company phone starts ringing off of the hook. Word travels fast.

Fast Eddie shows up twenty minutes later, he pulled the OT. What a whore that guy is. What a screwed up day this is starting out to be.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Boot's Perspective - A Work of Fiction

The boot was surprised to see the Chief's buggy pull up. The Chief usually didn't make it out to the "Little House on the Prairie". In fact the only time the boot could remember the Chief coming out to 19's was when he gave the Captain his performance evaluation. The boot watched the buggy roll past the window, then hustled to the kitchen to make sure the coffee was fresh. As it was just after roll call, the Bunn-o-Matic might be a little low.

After making a fresh batch of coffee, the boot headed down to the back ramp. He figured  that he would wash the buggy while the Chief was there. As it was early, he reasoned that the crew at battalion headquarters hadn't had a chance to wash it today. He ran into the Chief in the downstairs hallway.

"Good morning sir" the boot said to the Chief as he rotated ninety degrees and braced, his back against the hallway wall.

"Hello Mitchell" the Chief replied. "How are you doing?"

"Fine sir, I have my test next cycle."

"Oh, of course" the Chief said. "Well, I have a meeting with your Captain"  he added, then passed the boot on his way up to the office.

The boot felt some unease as he continued toward the rear of the station. He didn't know the Chief very well, but he sensed that the Chief's response was a little forced. as if the Chief really didn't want to deal with him. "Maybe he's just preoccupied" the boot thought as he walked through the door and out onto the back ramp, "maybe he's just busy."

The boot  grabbed a bucket, a brush and some car wash from the outside closet and set it down by the rear app floor door. As he was stretching out the garden hose, Spiccoli walked up with a couple of towels.

"Hey boot, what the hell is the Chief doing here?" Spiccoli asked.

"I don't know" the boot replied "I am the last person that would know."

The pair started in on the Chief's buggy. The lime green paint had been washed only yesterday, but the snowmelt and a muddy driveway or two had left the Expedition quite the mess. Spiccoli worked the hose, the boot was on the brush. The road grime and mud had been allowed to dry before being washed, so the brushing took a little extra work. They were about half way through when a white sedan pulled onto the back ramp.

The boot saw that the sedan belonged to the administrative / personnel Chief, then looked over at Spiccoli. He felt tension begin to boil in his stomach as he saw the look of concern in Spiccoli's face.

"Something's up" Spiccoli said.

The A/P Chief got out of his car and headed into the app floor. He had a manila envelope in his hand and he stopped only for a second. "Morning fellas, don't worry about my car, it was washed last night" he said, then disappeared into the station.

Spiccoli and the boot now worked in silence, each wondering why the two chief officers were there. As the conversation had stopped, all effort was spent on completing the task at hand. The Expedition was soon washed ans the pair was starting on the tires and the interior. It was then that Captain Hardy appeared at the front of the buggy.

"Mitch, can I see you in my office?" Hardy asked.

The boot felt his stomach twist into knots, then bile rising into his throat. Shit. How did they find out?

Hardy made the boot go first as they worked their way to the front of the station. They walked through the open door of the captain's office where the two Chiefs were sitting at small table. Hardy closed the door, the boot stood at parade rest, barely able to control his fear.

"Have a seat Mitchell" the A/P Chief said, pointing to an open chair at the table. The boot complied, knowing that the outcome of this meeting was not likely to be good.

"The reason that we've called you here" the A/P Chief said "Is to let you know that you are being terminated. We are giving you the option to resign as an alternative".

The words hit the boot in the chest like a sledgehammer. He accepted it in an instant, knowing that this was the consequence of the events from the week before.

"Why" he asked, knowing the answer and also knowing the real answer.

"For failure too meet probationary standards" the A/P Chief replied. "That's all I can tell you." 

All of that time. The schooling, the academy, reserve time, medic school all for nothing, all gone in a flash. What was he going to do now? What was he going to tell his wife?

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Tale of Ttwo Customers

Customer #1 - 40 yr.old male who was sole occupant of a red sedan involved in an accident with a cement truck. Minor to moderate visible damage along drivers side of vehicle. No passenger compartment intrusion or deformity to passenger compartment observed, all vehicle glass intact. No front or side airbag deployment noted. Collision appears to be a "sideswipe" type accident at very low speed. Both vehicles found pointed in original direction of travel. Pt. ambulatory and talking on cell phone upon our arrival. Pt. desired transport to "be checked out" as he was feeling "tightening" on his left side. Pt. transported to K.B.R.H. without further incident.

Customer #2 - 75 yr old female found laying on sidewalk in front of jewelry store. Pt. was conscious, oriented and alert. Pt. was being tended to by passer-by who saw pt fall. Pt. said that her "trick knee" gave out, causing her to seat herself on the ground. Pt. was complaining of minor pain to her right knee. Pt. denied neck pain, back pain or LOC. Pt. also denied hitting her head.  Pt. assessment revealed pt's left leg appears to be 4 inches shorter than her right.  Pt. stated that both of her legs are usually the same length and stated that she had minimal discomfort to her upper left thigh or hip. Pt. initially did not wish to be transported and finally agreed to be treated only after much persuasion. Pt. transported to K.B.R.H. without further incident.

Tell me, who is the sissy?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Capt. Wines is Back!

Some of you may remember Capt. Wines, formerly of the Engine 9 R.F.D. blog. Some of you might even know him personally. Wines was recently transferred from the Melrose Misfits and is now out at a different station.

Along with his new assignment, he has started a new blog Wooden Ladders and Iron Firemen . I always enjoyed reading his blog and I am glad to see him writing again. Drop by and say hello to him if you get the chance, I think that you will like what you see.

Thanks for reading,

P.S. I will be adding this and a few other blogs to my reading list in the near future.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Let me just say

"Hey Schmoe, do you now a guy about 6 foot tall, 190 or so, kinda balding with glasses and a mustache? I think he may be an engineer for you guys. He has kind of a bitchy wife and three kids."

Conversations that start with this type of question are usually not inquiries to open a discussion about someone's positive attributes or outstanding behavior. The bitchy wife statement is kind of a negative indicator as well. I usually have only a passing curiosity as to the reason of these inquiries, and lose interest when they degrade into a rant about someone who I only see occasionally or barely know.

If the subject of the inquiry is someone I don't care for, my interest may hold for a little longer, but again if it's not particularly juicy or noteworthy, I'm going to try and change the subject.

As I don't really like these types of conversations and would like to avoid them, let me offer some advice.

Guys, if you're going to pick a fight with your wife, please don't do it in a public place. Especially if you are wearing a Kinda Big Fire Protection District t-shirt. The middle school gymnasium is not the place to passionately discuss controversial family issues, especially when it is filled with off duty cops and firefighters who are trying to watch their kids play the game.

Ladies. This applies to you as well. Please understand that when your husband is wearing that shirt, he represents us, especially in the eyes of all the cops and firefighters that are there. Now is not the time to let the world know how unhappy you are with the man you chose to spend the rest of your life with..

We may not be happy with him either, but we don't need to hear about your his antics from Schultzie over in homicide. In a way, it makes us all look bad.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lay on Your Belly and Pass Gas

As mentioned in my previous post, the trip out in the C-17 was an amazing experience. When I last saw the C-17, it was climbing out and headed north. It had an appointment with a KC-135 aerial refueling tanker somewhere over California.

Meanwhile, my friend and I hooked up with some of his co-workers, had a briefing and then attended a training session. After a few hours, it was time to return to our point of origin.

We were driven back out to the airfield and on to a taxi way where a KC-135 was waiting for us and a few other people.
 Isn't she a beauty? A 1957 KC-135R. Not bad lookin' for a bird three
years older than me.

As the stairway units were already in use, they had to use a  k-lift unit to get us in the aircraft.

K-lift unit. Designed for heavy pallets, we were no challenge
for it. 

Not O'Hare by any means.

After a short safety briefing, we were on our way. I am glad nothing bad happened, I would not be able to remember how to use the oxygen masks or the emergency exits. Apparently, military passengers are a cut above your average Schmoe and have to do more than tug on the 02 mask to get it to work. Lucky for me things went well.

The KC-135 is primarily used to refuel other aircraft while in the air. It can also be used for moving cargo and personnel. As it's primary function is not moving passengers, the interior is rather austere.

Interior of the KC-135 looking forward.

As stated earlier, The KC-135 is an aerial refueling tanker. The process consists of the aircraft needing fuel flying in very close formation to the tanker, behind and just below. A rigid boom is lowered to the receiving aircraft and is inserted into a receptacle when the fuel transfer takes place.

KC-135 refueling a C-17 in mid-air.  Sadly, USAF photo kyped off of
the internet.

The refueling boom is controlled by a boom operator, also called a "boomer". Although the boom is attached to the KC-135, its movement is controlled by small airfoils known as elevons. In essence, the boom is actually flying, the boomer uses a stick to control the elevons.
Aerial refueling boom showing elevons. Taken from the boom operators
The boomer controls the boom from a position in the rear of the KC-135. His "pod" is in the bottom of the aircraft and consists of a couch that looks through a window in the bottom of the plane and the boom controls. While refueling, he lays on his belly and passes gas.

I was hoping that we would pick up a refueling mission on the way home, but it was not to be. The KC-135 that we were on had already refueled the C-17 that we had flown on earlier in the day, before coming out to get us. It was cool seeing the boom operate though.

The Air Force were gracious hosts all day to me and to the other folks who were not regular customers,. They also opened up the cockpit door and allowed those who wanted a look inside for a few minutes.
Cockpit view KC-135

After a short while, we were back on the ground. Another long drive and it was all over. What an amazing day.

I feel privileged to have been allowed to observe  the men and women of the USAF in action in this way. All of this activity was apparently part of some type of multi-agency exercise. Whatever it was, it was a hoot for me.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Santa Comes in February or One Bad Ass Sleigh.

For those of you who read yesterday's post, you know that I was presented an opportunity to go on a military cargo flight. Me being the aeronautical prostitute (meaning airplane whore) that I am, I jumped on it with both feet. As mentioned earlier, I wasn't allowed to take my good camera so all of the pics were taken with my blackberry. Sorry for the poor quality, but I think you will get the idea.

I made the long drive out to a joint-use airfield to meet the aircraft and my friend, who made this all possible. The aircraft was late, so I had to wait for several hours for it to arrive and unload some cargo. I can assure you it was worth the wait.

There it is, a USAF reserve C-17.
I was fortunate that I was allowed to observe them loading the aircraft. Is is critical that the cargo is secured properly. Failure to do so could be catastrophic. Shifting cargo has caused many a crash, especially when the aircraft is making significant maneuvers. It is very important that the cargo is accurately weighed before loading and that the load is positioned properly within the aircraft. An aircraft that is overloaded or out of balance may not be controllable while in flight.

 This is from the front of the aircraft looking back through the cargo door.
The truck in the foreground had just backed into the plane and was being
chained to the floor.

In addition to the two trucks, two boats and 35 or so people on this trip, there were a couple pallets of cargo. Each pallet is carefully weighed and any hazardous materials are properly stored and documented.
Two pallets of cargo are on the K-lift. It will back up to the loading ramp,
where the pallets will be rolled onto the aircraft. They made it look easy.

After all the cargo was loaded, the passengers were boarded. There were some civilians, some coast guard personnel, some DHS people and some other folks who I have no clue who they were. The seats fold down from the wall of the fuselage and face inwards. There wasn't a lot of leg room for some of the long legged folks. As I was on the plane before most of the passengers, I scoped out a seat with plenty of leg room and claimed it. It turned out I wouldn't need it.

Just before they closed the door, one of the loadmasters asked if I would like to ride up front. Thinking of the two seats and the bunks located in the crew rest area, I agreed. I figured those seats would be a little more comfortable. Myself and a guy from the Coast Guard climbed the stairs into the crew rest area and found the seats occupied by a couple of civilians. I was wondering what to do when the loadmaster appeared and said "not there, up in the cockpit."

Wow! I was amazed, it must be all of my clean living. What an opportunity for a plane whore like me to ride in the cockpit of a C17. The loadmaster led us to a couple of seats located right behind the two pilots. I chose the right seat, just behind the co-pilot. We were given headsets so that we could hear the flight crew and radio conversations and given a short safety briefing. We then made ourselves comfortable and enjoyed the trip.

The view from my seat. We are still on the ground, just
before engine start.

There was quite a bit of traffic near the airport, so we had to wait a few minutes before taking off. Another C-17, some training aircraft and a couple of  F-18s were all in the area as we left. After taking the runway, power was applied, we quickly rotated and became airborne.

We took off in a very steep fashion as if we were avoiding small arms fire from near the airport. This is a common maneuver that the C-17 pilots practice all of the time, as they are often fired upon when leaving certain airfields in various combat zones.
 Cruising altitude, on top of the clouds.

While at altitude, the aircraft commander brief the co-pilot about the descent and arrival at our destination. If the weather cooperated, we were going to do a tactical descent, which leaves you high until close to the airport, then you drop like a stone to the airfield. The final approach needs to by stabilized as in any landing, but the descent is kind of spectacular. Again, this approach minimizes that amount of time that the aircraft is exposed to small arms fire.
Instrument panel during tac descent. Note the brown instrument displayed
on the screen in the center of the panel. That indicates the attitude of the aircraft
in relationship to level flight. When level, the top half is blue, representing sky, 
the bottom is brown, representing earth. We are pointed toward the ground,
very steep.

I knew we were doing a tac descent, heard the pilot say we were starting it and yet it took me by surprise just how steep of a descent that it was. I believe the descent rate was 9500 feet per minute. It was spectacular and  it made me wonder if all of the trucks, boats and cargo in the back was tied down good enough.

I talked to one of the passengers in the back after the flight. He said that they didn't know it was coming and it  was quite the surprise. Nobody screamed though.
Seconds after touchdown.

The descent was controlled a ways out, the approach stabilized and the landing was perfect. An amazing flight that I feel very fortunate to have experienced. It was as much fun as Christmas morning, without the Visa bill in January.

I have a greater respect for the capabilities of the C-17, it is one bad-ass sleigh. Thanks to my friend and to the Air Force for this amazing experience.
I will post about the ride home tomorrow. Though not as spectacular, an amazing experience none the less.

Thanks for reading,
an amazed Schmoe

Friday, February 19, 2010


I am safely back on the ground. The trip exceeded my expectations and I feel very fortunate to have gone. I wasn't allowed to take a camera that wouldn't fit in a pocket, so all of the pics that I took were by my cell phone. I am going to run a few by the censor, then will post them. What a great day.

Thanks for reading,
An elated Schmoe


I have some friends that work for the Federal Government. They travel all over the place, often on military transport. One of them presented me with an opportunity to go with him on a short hop. Me, being the airplane whore that I am, jumped on it. I am currntly sitting at an airport waiting for an Air Force plane to pick us up along with a bunch of others and fly us to an air base for a security type exercise. It should be interesting.

I am using my phone to post this, well see how it goes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What I Can Count On

I can count on Captain Barty to be confrontational at times.

I can count on Captain Barty to use an irregular logic matrix when solving political or personnel issues.

I can count on Captain Barty to ask superfluous, inane questions at meetings.

I can count on Captain Barty to use the above traits when arguing his position past the point of inanity.

I can count on Captain Barty to run a good fire.

I can count on Captain Barty to not needlessly expose me or my crew to unwarranted peril.

I can count on Captain Barty to use appropriate methods, tactics and strategies while mitigating emergent incidents.

I can count on Captain Barty to smile and say hello even when he knows that I am pissed off at him.

In the final analysis, I can count on Capt. Barty.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Collateral Damage

So I stopped by Starbucks this morning. I needed a cup of foo-foo coffee after dropping #2 kid off at school. I was on my way to buy some skins for a used truck that I bought for #2 kid to drive after he gets his license.

I open the door into Starbucks and note that it's quite crowded. I also see a couple deputies standing near the counter waiting for their coffee. I get in line, check my blackberry and wait my turn.The deputies move toward the exterior wall to get out of the way as other customers pick up their orders.

I had noticed a couple of guys sitting at a table when I walked in. They were likely painters, as they were wearing white painter's pants and white caps, both spattered with various colors of paint. As I was focused on some texts that I had received, I had kind of ignored the painters and was just there minding my own business.

As I was texting the saint that I am married to, I suddenly became aware of a voice saying something like "full of cops and firemen". I look up and Mr. Painterman is looking at me. At first I thought that It might have been someone I knew busting my chops or something, but I didn't recognize this guy. Then I figured his comments were aimed at the deputies and went back to my blackberry.

I was a little less focused on my phone and a little more aware of Mr. Painterman. I can hear him still talking shit. I can't tell exactly what he is saying, but the tone of his voice and then the way he raises his voice when he got to the words "cops and firemen" tells me that somehow, I am part of his problem.

The deputies get their coffee and leave. I take another look around the room and see no other individual that I recognize as law enforcement or fire service. So when Mr. Painterman makes another comment,  I know that I am his problem.

Painterman and his buddy get up to leave. We stinkeye each other as he walks to the door and again, I don't recognize him. He says nothing to me or at me and leaves.

WTH? Whats up with that? If I have met him, he does not know me well enough to talk shit. If he has never met me, what is his deal? Was he trying to provoke me and the deputies into confronting him? Was his initial focus on the deputies and I just happened to walk in? Maybe he was an old arson suspect from back in the day. I just don't know and it puzzles me.

Another thing, how did this guy know I work for the FD? I was wearing jeans, hiking boots and an "Ott House Pub" T-shirt. (that will bring back some memories for you NFA attendees) The only thing that might have tipped him off was the Spyderco knife that I have clipped in my pocket.

Regardless, this clown was way out of line. I'm glad it ended up the way it did, rather than if had occurred at O'Malleys or something. I'm just not used to being the focus of someones ire like that., especially early in the morning, before I've had my coffee. We were both lucky this didn't go any further, I am pretty grumpy until I start absorbing that coffee.

Next time, I think I'll just use the drive through..

Thanks for reading,
A puzzled Schmoe

That Smell

"Attention Engine 222, respond to 741 Sullenberger Drive with a cross of Gann Street for a suspicious odor". We piled on the rig, and headed out to Sullenberger. On the repeat, dispatch further advised us that the RP smelled an unknown chemical smell and that the odor was present throughout his property.

There were three of us on Engine 222. Two of us were a little jumpy about suspicious odor calls, a few months earlier, we had been involved with a major incident that had started out as a "suspicious odor" call. That ordeal had lasted several days and had been expanded to two different locations. The litigation lasted several years. We won BTW, we usually do.

Sullenberger is the last street on a tract of homes that backs up to an orange grove. Once part of the county's greenbelt, the area once had thousands of acres of citrus groves. Now, homes have displaced many of the trees, replacing the greenbelt with concrete, stucco and turfgrass. The remaining groves were often used as a dumping ground. Construction waste, drug-lab remains, even bodies ended up in the groves. Some of these items produced odors.

Rotting carcass smells are the worst. You never know whether the stench is a dead dog or other animal, or whether a person has been dumped off to fester in the groves.

We knew what this smell was as soon as we pulled onto the street. The unmistakable odor drifted onto the cab, despite the closed windows. Although the substance is an irritant, it usually doesn't present any health issues unless direct contact is made with mucous membranes. Though strong, the odor wasn't bad enough to indicate that the source of the smell was on the RPs property. It was likely coming from the grove behind the RPs house.

The firefighter and I walked up to the door, rang the bell and waited for the RP to answer.

"Hi, we're from the fire department, did you call?" I asked as the homeowner opened the door.

"Yes I did" was the reply. " We've been smelling this smell all evening. It's making my wife nauseous".

"The smell that we're smelling right now?" My question was an obvious one, there was no doubt that the smell was the one he was talking about. But then, the source of the smell was quite obvious as well. "You don't know what that smell is? I asked further.

I had to be careful now, I didn't want to insult this guy.

"No I don't" was the homeowner's reply. "What is it".

I responded to his question with a question. "Are you from around here" I asked, again already knowing the answer.

"No, we just moved here from the beach. We moved in last Saturday."

Ah, that explains a lot I thought as I informed the RP that the orange groves provided an excellent habitat for skunks.

Welcome to the land of the dirt people my friend. All of the skunks in Newport Beach must have emigrated up here before you did. I'm just guessing that they won't be calling to complain about your smell.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Words of Advice

Just a few words of advice to any new supervisors out there who may be reading this post. Those two symbols of authority that you wear on your collar are kind of like a double edged sword. They have a sharp edge on one side which can be very useful, but there is a second sharp edge on the back side which can hurt you if you are not careful.

 Try to use terms like "because I'm the captain" very, very sparingly. Especially when dealing with trivial matters such as dinner selection, radio station settings and television matters. "Because I am the captain" tells the world and your crew that there is no logical or rational reason for your decision and that you must resort to procedural authority to impose your will.

If you should use the term "because I'm the captain" in a reckless manner, word will get out rather quickly and people will use the event to confirm any doubts they may have had about your leadership ability or your people handling skills. That opens another can of worms.

Although it's too late for you Captain Autocrat, these words may keep some other youngish captain from making a similar, dumb move.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Breaking News!

BREAKING NEWS! Intellectually challenged news crew caught wasting video tape and bandwidth while on company time!!

Joe Shortsleeve, an alleged news reporter from Boston's WBZ Ch. 38 was caught on the internet reporting a non-story about Boston Fire Department apparatus actually leaving a fire station and traveling 1.2 miles for the purpose of procuring food.

Shortsleeve is accused by numerous Boston residents of being "pathetic" and "not smarter than a fifth grader" after posting the Feb. 8th article.

These accusations arose after the article was posted, despite comments from a retired Boston finance official and a fire commissioner stating that the practice was within policy. The accusations were further justified after it became apparent that Shortsleeve has no common sense.

Fire service pundit Joseph Schmoe said that the article "reeked of sensationalistic journalism" and called Shirtsleeves an "idiot". Schmoe also said that this was an example of why journalism is dying in America.


The above paragraphs were posted by me as a comment to an article on the WBZ TV web-site . The article is part of the I-Team series, which apparently is  an on-line investigative report series for WBZ-TV in Boston, MA. I would have written more, but I was limited to 600 characters and had to edit my comment rather heavily.

Apparently, the I-team spent a few weeks staking out a supermarket for the purpose of catching Boston F.D. Engine 32 buying groceries. Hoping to create a scandal, Shortsleeve and the I-Team attempted to give the impression that the crew of E-32 was doing something wrong by taking the unit to the store to buy food for the shift.

Shortsleeve asked a fire commissioner about the incidents and apparently didn't receive the response he was looking for. He then went to a retired finance official from the City of Boston, who told him that the crew could basically go where they wished, including the market. The third person Shortsleeve quoted was a self-described "City Watch Dog" (meaning ignorant ass with no other life than to sit through city council meetings, take notes and then bore the council and the audience by rambling at the podium for five minutes) Who said "It's just not right".

The I-team either didn't research the nature of shift-work, the need to keep crews together or the fact that some crews may work for several days straight, or they just chose not to report it. Either way, it shows that the I-team are hack reporters who are trying to create controversy.

As you might be able to tell, this kind of  reporting really pisses me off. People are entitled to their opinion, but reporters have a responsibility  to research an article to ensure facts and to ensure that the reader is receiving an accurate picture of the issue at hand. Unfortunately, this type of journalism is becoming more prevalent in the media.

Yet they wonder why their ratings are dropping. What an ignorant, arrogant asshole. I hope I run into him at O'Malleys.

Thanks to the Geeze over at for breaking the story.

Thanks for reading,
A pissed off Schmoe

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lessons Learned

Overheard at 0330 this morning:

Customer - "Have you ever been arrested for DWI before?"
Medic #2 - "Nope."
Customer - "Me either, but I think I'm about to"

Followed by this conversation:
Deputy - "Yeah he's DWI, I'm gonna cite and release."
Me - "Really?"
Deputy - "Yeah, if I take him, I'm gonna hafta drive him down into the county seat to the hospital and get an medical clearance to book. Were talking hours, so if they hit anything, we cite and release. Unless someone is critical that is."
Me - "So what you're saying is, that if I get carried away at happy hour and my world turns red on the way home, I should aim for a tree and I'll get the cite rather than the drunk tank."
Deputy - "Yeah, but you'll probably die when you hit the tree."
Me - "Not me, I got mad skills when I am hammered."
Deputy - "Maybe you should try getting down on your knees and begging. Unless you pulled over by a trooper, then I'd aim for the tree".

I think I'll just call a cab. Have fun tomorrow, but not too much fun. I gotta work.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, February 5, 2010

What a Difference a Dog Makes

I hate the hill, it hates me back. When I start my walk, I look up at the top and I dread what the next 35 minutes will bring. By the time I get to the top, by back will be tightened up, I will be very out of breath, my knee will be sore and I will have the walk down to look forward to.

I have to drive to the hill, as I personally cannot afford to live there and it is more than five miles from my home. Although it is not a gated community, it should be. There are several "neighborhoods" on the hill, many with large houses and million dollar views. There are a few members of the K.B.F.P.D. that live in one of the lower neighborhoods. One is married to a deputy district attorney, the other has the first dollar he ever made buried in his back yard. Neither has a view.

I chose this hill because it has the steepest long, paved road near my home and though I prefer to use one of several nature preserves in the area, during the winter, mud precludes their use.

Although I don't do the hill as often as I should, I do it often enough that I see some of the same people on the road, either driving or walking by. I usually make eye contact with them and issue some form of greeting. A "good morning", "How ya doin?" or "I'm dying, call me a cab" is usually met with minimal eye contact and a muted reply.

I don't know whether its the orange sweatshirt I wear (a souvenir from a fire we had at the county jail), the ratty blue K.B.F.P.D. sweatpants, or my generally foul appearance and demeanor, but I really don't fit in with the residents of the hill. Somehow, they can tell that I am a trespasser and they act accordingly. That is until yesterday.

On a whim, I grabbed Sydney, our evil middle dog, and threw her in the jeep as I left to take #2 son to school. After dropping #2 off, we went to the hill. I parked the jeep in my usual spot, hooked Syd up and started up the grade.

The climb starts gradually for about 10 minutes, than actually descends for a few minutes before starting the steepest part of the climb for another 10. Syd was ecstatic about being along for the hike, she initially tugged against the leash and literally jumped for joy. After 20 minutes or so, she walked as she should, staying right next to me. Another ten minutes and she was asking me to pick her up. Sydney, evil as she is, happens to be our smallest dog. Her legs are only 5 inches long.

That's her, the one with the guilty look on her face, the one in the middle.

As we walked, I was surprised at the number of people who waved to me as we lumbered up the hill. People who previously ignored me as I labored up the grade now acknowledged my existence. Several people who live near the top even tried to engage me in conversation. As I was moving so much air, it was my turn to provide a minimal response. It was a remarkable outreach from the hill dwellers, I felt honored.

I am quite sure it was the presence of Sydney that evoked this crossing of cultural barriers. Somehow, her presence softened the harsh image of my scowling, sweating face and my orange and blue sweats as we strode up the hill. 

Either that or the sight of the large, simian life-form walking such a tiny dog provided enough comedy to overcome the fear that my appearance evokes. I'll take it either way.

Between the new friendliness of the hill dwellers and Sydney's presence making the hike less tedious, I will be taking her again. I would like to take Buster (the one on the right, I love that damn dog) but he gets car sick and pukes in my jeep after two blocks. Molly (the one on the left) is a little too old for a walk of that length and elevation gain, so Evil Sydney it is.

Apparently, all it takes is the presence of a two year old wiener dog to get people to drop their guard. We are all probably lucky that the likes of Ted Bundy, Jeffery Dahlmer and  John Wayne Gacey didn't know this secret, their tallies would likely have been much higher.

So if you happen to see a fearsome life form clad in mis-matched sweats and walking an adorable, tiny dog - it's either me or a potential serial killer. If I were you, I would run either way. Although I am not evil, the little wiener dog is.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I'd'd rather have a sister working in a brothel, than a brother working on "A" shift.

Years ago, the Kinda Big Fire Protection District had two shifts or platoons. Titled "A" shift and "B" shift, they worked some weird schedule that had them working 48 hrs. on duty, then 24 hrs. off, followed by 24 hrs. on and then a couple of days off.

Through time, the district grew as did the communities we served. As a result, call volume increased, as did the types of incidents that we respond to. Through negotiations with the district, The Firefighter's Association was able to reduce the number of hours we were required to work. The process was gradual, with small reductions occurring every few years until we arrived at the 56 hr. per week schedule that we have today.

At some point in this process, the district realized that they needed to go from a two platoon staffing system to a three platoon system. This was before my time, but a lot of the senior firefighters who were on the job when I came on remembered the two platoon system and the switch to three shifts.

Shift culture is a unique phenomenon. Apparently, back in the two platoon system days, A shift was known for having a little more dynamic leadership than B shift. As a result they were allegedly a little better trained and had a little more initiative. Typically, from what I've been told, more A shifters were made District Commanders and Captain's than B shifters.

When the KBFPD made the transition to three platoons, it caused a lot of new people to be hired. The district did not want to have all of the new captains, engineers  and firefighters all on one shift, so they pulled folks from A and B shift and thus C shift was born.

Again, I wasn't there, but I am guessing that the District Commanders who were left on A shift and on B shift didn't want to let their best and brightest people go over to the new shift. In fact, I am willing to bet that this became an opportunity to get rid of some headaches. Thus, C shift culture was born.

I am also speculating that as A shift was able to get rid of their problem children, their self image improved even more.

When I started in the early 80's A stood for Anal retentives (actually a more crude version of that term),  B stood for 'Bout where they need to be and C stood for Clown fish or Clown Shift.

A shift's reputation was enhanced by the leadership style used by their District Commanders. They brought in their top people and formed very strong social and professional bonds. The D.C.s also fed them lots of propaganda about how good they were. Some very strong A shift captains were promoted to District Commanders and somehow managed to work their way back to A shift. They perpetuated the A shift management style, which by the way, worked very well for them. If the A shift leadership liked you, life was good. If not, life on A shift was not so good. I was fortunate.

The other two shifts took a dim view of some of the A shift principles. To them, it appeared to be an clique based on favoritism compounded by attitude issues. They grew tired of A shift continually telling them how good they were, especially after A shift lost a few big fires that they should have caught. I referred to it as the "A Shift Superiority Complex".

There was a little animosity in more than a few of the stations, some escalated into shift wars. That wasn't good for anybody.

Over time, the three shifts have been diluted so that most of the issues that were present in the 70s and 80s have largely dissipated. However, in a few stations, vestiges of the cultural differences remain. It still drives some of the B and C shift captains a little crazy, but I think it may be more personality driven rather than cultural.

Although the "A Shift Superiority Complex" may have worked well for A shift, I don't think the district as a whole benefited from it. If the entire leadership of the KBFPD was ever wiped out and there was no one left to be chief but me, the above situation would be one I would watch out for and take steps to mitigate.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, February 1, 2010


I get it sir. You are a raging alcoholic. You cannot control your cravings for alcohol and cannot stop drinking. It has likely cost you your job, ruined your family and destroyed your health. Some people just shouldn't drink and you sir, are one of those people.I am sure you didn't mean to become a degenerate drunk, but there you are, flat on your back, unable to control your actions.

As I look around the room and see your crying family, I can't help but notice how well kept your home is, how well it is decorated and how nicely it is furnished. I scan the pictures on the wall and see you as a happy boy, a smiling groom and a jubilant father of the bride. How did it go so wrong?

Your distraught wife tells me that you have been on a binge for a few days and that she had to take your keys and lock up the booze. She has been through this many times before. Obviously, she didn't find the bottle you had buried in the planter or the one hidden in a jacket pocket.

So here we are. You are lying flat on the floor, your eyes are open and you can follow simple commands. Any attempt at communicating however, results in gibberish. Your family thinks this may be a suicide attempt, as you placed a bottle with a few unknown pills in it under the chair next to where you lay. That and the weak-ass suicide note you left on the desk.

I get it. You have a disease, you are an alcoholic. What I don't get is why you manipulate the people who love you most.

We all felt it. The entire crew. Maybe it was the way you seemed to smirk as you lie there while your tearful family told us your history. Maybe it was that weak-ass note you left or the placement of the pills. Regardless, we all felt that somehow, you were able to run the show and call the shots of this dramatic scene.

We treated you professionally despite our reservations. That is what we do, we are professionals. It is our hope that you find a way to dry out and lead a normal life. Failing that, we hope that you can be a little less selfish and stop manipulating those who care about you. Stop the manipulation before they stop caring.

I know the last few posts have been a little dark, what can I say. I am on a roll.

Thanks for reading,