Sunday, August 1, 2010

Reflection In The Mirror

Drinking a beer before pulling wire through the hot attic had seemed like a good idea. After an hour in the attic, crawling through 38 years of dust while sweating 2 gallons an hour, I wasn't so sure. I looked forward to the relative coolness of my 95 degree garage.

I noticed the the crew cab truck cruise by as I worked on the electrical connections down in the garage. Only a year or two old, the paint was almost as shiny as the alloy wheels. Lifted, with 38 inch tires, the truck was immaculate. I was a little surprised as it glided up to the curb and a young man about the same age as my oldest kid popped out.

He walked up the driveway, I stopped what I was doing and met him at the door. He introduced himself as Landon and asked if #1 son was home, Just about that time, #1 son stepped into the garage.

The three of us started to talk, with Landon doing most of the work. Landon is one of my kid's newer friends. With many of his friends away at college or in the service, his social circle has been forced to expand.

Landon seemed like a nice enough kid. He told us about current drama with his main squeeze and some other events in his life. He mentioned that he was a volunteer firefighter with a department in the next county, and how much he enjoyed the experience. He said that he wants to finish school, then get hired full time on a paid department.

It was probably about then that he noticed that I was wearing a K.B.F.P.D. T-Shirt.. He asked if I was a firefighter and when I answered in the affirmative, the course of the conversation changed.

I got the rundown on how busy his station was, how awesome his equipment was, how many helmets they managed to melt in the flash-over simulator and who the shot-callers were at his station.

I didn't have the heart to tell him that I'm done with busy, I like our equipment better, the people that I knew from his station have long since left or retired and that if you are consistently melting helmets in the flash-over simulator, you're letting it get too hot or you're leaving them in there too long.

Most of it was me, but I soon grew weary from the barrage of  details regarding his station. I was filthy and soaked from my session in the attic and I still had a lot of work to do before I could finish it up. Landon had a hard-charger personality that, when combined with his youthful exuberance, soon made the transition from redundant to annoying. The Saint that I am married to would have been proud, I remained polite as Landon prattled on about his year of experience in the fire service. I nodded and smiled in the proper places even listened to what he was saying, despite having heard it a few times before.
Landon typifies many of the young guys that darken our door. They are into big trucks, competitive toy buying, playing hard and striving for the dream.They buy into the image of the young firefighter, full of macho, with a garage full of toys and a pocket full of cash.  It isn't until later that most grow out of that phase and buy into the reality of our lives, savoring the living of it, rather than the image of it. Some never grow out of it,  some don't figure it out until their bills become more than they can handle and the overtime dries up.

After a while, the lads went into the house and I returned to my chores in the garage. I reflected on my conversation with Landon and became introspective as I analyzed the content of it. I had to laugh after a few minutes as I realized the truth of the matter.

Landon was me, thirty years ago. Only without the cash.

Thanks for reading,

Just a another Schmoe, keeping the wolves from the door.


  1. It'd be interesting for you to run into him 10-15 years from now....

  2. Dear Captain Schmoe,
    Yes, with luck his ardor will shape itself into commitment, right?

    Good luck with that horrible project. That's a different kind of bravery altogether!
    Ann T.

  3. Almost everyone graduates from the school of hard knocks. Some are gifted and do it more quickly than others. Some spend time in the special class. A few never graduate.

  4. ... ain't that the truth. I think we all went through that stage at some point in our careers. My "big truck" was an orange 1972 Datsun with a two inch lift kit... I though I was a baddass.

  5. Yep, you can't stop the young from being young - thank goodness!

    It can be more than a little irritating, but you never should slap down their enthusiasm (tempting though it is!) as that will carry them through the bad times - and that's when the real learning is done.

  6. Great comments everyone. I think Landon has a great chance at a career in the fire service, a little maturity won't hurt.

    My boss might say I could use some more myself.

    Thanks for the comments.