It was the early nineties. I was working at 2s, on the truck with Theodocious Attrocious. The honeymoon period with the new fire chief (hired from outside) was over and the opening salvos of a long and bloody war had been fired.
I had taken the captain's test four times, finishing well mostly, but a slow officer's retirement rate had severely limited the number of promotions over the past several years. A disciplinary issue involving my mouth, had caused me to place sixth on the 1992 list, the lowest I had ever placed. Five people had been promoted off of it, but it was set to expire in six weeks. Things were not looking good for me and I needed to start hitting the books again for the '93 test.
Frankly, I wasn't up for it. The war with the chief was dragging me down, It was already draining the energy from several of us who were involved with the union. My disciplinary issue would likely remain a limiting factor for some time, at least until a few of the chiefs retired. I made up my mind that I wasn't going to test again.
People were starting to ask me about the test. Some were curious about the competition, some were gauging how bad I wanted the job by listening to my words, then watching to see if my preparation matched them. Most were surprised when I said that I wasn't going to test any more.
This went on for a few weeks. One evening in early January, 1993 I walked into the kitchen at 2s. There were probably 5 or 6 guys int here, waiting for dinner. Somebody started in on me about the captain's test. My answer was the same, I told them that I was done testing - it was an engineer's life for me. My co-workers ramped up the level of conversation a bit, trying to set me off about the matter. I was more than happy to oblige, I never turn down an opportunity to express my opinion.
A few minutes later, Ted walked in and told me that the captain from station 10B had just resigned and that I would probably be promoted in mid February.
I thought I he was pulling my leg, people just don't resign from the fire department, unless they are in deep deep trouble. Steve, the captain who was resigning, was not the kind of guy to get in that kind of trouble. He was a couple of years too young to retire, there was no way he was leaving.
I called Ted's bluff and phoned Steve over at 10's. As it turned out, Ted's play wasn't a bluff. Steve had tendered his resignation. He was leaving the department to become an associate pastor at a large church in town. It was a decision that he had thought about and had prayed over for quite some time and truly felt called to leave and take the pastor's position. Two weeks later, he was gone.
A few weeks after that, the chief of whom we do not speak was pinning a captain's badge on my chest. I bet he wishes he could take that move back!
Later, when the old bastards would ask me, "Schmoe, how did a knucklehead like you ever make captain?" I could provide them an honest answer.
It was divine intervention