I have to be honest, I was a little nervous. Not first day of kindergarten nervous nor first day on the job nervous, but more like seeing cousins that you haven't seen in 20 years nervous.
I was told the event started at 0800 but to get there a little early. Foolishly, I thought 0745 would be early enough. When I walked through the door, the room was nearly full, all of the seats at the big tables were taken. A few empty small tables were available at the back of the room, but the thought of eating alone did not appeal to me. Fortunately, an alert waiter saw the situation and moved one of the small tables to the end of a big one. Problem solved.
As the waiter was moving furniture, a few of the guys who had seen me walk in hollered and waved. I started by walking up to the guy sitting closest to the door, then worked through both large tables. Some of these guys, I hadn't seen in more than ten years. A few asked me what had taken me so long to show up, what could I say?. Yet again, I underestimated the amount of emotion that I felt, seeing guys with whom I had shared so much over the years.
Almost all remembered me. I did heard Bob ask his son Mike who I was, though after Bob heard my name he remembered. I had worked for both of them at one time another. A third generation is getting ready to take his years probationary test next month. I hear he is doing well, as did his father and grandfather before him.
I saw guys who had taught me many things over the years. Many good things, some bad. I saw a guy who taught me the hard way how not to cut a dead body down from his noose. It's funny how laying underneath 200 lbs of dead weight can leave an impression on someone. I saw a guy who used the "instruction through intimidation" method of training. He taught me that I should avoid that method of instruction, both when teaching and when learning.
I saw guys that I had worked for and guys that had worked for me. I saw Chiefs whose mere presence used to scare the crap out of me, who once I got to know them. turned out to be pretty good chiefs. I saw living legends, guys that are still talked about, even though they have been retired for many years.
I also saw some guys who were just like me, just Schmoe's who went to work just wanting to do a good job, helping folks out and not hurting anybody in the process.
There were nearly 40 men in that room this morning. They meet once a month to see old friends, to remember and to share a meal. Rank has no place there, that is not what the gathering is about. It's about brotherhood, history and fellowship.
What I really saw there this morning, was an elite group, a gathering of men who once wore the badge of the City of Riverside Fire Dept, a room full of distinguished gentlemen.
Thanks for reading,
A sappy Schmoe