OK, I’m a Hypocrite - Wanna Make Something of It?
At coffee one morning last week, my buddy and brother David described having some fun at my expense over Christmas. Someone in his family received an automobile GPS, and so he recited to the group at large my opinion that there is a downside to GPS. (Actually, the way I’ve phrased it is that it will be a cold day in Hell before I put Tom Tom, Dick Dick or Harry Harry in my car.)
If we become dependent on complicated technology which, by its nature, is subject to breakdown, and we lose skills at low-tech or no-tech options, we may find ourselves unable to navigate at all or do other simple tasks. For example, when is the last time you met a store clerk who could count change? In any event, David then pointed out that I had recommended a book to him that I couldn’t lend him - because I only had it on my Kindle.
(Confession - Tim urged his Auto GPS on me to navigate in downtown Pittsburgh, a place with which I am unfamiliar, and the damn thing worked. Damn. Damn. Damn.)
Son Tim is moving from the nest now that he has reached age 21. In a couple of weeks, he will be moving with a buddy to an apartment which, big surprise, is very, very close to the firehouse. There is method here. Emergency service departments live for quick response time. From time to time, departments do little experiments on calls where some apparatus go from point A to point B with lights and siren, and other, less critical, apparatus drive in the normal fashion. Of course, the bright and loud truck will get there first, but you’d be surprised how short the time difference often is. So the big time potential waster is the delay getting apparatus out the door, and for any volunteer department that means the delay for the volunteers to make it to the firehouse. Well, that’s the explanation for this move if you’re looking only at the good of the public. Now let’s look at another good reason for the location of the move: The first qualified driver who gets to the firehouse drives the fire engine. I was trying to explain the feeling of that phenomenon to an old and dear high school friend last week, but words absolutely failed me. I’m sure that the public sees everyone who drives a vehicle with a flashing red or blue light as some kind of modern-day rhinestone cowboy who should be tied up with his/her own lasso and restrained while responsible adults go sedately to cure the problems of the community. Well for those who are of that opinion, from my heart, I say “Screw you.”
There’s a whole lot more to driving a piece of apparatus than getting your heart beating fast, climbing in, starting her up, revving up the siren, and mashing the accelerator. No one gets behind the wheel before they been under the the hood with oil and grease, been wallowing on the floor under the chasis with cleaning solvent, been in the back repacking hose or sanitizing the ambulance, and generally doing every other dirty job you can imagine. And this isn’t some initiation thing - These are the jobs that everybody does which have to be done continually. No one gets behind the wheel on a call until they have been behind the wheel extensively just driving around town and around the area to learn the roads, learn the streets, learn the bridges and their weight limits, and learn the peculiarities of driving emergency apparatus. Even something so apparently ordinary as a police car is way different from your daddy’s Oldsmobile. Ambulances and rescue trucks are top heavy, and the driver has to remember that he or she has people who cannot be wearing seatbelts moving around in the back. Fire engines are extremely heavy, and often have cantilevered tabs, meaning that the driver is sitting in front of the front wheels. And then the drivers began their emergency driving training under the master drivers who are uniformly old, nasty, crotchety, and who live with the fear that one of “their” drivers will make the mistake that kills somebody. Every new person in every job in every department chafes at the constant bitching about safety from the old guys. And then they become old guys, and themselves become the safety crazed apparitions.
So it will be a while before Tim and his buddy are wheeling Company 10's engines on emergency calls, but they’ll be riding and with their mates doing the other dirty and dangerous work. They have a lot to learn in the meantime, but let me tell you I’m proud of Tim, I’m proud of his buddy Shawn, and I’m proud of all of these young people who have the character and the guts to get off their asses, meet some of the worst problems of life head on, and help their fellow man.
The small contest, to identify the origin of that phrase, attracted exactly one entrant, the one I expected from Josh Patty. He correctly identified that phrase as the statement made by J. Wilkes Booth as he looked as his hands right before he died. Josh received a copy of Robert Gula's Nonsense: Red Herrings, Straw Men and Sacred Cows; How We Abuse Logic in Our Everyday Language, which I heartily recommend to people who pretend to use language for more complex things than ordering burgers at McDonalds.
LaG’s health has been diminishing, so this wretched scribe’s writing has been and will be more irregular. Prayers welcome. And to quote Josh, when you don't know what to pray for, the prayer is "teach me how to pray."