I’m working like a dog. Dog, I tell you. On Fridays, I knock off a little early and go ‘relax’ by working 6 pm to 6 am at the paid fire department. Is it relaxing? Dunno.
A few weeks ago, Rabid and the ‘springs were out of town. I was home alone working on the business plan.
I’ve written business plans before; first for Lakeville Internet, then for another startup that Rabid and I were seriously considering (still are, really). This one is going slowly for some reason; we don't really need the money yet and it is unclear if we will.
Anyway, I figured, what the heck. Everyone’s away, I should go up on the plateau and cap off a few rounds.
When we lived in Connecticut, I used to shoot a lot. I participated in a .22 pistol sharpshooting league as well as an IDPA pistol league. I’d shoot up behind the house at the base of the mountain using the mountain as a backstop, both for practice as well as for outright fun.
One of the most fun parties I ever attended was a wake for a friend of mine, Nick. Nick had died in a stupid house fire. He and another guy fell asleep while drinking; someone had a cigarette lit. They woke up and tried to get the burning sofa out of the house; down the stairs from the second floor. They got the sofa wedged in the stairway with Nick on one side, the top side, and another friend of mine on the bottom side. The friend got out; Nick was later found curled up in a bathroom upstairs, asphyxiated.
Nick was a vibrant guy. He loved the rough-and-tumble; in many ways, he was born a hundred years late. He could be rude but he had a heart of gold. I spent a fair amount of time with him; we drank, played cards, played music, shot guns. Nick was fond of the old west and really liked revolvers and carbines. I spent hours and hours with Nick and other people up behind the house shooting things up.
Nick had a lot of friends. After the funeral, the friends ended up at Johnny’s house for the wake. Johnny and Nick had been best friends since childhood.
We drank and drank. Several hours into the wake, I was standing in the driveway of the rural house drinking cheap pilsner when someone came up behind me and pressed something into my hand. I glanced around; the someone was Johnny. I looked down and saw that Nick’s buddy had stuck a pistol into my hand. It was a revolver, six shot, I forget the caliber. It wasn’t real small, but it wasn’t huge, either. Maybe it was a .38.
When someone hands you a gun, you check for status, right? I took a brief look at it; it was loaded. The hammer was on an empty chamber, the way a cowboy would keep it.
I wasn’t sure what to do with a loaded pistol in the middle of a party. I’m pretty comfortable with firearms but I didn’t feel that I should be drunkenly waving a loaded gun around so I stuck it in my waistband, ‘mexican-stylee,’ as Nick would have said.
Johnny smiled at me and walked off. A few minutes later he came back and asked me if I was going to do anything with the piece. To be honest, I wasn’t planning to do anything with it; he felt that I should shoot at some cans down the way. He knew that Nick would have wanted us to do that; Nick’s wake should be a raucous event with drinking, cussing, and shooting. He wanted me to kick it off.
I had to agree with his analysis. I pulled out the revolver and shot at the cans, taking care to be sure of my target, backstop, and bystanders. There was a bit of commotion though not as much as one might imagine. We ended up drinking, cussing, and shooting until late in the night; by the end, ten or fifteen firearms and several hundred rounds of ammunition had been discharged by twenty or so people. It turned out to be a party that Nick would have loved.
I had an extraordinary time. Nick was celebrated rather than mourned.
I didn’t shoot at all when we lived in California. Some of my pieces would have been falsely considered assault weapons and the licensing process was burdensome so my collection lived quietly and unknown to the authorities in the safe during the time we were out west.
(In contrast, NH and VT don’t care what kind of hardware I own. NH has a ‘shall-issue’ law; a town police chief must issue a state concealed carry permit to applicants unless the applicant can be shown to have criminal or psychiatric issues. VT doesn’t even have a permitting process for concealed carry; if you or I want to carry a pistol, we can.
Can you imagine? Must be chaos!)
Since we’ve been back east, I’ve only been shooting a handful of times. The ‘springs may or may not know we have firearms; they’ve never seen them; we don’t discuss our firearm ownership in front of them. They know we support private ownership of firearms so they may suspect. It's not yet a point of discussion; I figure that O1 will start learning the four basic rules with a soft-pellet gun in two years; when he's ten. After that, we'll move to BBs and .177 caliber pellets, then to .22s at the right time.
Anyway, with the family away, I thought that it would be a fine time to go shooting. I needed to pick up ammunition; I keep small quantities of somethig appropriate to ‘repel boarders’ around though nothing cheap enough for target shooting.
I also wanted to pick up a new game; I don’t have much time for gaming but do play a computer game through every six or eight months.
So I went to the Walmart. After selecting my purchases I chose the shortest line. The cashier, ringing up my purchases, said hello and introduced herself as a production worker at my flagship client. I reviewed my purchases; six hundred and fifty rounds of ammunition, a ‘first-person-shooter’ computer game, a twelve pack of beer, and a hoagie.
Yeah. As it worked out, I didn’t make the time to go shoot. I’m all set for the next time the opportunity presents itself.
Anyway, I’m sure all of the production workers must think I’m iffy. I haven’t heard anything about it, though.
The company is getting along. We’ve added three to five clients in the past month; we’ve done work for three and two have stated that we will do work in April. I’m still not getting paid; no biggie for now.
I have a second employee; he focuses on network and server administration. He’s an MCSE (whatever that is). He’s a fine employee and knows SuperTech from high school.
The two of them are a hoot. We quote ‘The Big Lebowski’ and ‘Office Space’ at each other. We switch off buying donuts; they pick up lunch and go to the post office on my behalf. During the lunch hour they play Xbox or GameCube on the projector. They hide Tootsie Rolls in my office and pretend to be scared when I yell at them about the new cover sheets on the TPS reports.
Speaking of ‘Office Space’, when I worked at the Burlington Coat Factory, a programmer actually did set the building on fire.
My work situation is quite civilized, really, other than my not yet getting paid. Our current work covers their salary, benefits, and the other company overhead, though, so I think it will all work out.
I’m spending a lot of time thinking about marketing and sales. Among other things, we’re going to do a trade show thrown by the state chamber of commerce in May.
I’m taking a half-day tomorrow and going to the Movie Marathon. Hooray! Rabid and the kids are driving down; I get to fly.
I’ve been skiing with the kids a few times this season. They are both quite competent and capable on the slopes. O1 is starting to jump; when we ski together, he likes to take me through the terrain parks. He pops over jumps like a pro. He had wanted to race me the last time we skied together; I told him that I was still better than him (for the moment) and would beat him. He scoffed. I questioned him closely about the route down the mountain to the base (he knows the mountain quite well since he skis several times a week). He realized that I was asking for the specific route since I had every intention of being in front of him; he finally said that he didn’t really want to race. I said that he just didn’t want his old dad to beat him. He agreed.
Next year he will probably be able to take me in a race. I’ll need to get out a lot more if I wish to stay competitive with him.
O2 is also getting doing quite well. He’s fun to ski with though a bit more relaxing than skiing with O1. It’s quite entertaining to see this three-foot gnome zipping down the mountain. He’s not as good as his brother although O1 has five extra years on skis. O2 is as good as O1 was mid-season last year, though.
EMS-wise, I’ve had a few cases of people being left alone for long periods of time. Last weekend, I transferred a patient from my dinky hospital to the regional center; this person had fallen and broken his hip. He lay on the floor for six days without food or drink before a family member came by to check on him. He was a nice guy but much the worse for the experience; I heard several nurses state that he was ‘FTD’; fixing to die. He had massive pressure sores on his back from lying on the floor.
Early this morning, I was called out with my volunteer department at 3:00 for a woman lying on the ground way out in the sticks. It turned out that the elderly woman had gone out to the barn to see her cats around four pm and had fallen on the outdoor steps. She lay there in the cold until the newspaper delivery person came (one good reason to get the paper, I guess) at o-dark-thirty. They called us.
She was okay but very cold. We packed her off to the hospital for warming.
Yesterday afternoon I drove up to the big town where my paid department is based for a meeting at the bank to discuss automated payroll. The meeting went well; I enjoyed talking with the bank functionary about the various services that they could provide to my company and I got to try out my ‘thirty-second networking ad’ on the banker; it was well received. While we were talking, trucks from my paid department started going by the bank.
I don’t carry a pager for that department, FWIW. I usually just go in for shifts, not on calls. Sitting in the bank, though, watching the trucks go by with firefighters in yellow and green brush gear, I thought it seemed like a lovely day to go fight a brush fire. I even had my brush gear in the car.
When I left the bank, I went to a different bank to complete a second, less involved errand. I took my radio with me. While speaking to the banker, my radio squawked and stated that my paid department was looking for ambulance coverage; all of the duty EMTs were out at the brush fire. I called in as available and drove over to the department.
As entered the building, a tone went out for an ambulance call; a woman had fallen off a horse in the next town. The call was going to go to our backup mutual aid agency due to lack of coverage; then Mrs. Turquoise showed up. She works for my paid department as well. I asked her is she wanted to go; she did. Between the two of us, we constituted a whole crew; a basic and an I-tech.
We called dispatch and signed on. We drove on over and picked up the woman.
The patient had fallen off a horse. Her arm was broken and she had hit her head; she hadn’t been wearing a helmet. She was swearing a blue streak; she sounded like George Carlin going through the seven dirty words. Over and over again.
She stopped and took a breath.
“I’m a bitch,” she said.
“I’m a bitch, too,” Mrs. Turquoise said. “Nice to meet you.”
The patient refused to let us splint her arm; too painful. We told her it was for the best; she knew better.
We got her into the rig and got under way. I put a line in.
The patient cursed me for not being a paramedic.
The patient cursed Mrs. Turquoise for the condition of the roads. Vermont roads have numerous frost heaves; it is difficult to miss them. Ambulances have very bumpy suspensions. Between the heaves and the suspension, the patient’s unstable arm was getting jounced around. The patient chose not to realize that her insistence that we not splint her arm played a large role in her discomfort.
We finally got the patient to the hospital. The emergency department staff heard us coming from down the hall; they were obviously unhappy with their new charge. We, of course, were very happy to drop her off.
Mrs. Turquoise and I have worked on the same four departments for several years; this was our first ambulance call together, just the two of us. We work pretty well together, though, and it went smoothly despite the patient’s attitude.
I went to a badish car accident a few weeks ago; a guy fell asleep at the wheel and went into the trees at fifty miles an hour. He was pretty banged up. I spent twenty miles straddling the gurney holding the guy’s unstable leg to try to minimize his pain in his broken hip. He’d have been fine if he had been wearing his seat belt.
Late last week after work I participated in the usual family tub time. When I got out and went in the house, one of my pagers was talking. It sounded like two members of my volunteer fire department were responding to the station for something and had seen something else. I hadn’t heard the original tone, though, so didn’t know what was going on.
It seemed clear that something was going on so I threw on my clothes and got under way. The details became clear from the radio while enroute; we had been toned for a chimney fire and two members of the department had seen a barn on fire while responding to the station. The barn was almost fully involved and so was a priority.
I got to the station and ended up driving Engine One, the mini-pumper, with another firefighter. We were told to go to the chimney fire rather than to the barn fire which was initially disappointing. On the way to the chimney fire, we heard people at the barn fire discussing explosions and other exciting goings-on at the other scene.
By the time we arrived on scene at the chimney fire, I realized that the location was the home of a client. Our department had responded to a chimney fire at her house several weeks before; I was out of town for that call.
When we got to the scene, the homeowner and her kids were in the door yard. Flames were visible from the chimney.
I called dispatch and assumed command. Another firefighter showed up in a private vehicle and I sent him and the guy I rode over with into the house with a thermal imager to check out the chimney and to look for ‘extension’, fire escaping the chimney into the house. As ‘command’, I was stuck outside.
I spoke to the homeowner briefly; she said that thinking about your house burning down was significantly different than deciding what kinds of computers to buy. I pointed out that different parts of the brain were probably involved.
A few other firefighters showed up, including several officers from my department. They allowed me to retain command which meant that they could go play.
There was a lot of radio chatter from the barn fire; eight or ten agencies had units on scene or enroute. I got through to dispatch and requested a few units for my scene; a ladder truck from a neighboring town to gain access to the roof of the two story farmhouse; a pumper and a tanker from neighboring towns for water supply and manpower.
The grizzled forty-year chief from the big town to the south arrived with the pumper. The chief was the lead instructor in my Fire Fighter I class last year. The chief could have chosen to assume command from me on his arrival but did not; instead he supported me in my command role and gave me advice on how to fight the fire. He was very cool about the whole thing; he deferred to me for decisions and only offered advice when I asked for it.
At the height of the scene, I had two tankers, a pumper, an 85’ ladder truck, and about twenty firefighters. We used a snuffer to put the fire out then went back through the house with the thermal imager to ensure that there was no extension. I stood in the dooryard with a radio the whole time.
I counseled the homeowner not to use the chimney until it was professionally cleaned. She had thought that since we had dealt with the chimney three weeks prior that it was fine for use. I told her that we had not cleaned the chimney then or now and that it needed to be cleaned and inspected for liner damage.
After we put the fire out, I released our resources to the barn fire. I sent Engine One off to the other fire with the guy I had driven with and another firefighter; I closed out command and was the last person to leave the scene. I drove the second firefighter’s personal truck back to the station and got my car and went over to the barn fire.
By the time I got to the barn fire, things were winding down. The fire was done for the most part; crews were moving through the ruins of the barn dealing with hot spots. I got myself sent from the staging area into the scene and spent some time with the overhaul crews.
After about another hour, the scene was secured and we went back to the station. We spent another hour replacing hoses and putting the trucks back in service.
It was a fun night… I felt bad for the barn owner, though; he lost some antique trucks and tractors.
We finally got our new pumper a few weeks ago; it’s really nice. It isn’t in service yet; it needs radios and a few odds and ends. I’ve driven it a few times; I’ve gotten to run the pump a bit, too. It’s 32 feet long; driving it takes some getting used to. I’ll post some pictures when I have the chance.
Okay, that’s it for now. Back again in a few weeks.