Coffee or Duty…

By Michael Morse

Who needs coffee?

Gray traces of dawn tinge the eastern sky, two weary souls, medics in the middle of a long shift–eager to see the sun rise but desperate for rest–travel the lonely streets of the city. Soon, these deserted streets will bustle with travelers, their cars and trucks with their squealing tires and blaring horns ruining the tranquility the two now embrace.

Alas, their peace is fleeting” The radio sends one, then another crew to emergencies, making their first-in district half of the city of 200,000. The chance of rest becomes miniscule, hope for a short respite from consciousness dashed.

Their journey toward their station takes a detour, a beacon of hope in a desperate moment a mere five-minute journey from their location, and before the sun breaks the horizon, they just may find their salvation. It is the Holy Grail that awaits them, a magic elixir in a Styrofoam cup, the giver of life, saver of souls, and key to their future–or at least their next hour or two.

There, on the horizon, is their destiny. They can see it in the distance, a mere one hundred yards away. They approach, giddy now with anticipation. The aroma of roasting beans fills the air around them, and satisfied villagers sit at little tables, steaming cups in their hands and contented smiles on their faces. They have what our weary travelers seek, it is within their grasp, alive in their minds, almost there ….


An ethical dilemma faces our travelers as they wait for the rest of the transmission, praying to the coffee gods that this is some mistake, and a different rescue from a different land will be sent in their place. Even so, decisions must be made: to risk the lives and limbs of the people they are sworn to protect for a selfish fulfillment and creature comfort contained in a cup (actually, a Cafe Tobe from The Coffee Exchange, also known as rocket fuel in a cup, a fresh brewed dark roast and a double shot of espresso) or respond to duty and put their needs aside for the good of mankind.


Brian hits the lights and sirens, and we leave the coffee shop in the dust. Who needs caffeine with adrenaline coursing through your veins?


Michael Morse is a former captain with the Providence (RI) Fire Department (PFD), an author, and a popular columnist. He served on PFD’s Engine Co. 2., Engine Co. 9, and Ladder Co. 4 for 10 years prior to becoming an EMT-C on Rescue Co 1 and Captain of Rescue Co. 5.

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