By Michael Morse
Anybody who has spent any time as a firefighter or EMT knows just how pervasive the job becomes. Try as we might, we simply cannot turn the emergency responder off and turn the ordinary citizen on. Somehow, we have to become the assimilation of the two and keep work at work and home at home.
Easier said than done ….
Not only did I bring “The Job” home with me, I brought “The Truck” home too. I didn’t plan on this happening, didn’t think it would ever happen, never even thought about it happening; it just happened.
My shift was over, and for some inexplicable reason I took Engine Co. 13 home and left my car in the lot next to the station. It wasn’t until well past midnight, when I was soundly asleep, did I realize my mistake, and try as I might, I simply could not wake up, get out of bed, and return the truck.
Time stood still, and all I could think of was the fire truck sitting in my driveway and wonder why the Chief or the police hadn’t called. Bells in my head started tipping, the tones went nutty, and flashing lights filled my room, and I stayed in my bed, frozen, wanting to respond but unable to because I had taken the truck home, left it in the driveway, and returned to work with my wife’s car. Somehow, she knew the trouble I was in but couldn’t get the truck started, and the neighbors were complaining because some kids had gotten inside and turned on the sirens.
So, there I was, in my underwear on the apparatus floor with a hundred third graders and their teacher, and a few college-age girls who had tagged along as chaperones, stifling giggles as a grown man in red underoos and firefighter boots frantically searched for a missing fire engine.
It wasn’t really a nightmare, but it wasn’t very pleasant, either. It brought back memories of dreaming about my first jobs–first as a line cook, then as a bartender. After spending numerous hours doing what we called “jamming,” which was slang for pumping out food and drinks, I couldn’t get my mind to shut off and would take the work home with me and think I was still working. The orders kept coming until dawn, and I could just never catch up. I still have one of those dreams every now and then, but after all this time I can subconsciously recognize that it is a dream and not reality.
One firefighter I work with can’t seem to separate the two. “Take off your clothes or get off the boat!” he shouted one night, about an hour after we returned from a fire, and the rest of us were snoring away, lost in whatever dreams had invaded our minds. To this day, somebody will tell him the same whenever they see him.
I’ve heard that the time we spend sleeping is time to clear the mind, cleanse the soul, and get the body ready for another day. Sometimes, the time spent sleeping is more exhausting than the time spent at work. There isn’t a heck of a lot we can do when our subconscious mind plays tricks on us. Dreams are unpredictable: If we could choose what we dreamed about, we would probably never get out of bed!
NEW! Available Now!
City Life, the new Ebook by Fire Life and Engine Co. EMS columnist Michael Morse, is an intimate look at the people who need and respond to 911 emergencies:
A woman escapes Pol Pot’s murderous regime in Cambodia after watching her family butchered “like chickens,” only to lose her way in America. An eight-year-old deaf girl breaks the hearts of the firefighters who respond to her call for help, only to find that her parents had been using her as a prostitute. An intoxicated “frequent flier” quizzes the crew with his latest trivia question and elderly people depend on 911 services when their breathing becomes difficult. Meanwhile, in Iraq, Sergeant Robert Morse, the author’s brother, serves his year, giving glimpses of life in Baghdad, of risking his life, and the lives of the people with him while transporting water along the Tigress River into Fallujah and of missing home. One brother is at war in a distant land, the other remains home and fights a different kind of battle. Hardship brings out the best in people, and a bond that had been weakened as life moves relentlessly forward, each lost in their own worlds, strengthens when those far away worlds seem somehow closer with the realization that it all could end in an instant. There are people who need help, and people who give it. Often, the ones giving the help get a little as well. This insightful collection of one man’s interactions with the people he encounters during a time span of six seasons paints a vivid picture of life in a small city. These are wonderful stories of triumph, loss, tedium, and hilarity. Inspiring and concise, the author provides every person who spends time immersed between the pages of this book valuable insight into life at its most raw and powerful.
Order here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B016QVDCU6
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.