"Ow, shit! Sorry, man."
In the dim red light in the back of the cab, I could barely make out the "ah, it's okay" shrug that the lineman gave me. I mean, there's usually only two people being tossed around in the back of the engine, not three—and the sharp left turn we took a second ago on the way to a box alarm threw me against the door, with only Rocky to break my fall. Regroup, keep going. After all, we had a report of smoke coming from under the front door of the house. It might be a good first call for me, right?
Wrong. It was like my own personal comedy of errors. Not only was my brain a little fuzzy (it was around three in the morning, and I'm still growing accustomed to functioning in the early hours), but I kept dropping my stuff everywhere. Just about the time that I find a secure place to put my helmet, my SCBA starts falling over. Okay, got that, now if I can just—dammit, there goes my helmet again! Wait… where the hell did my hood go?!
(Can you tell I've never done this before?)
By some sort of miracle, I managed to get all my gear on before we reached the address. At the beginning of the shift, my officer told me to stick with the lineman; thus, when he pulled the crosslay, I followed behind him and flaked out the line.
At least, that was the plan.
You see, we had to cross a few front yards and some sidewalks to get to the door, and the terrain can be sort of uneven…
I fell down. Face-first, of course; apparently it looked bad enough that one of the bystanders, a kid of about fourteen, piped up:
"Aw, damn, man. You okay? That looked like it hurt."
I mumbled a lame response as I adjusted my helmet, and scrambled to my feet. I hurried to catch up to my crew, desperately hoping I wouldn't find "OMG DC FIREMAN FALLS DOWN ON WAY TO FIRE LOL STUPID ROOKIE" on YouTube the next day.
As it turns out, the occupants of the house had burned some food in the kitchen, and their neighbors saw the smoke from next door. They, in turn, called 911, who dispatched us, and then I heroically saved the day by smearing dirt all over the front of my coat.
But hey, it's not all bad. I like to think of it like that old fishing joke: the worst day in the company is better than the best day at the Academy.
There's a lot that I'm learning out in the street that I was never taught at the Academy. I fully expected that, but it's fascinating to see the practical side of things, instead of the "textbook" knowledge—and the only way to learn something like that is to do it a million times.
My primary goal during this phase is to learn how to be a paramedic on an engine company. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to start on my probationary fire studies right now, because my only focus is on learning how to integrate my EMS capabilities with the fire service. I have to keep reminding myself that 15 isn't my permanent assignment, because it's a damned good house and I'm enjoying myself immensely.
That being said, I'm soaking up every bit of knowledge I can. I've found that there's so much you can learn just by being around the guys from 15 and Rescue 3; you just have to know when to listen.
This is going to take a lot of getting used to, both mentally and physically; but I'm loving every minute of it, and I look forward to where this journey will take me.