The first question is very specific: ”Is anyone on the list [of recently graduated recruits] being assigned here?”
The next question is more general, and includes an air of devilish curiosity:
“So, what’ve you heard about them?”
It happens to everyone, I suppose. From our first few days in the Academy, stories began to compile and fledgeling nicknames started to stick—from what I’ve heard, sometimes these things can hang around for your entire career. When the guys in a house get wind that Probationer So-and-so is on his or her way, people start asking questions. Usually, somebody knows something about them.
Half the fun of the Academy, after all, was the people you were around all the time—it’s only fair that you have something entertaining to call them, usually with a story to accompany it. “Hightower,” “Kitty Kat,” “Country,” “Greg Brady,” “Nipples,” various alterations of last names/first names/middle names/nonsense names…
Of course, the funny stuff is just the tip of the “what’ve-you-heard” iceberg. Are they a good worker? Are they a loudmouth or are they kinda shy? Lazy as hell, didn’t do anything in the Academy? Go-getter type, but gets frustrated easily?
Nobody is immune to it. Besides, it seems as if word travels faster via firefighters than by any other means of communication. Remember the movie Waiting? Even though Ryan Reynolds’s character was referring to the restaurant industry, he got it exactly right:
Monty: “Are you gonna take the Assistant Manager job?”
Dean: “Wait. How the hell do you know about that?”
Monty: “Are you kidding me? You know this place. People with a day off already know.”
Speaking of the Academy: one recruit class just recently graduated, while another fresh batch started in the machine this morning. Notably, two friends of mine are in this new class; I can just see them driving nervously down Shepherd Parkway in the five a.m. darkness, as excited and uncertain as I was exactly three-hundred and sixty-four days ago.
Best of luck, guys. I hope your first week goes well!
Oh, and one more thing: find someone in the class who likes taking pictures.
(Seriously, what other advice would you expect me to give?)