Saturday, November 30, 2013

things people say to me about my job

1. "That must be exciting!"  Well...yes, sometimes.  I've been a firefighter for over half my life now so sometimes I lose my frame of reference.  What might be exciting to someone who works in a cube farm is just another day to me.  (Also, if I got to go to a cube farm, I'd probably be unreasonably excited by computers that actually work, and printers that don't take two hours to print a 100 page PDF document).  Yes, there are exciting moments: chasing fire, saving houses...but also long stretches of boredom and monotony, doing project work and waiting for fires to actually happen.

2.  "Do you jump out of planes?"  No, those are my buddies the smokejumpers.  They are great, but I've known too many broken ones to have considered that job for myself.  We take different methods to get to a fire, but once we are there, our job is the same.

3.  "You're so brave!"  Um...how do you answer this?  "Yes, why yes I am!"?  The truth is, a lot of stuff scares me, but we learn to assess and manage risk.  I've done some pretty brave things on the fireline, but I've also known when to back off and let nature take its course.

4.  "That's a hard job."  Yes, it can be.  Hard on your body, hard on relationships, mentally hard sometimes.  Other times, when it's just you and one other person perched on a peak in the middle of nowhere watching a fire, it's the best job ever.

5.  "How did you get started doing that?"  Honestly, it was really an accident.  I never meant to make this a career.

6.  "Do you fly the helicopter?"  No, we have a pilot for that.  Thank goodness, because I'm really bad at it.

7.  "Do you fight fires all over the country?"  Yes, we go all over the place, and some lucky people get to go places like Australia and Russia.

8.  "You're lucky, you get paid to exercise."  Yes, in theory we get "PT time" every day.  Often it doesn't happen because of a fire or a project.  It's great, but we don't have the budget for workout equipment so we can sometimes be found lifting logs and rocks (it works, though).  Also, it's necessary:  we are often required to hike long distances out of fires; 20 miles is common.  Where I work people sometimes hike 50 miles to get back to civilization.  You have to be fit to be able to do that. Whether you're 19 years old or 55, nobody cares: you have to keep up, and carry all your stuff.

9.  "Why don't you cut more trees down so people's houses don't burn?"  Sorry, there's just not enough money or personnel to do this everywhere.  If people who live in the forest would clear out around their houses, it would reduce their risk greatly.  I've watched houses burn and it's heartbreaking to know that a little brushing and cutting by the landowner would have saved them.

10.  And my favorite:  "You women don't really fight fires, do you? You just go along and cook for the men."  In this guy's defense, this was said about 20 years ago and he didn't know any better.  Men who camp out on the fireline are usually pretty good cooks if we get fresh food (or know how to doctor up MREs).  And if you need anything sewn, see a smokejumper.  Most of them know their way around a sewing machine like no other.

What do people say about YOUR job?

9 comments:

  1. "It must be so great to work from home. you have time to (exercise, do laundry, talk on the phone, write your novel). Um, no, it is WORK. Also, "it would be so great to work from anywhere!" It is, but its not like I can flit across the country working wherever I feel like it. That would cost money to have multiple places to stay.

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    1. "You can make cookies whenever you want."

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  2. This was a very informative blog post. I'm sure the public has a bunch of misconceptions about firefighters (I know I did). With my job, I have to deal with a lot of "armchair engineers" that think they can design a road and are quick to criticize what we are building. There are a lot of factors we have to take into account, especially when retrofitting sidewalks and road rebuilds in an already established urban area (utilities, driveways, ADA accessibility, trees, stormwater disposal...) And 25 years ago, when I began my career, I had to deal with people (usually men) who thought I since I was female, I was the secretary, not one of the engineers.

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    1. It does sound like there is a lot to take into consideration! I bet we had similar experiences dealing with men at the beginning of our careers.

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  3. When I was an executive at a government agency, in meetings mostly with men, I often got asked to make the coffee. And many, many people (exceptions being relatives who post here) think they don't need editors or proofreaders for their manuscripts because, well, anybody can do that with spell-check.

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    1. Having read a lot of self-published Kindle memoirs, I really wish more people would use editors. Some of these books would be so much better with a little editing.

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  4. This post is so interesting! I admit, I probably would have said a couple of those things myself! ;)

    When people learn I'm a stay-at-home mom (with children who are in school, especially), they always say, "I could never do that, I would get so bored!" Eh, to each his own, I guess :)

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    1. I personally would not be bored! But since I have no kids I guess that's not an option for me! Thanks for visiting my blog!

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