I went to the firefighters chili cook off last night. What a great time, great cause, great friends, and some pretty great chilies. I did prefer most of the greens but I like a little spice, after all my dad writes chili cook books. Charity is the driving effort, but reason for attending are many and varied. My motivation was first, to get my kids out of the house and do something outside as a family. Summer break with three bored kids can be a challenge, so what better way to wear them out then to make them walk a couple miles up down the streets of downtown.
In actuality it was pretty cool, only had to drag one child a short distance, and then purchased cooperation along the way with sodas, hot dogs, and promises of a trip to Sonic for ice cream later. This way I got to eat several bowls of tasty chili, see many of my old pals from the department, and be accosted by a few police officers, the cops were friends luckily.
I love the creativity of firefighters, who else could take the simple notion of cooking chili and selling it for charity, and turn it into Elvis impersonators in spandex. Firefighters absolutely insist on having fun, no mater the reason. Of course the fun is sometimes amplified by the addition of other consumables, not in the chili family.
Firefighter have this weird ability to go enormous amount time without seeing each other and pick up like no time has actually passed. Think about it, we all work in our own little stations and handle business in our response districts. Depending where your station is, say in an outlaying district, you can go months and never run a call outside of your area, thus your exposure to sister stations can be very limited.
Then keep in mind that there are three different shifts at all these different locations that all work on your days off. The odds of see many of your peers can be very slim if you don't train together or go to social events. At the chili cook off I ran into guys that had been retired for years and I hadn't seen them in years. But the conversation is always the same.
"Hey dude, how are you? Haven't seen you in ---- you look great, what are doing, hows the family, etc."
And its not a fake conversation at all (as far as I know) I was really glad to see old friends, and asking about families and life its self is genuine.
When we worked together at the fire house we got to know each other in a way most co-workers never do. We witness each others lives on a 24 hour basis over the course of years. We watch each other as we meet someone, get married, start a family and grow as people. Then we watch each other lose parents or family to death (sometimes we even run calls on each others families) and we see how death or divorce devastate each other and hold watch over the effected member.
Then we retire or move to another shift or station and never run into each other again sometimes for years, but when we do see each other again it's like n o time has passed at all. We can pick up a five year old conversation as if one of us just got back from the bathroom. I believe this is a quality unique to the brothers and sisters of the fire service. Then how would I know any difference I never really did any other job. I could be completely off base, but I love these moments when they happen.
The bonds we forge in real fire do last a life time.