Life in the Fire Service – Unpredictable at Best!
(As I sit down to write – or rather – VENT, Johnny left for work again this morning. He got to spend 24 hours at home this week after being forced on Friday, and had already planned an overtime day for today – Sunday. He’ll be off again on Monday, then back on his regular 72 hour shift Tuesday am – Friday am. Mama needs a “rabbit”!)
Actually I shouldn’t say that – the fact is, it’s VERY predicatble! It seems like Johnny ONLY gets forced on when it’s inconvenient for our family! If there’s fires or some other sort of emergency I’m the most understanding person in the world, but when I bought tickets eight months in advance to see Phantom of the Opera and he can’t go because he gets forced on, I do tend to flip out! I know it goes with the territory, and I know it’s his job. Honestly, I don’t remember our last “date night.”
Planned overtime is just that – planned. Since Johnny works a 72 hours shift, anything over the first 40 hours is “overtime”. That comes on a separate paycheck and those paychecks rotate through the year on a 28 day pay period so that you never know when it’s coming. I’m hearing rumors, though, about that changing. PHEW! Funny – credit card companies don’t tend to understand that they can’t get paid until that OT check comes in. LOL!
The fact is, being a fire wife is very much like being a single mom. I know – I’ve been one! (Before I met Johnny I had been divorced with two kids for about five years) But even the best planning can go down the tubes if there’s a fire assignment. Case in point – Summer 2008. I was scheduled by my company to go to New York for some training during the later part of July, so we carefully pieced together a tag-team of sorts wherein Johnny would deliver the kids to their Godmother (my BFF) in San Diego for a few days while I was gone and he was on shift. Perfect, right? yeah…..
Johnny went out on a fire assignemnt in mid JUNE and I didn’t see him again until August. Lucky for me, my BFF is a realtor and can arrange her schedule pretty easily and/or take the kids along, so she came up to get them a few days EARLY so I would have time to organize for my trip and relax about the kids being taken care of, so I packed them up, put a few hundred dollars in an envelope for their “entertainment expenses” and sent them happily off with her for what would end up being nearly two weeks. They went to the beach several times, the zoo, the Wild Animal Park, Legoland………..I don’t think they wanted to come home.
But then – the very predictable happened. Two hours after I left for the airport, Johnny came home. He had 48 hours for R&R of sorts, so he showered, boogied down to San Diego and went to Legoland with BFF and our kids! Then he went back to the fires. Then I came home later that week. 56 days on. The overtime pay was GLORIOUS – but had time to spend it??? LOL!!
There are times when we literally sit down with our calendars and decide what days he will volunteer for overtime! The city he works in contracts with the State for fire service, and the chief tends to staff it pretty bare-bones so that he can show the city how much money he’s saving them! (I think they need to look at the overtime column) There is ALWAYS overtime to be had – not that I’m complaining. Since Johnny is a “Fire Apparatus Engineer/Medic” (meaning he drives the fire engine AND he’s a paramedic) the OT rate is pretty darn good! But you can volunteer for several days during a pay period and still be forced to work more!
I’m told that the “old timers” will tell you if you complain, “If Cal Fire thought you need a wife and kids they would have issued you one with your PPE’s!” So true.
People tell me they see my husband as a hero. He puts his life on the line for strangers every day. He saves lives. Tell that to the ten year old boy who is choking back tears because his Daddy missed another baseball game. I think Johnny’s FAMILY are the heroes here.