I have always been blessed to look young for my age. If I let my hair get a bit too long and happen to wear clothes that are scruffy enough, I am occasionally mistaken as my teenage daughter's older brother, even though she was born when I was in my mid 20's. I'm not complaining.
In the power company I deal with a lot of people by radio or phone only, and when they finally come in on a visit to the control center, it is pretty common for them to be surprised and say they expected me to be in my 50's, though I haven't yet quite cracked 40. I make keeping cool and using a calm "fighter pilot" voice a priority in order to put a lid on potential spiraling panic. It works the same in the FD, of course.
However, this youthful countenance worked against me in my earliest days on the FD.
Fresh out of the box, 21 and dumb, feeling ten feet tall in my brand new uniform and shiny badge. It was a very hot summer day, and we were prepping a house for a training burn, pre-cutting and then capping vents with plywood, boarding up some key windows, piling up pallets and straw, marking exit paths.... you know the drill. All of us working on this project were actually off-duty POC guys. Being the super-probie, I was the only one in uniform.... never wanted to miss a chance to wear The Badge, you know.
This was a relatively small Midwestern town, so when the work was done and the guys wanted to cool off, no one thought anything of having a cold beer or two. But who goes to get it? Super-probie, of course.
At the counter of the town's liquor store - in uniform - with two cases of Miller Lite..... my gosh how preposterous that scene looks to me now!! The clerk carded me. You have to be 21 to join the FD, but the clerk was playing it safe in front of the badge. And, you guessed it, I did not have my ID.
I never, EVER heard the end of it as long as I served with that agency, the Kid who returned empty-handed from the beer run.
Several years later and not too long before I moved onward and upward from there, on a routine medical call, we picked up a senior citizen with some nondescript issue that has long faded from my memory. As the medic climbed into the ambulance, the other EMT and I loaded the patient. She had been eying me oddly ever since I grabbed the cot on the way out, but when she saw the other EMT climb into the back with the medic, yeah, that's where this post's title came from.
"What? You're Driving?!?" Not a joke. She was legitimately concerned. I was ready to swap with the other EMT just to make her feel better, but the medic would have none of it.
"Don't worry ma'am, The Kid's got a perfect ambulance driving record, drives for me all the time."
As I closed the doors to the box I heard her ask in all seriousness, "But how old is he, really??"