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Saturday, February 5, 2011


Usually a problem in the fire station, right?

Many years ago, when I was just a power dispatch grunt....

Shawn was dispatching central division, and I was on the western division desk, with supervisor Rich on the east side and merely tolerating our presence.

Shawn and I had a goofy game for long slow night shifts where we would lightly toss a racquetball up about 12' to try to get it to settle on a narrow ledge formed by a support beam in the control room. If the ball bounced or rolled at all, it came back down. The trick was for the ball to make it just high enough, and land with no bounce. The competition was to see who could get the ball to stay up there in as few throws as possible.

Once it got parked up there, the contest continued to see who could get it down first by using another racquetball to bump it.

So I am futzing around on nothing in particular, and Shawn decides its time for a match. I stand up and he tosses the ball at me, calling for me to catch it. I am slow to react, and turn with perfect timing as the ball hits me perfectly square in the face, on the bridge of my nose right between the eyes. No harm done, it was rather hilarious, actually.

My brilliant revenge? Pick it up and chuck it back at him. With quite a bit more force. This turned out to be a situational awareness fail, as I did not consider what was behind Shawn when I threw the ball.

No, it was not Rich, the crusty supervisor. He was not remotely in the line of fire. It was the static display board, the large, painted sheet metal wall schematic of the transmission and distribution system, with colored magnets identifying opened switches, closed switches that are normally open, and switches locked and tagged out for jobs.

Things moved in slow motion as Shawn ducked, and the ball blasted into the static board, knocking every magnet and tag within four or five feet of the impact point off the board. They fell like Monopoly game pieces dropped when someone knocks the board off the table. A big mess.

Oh. Crap.

Shawn gave me the 'sucks to be you' grin.

Rich looked up. Sighed. Went back to his book.

It took Shawn and I just a little over half an hour to account for the proper locations of all the fallen magnets and tags from the midnight system conditions, log, and clearance ledger, and then re-check our work. No room for errors.

Rich never said anything about it, because he knew it wouldn't happen again. It didn't.

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