I'm the only seriously active firefighter in my part of the district, and living so close to Station 51 means when either rig rolls out of there, my voice is pretty much always the one on the other end of the radio.
When you've served this long in one place, the people in your neighborhood get to know you either by direct contact or word of mouth for both good and bad moves. Still, it surprises me sometimes how it comes about.
My father-in-law works in fleet management for a large transportation outfit a few hours from here, and was hundreds of miles from home at a business function, chatting casually with the regional safety manager for his company. Somehow they got to talking about home, and the safety guy mentioned that he lived in the same county that we do.
"Oh really," my father-in-law said, "my daughter lives around there, on Lower Valley Road."
"You don't say," said the safety guy, "I live right about there, too."
"Yeah, her husband is a firefighter there and usually runs out of the station up the road from you."
"Oh, you mean Grumpy and Mrs. Grumpy? You're telling me he's your son-in-law??"
The way it was told to me, the conversation went on with the safety guy saying nice things about us and how he and his neighbors appreciate both that I run so many calls for the neighborhood and that Mrs. Grumpy helps that effort by being awesomely supportive.
I've actually never heard of the guy. Never responded to his house. Point taken, though, that your reputation precedes you one way or another. It was a really nice thing to hear about.
So last week I took in a middle of the night call for a medical emergency. The address was familiar, as the guy has had a few medical issues in the past, but I hadn't been there since 2009. I walked in and said "Hey Barry, it's Grumpy from the fire department, been a while since I've seen you, what's going on this morning?"
I heard the wife's voice in the dawning of comprehension as she said "You're Grumpy??"
Seems Barry was suffering stroke symptoms, and while he seemed to be bouncing back from what I assume ended up being a TIA, he was at that moment still struggling to speak clearly. As I put him on a high flow NRB and collected vitals while awaiting Medic 97, his wife explained that she woke up when he was acting strangely. The only thing she was able to make out before deciding to call 911 was "Call Grumpy." She had no recollection of my name, and was thoroughly perplexed. Now it made sense.
When Barry was fearfully struggling against the fog of a stroke, of all the things he might have wanted to say, it was my name that he punched out in his plea for help.
I am seriously and substantially honored and humbled at how that played out. I'm just a small cog in the big machine, but point taken that when the chips are down and the people call us, our arrival leaves a powerful impression for good or bad.
Reputations and impressions last a long time. Carefully ensure that you are investing in making the right ones.
Barry's home again and made a full recovery according to what I heard. I'll have to go by and see him this week. I am, after all, the neighborhood beat fireman, and should know my people.