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Friday, September 21, 2012

Another Cat Call

So a little girl of nine years old found her kitty up a tree. Being resourceful and with her Mom's permission, she looked up the non-emergency number of her local fire department (not my agency) and asked if they could help.

Now, normally, the answer is of course no, but the LT who took the call just could not bring himself to deny her directly. And hey, they don't get to practice with the old Sqrt that often, so c'mon boys let's call it a drill. The crew of four climbed aboard the rarely-used 1975 American LaFrance with the 65' Telesqrt and headed out to save the day.

Upon arrival, the little girl was pretty calm but clearly concerned. Mom was right there, admirably guiding her daughter through learning how to properly handle emergencies on her own but otherwise staying out of the way. From the accounts I've heard, Mom was pretty terrific about the whole thing.

So, little girl, where's your kitty? Which tree?

She pointed up. Way up. Way, way, waaay up. The LT's face fell. There was no way the 65-footer had a chance to reach up to the crazy height that kitty had ascended to. Once again faced with not wanting to tell the little girl "no", he apologized because they did not have a bigger ladder truck in the fleet and suggested maybe the power company could help. It was a stretch of desperation, sure, but who wants to shut down an adorable little girl who thinks you're the best heroes ever?

Then, like magic, they got an actual call, promptly responding gallantly to a medical emergency, without being forced to slink away in depressed failure.

Ever the resourceful young lady, the lass followed the LT's advice, and we got the call. It routed in here to dispatch (this being the first I heard about it), and my initial reaction was not just no, but hell no. We can't set a precedent for doing non-utility work. This is the fireman in me talking, of course. Then the customer service rep asked if I wanted to speak to the caller. Prepared to do my usual logical explanation of why we couldn't help, she transferred the little girl to me.

Of course, I had no idea the caller was a little girl. And then she told me how the firemen had let her down.

Damn you! I am powerless against her abilities! Like the LT, I looked around for an out. Like magic, there was Gary, having just returned from his service duty tour and filling out his timesheet. Miss, can you hold a second?

I gave Gary a quick rundown of the situation. He kind of relished the idea of outdoing the fire department. No one was using the highline truck (the one we use to reach the really high transmission lines on the towers) and nothing was really going on, so he grabbed the keys and headed out. I attempted to call the fire station she had called but no answer (they were still on that call apparently), left a message.

The highline truck's bucket goes up to 100', and it was pretty much at its maximum extension when he reached the kitty, which thankfully didn't scamper up any higher when he moved in for the grab. Sensibly, he had Mom take the little girl inside while they worked in case kitty decided to take a crazy suicide leap, but kitty was fairly cooperative about getting into the cat carrier.

Gary said the look on the little girl's face will be a permanent highlight on his career, and that beating the fire department in the rescue business was just icing.

I got a call back later from the LT, who filled me in on all that I had missed before we got the call, and was very happy to hear that things worked out well. I arranged for Gary to get a little private attaboy in our next staff meeting, but we can't publicize it too wide or we'll start getting more of these, right?

Good job, Gary. Don't take it too hard, LT.

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