Last night I hung up my firefighting gear for the foreseeable future. And by “foreseeable future” I mean “the next two weeks” since I have the attention span of a fly and two weeks into the future may as well be two decades. The family is heading out of Missouri, as mentioned in this post, the nerve-wracking, make-me-sweat-like-a-whore-in-church experience known as emceeing the Blogaronis is over, and Hotwire has been put in charge of maintaining the compound while we drive like mad bastards to my home state. All is good on the horizon.

Sometimes it feels like a royal pain in the a-double snakes to be a government employee – the bureaucracy, the constant cycle of loathing/admiration/hating/envy that the citizens feel towards public safety (pension problems, anyone?), the feeling of being a cog in a blue shirt, replaceable within about 5 minutes or less. The bureaucracy – yeah, I gotta mention that twice, and if you work in government service, you can appreciate this.

But on top of that, I feel really lucky. Lucky that I’ve found the career that makes sense to me. The fire service is loaded with all kinds of wayward issues, but really, what job isn’t? Anytime you have more than two employees, you have politics. Any time you answer to the citizens, there’s gonna be one old grouch out there who wants to kick you in the balls just because he got a speeding ticket once. So we accept where we’re at, but that doesn’t always translate into appreciating it.

Every third day I spend in the company of 5-7 others who endure my lies and copious bull. I drink ungodly amounts of coffee, I get to tinker with a three-quarter million dollar ladder truck and generally when people dial 911, they’re happy/relieved to see us arrive. Little kids never, ever fail to wave up at the truck, little old ladies always coo when we change their smoke detectors and our spouses are generally happy to get rid of us for one day out of three. When the economy is down, our business seems to pick up, not necessarily a good thing in terms of public safety, but it makes for interesting times. We operate on a level of maturity with one another that you may have last witnessed in sixth grade.

And still, we bitch about it.

For the next couple of weeks, I’ll hopefully sleep through the night. There will be no phantom alarms at 3am, no loudly lamenting the empty coffee pot, no staring off at the rest of the world going home at 5pm while we have a whole 14 more hours of gilded cage time. No staring at a giant truck knowing that there’s really several hours of checking it that need to get done. No arguing over what channel to watch. I’ll need to keep my mouth in check, since firehouse humor doesn’t necessarily translate smoothly outside the station. It won’t go well, and I’ll end up saying stuff I regret. The Pimp and The Pirate won’t be around to berate me, and tales of JoBoo’s adventures into Oklahoma will have to wait. I won’t think about funding issues, staffing issues, pension issues, rookie issues or the plain ol’ business of fighting fires.

The Heathens will spend time on the beach, time at Disneyland, and time on my nerves. The Wife will pass judgment on my driving skills and my brothers will point out how great it is to see us and how old I’m looking. The Lyin’ Dutchman will probably make some sort of appearance, trying to ambush Buns and me through a meeting that Bones will have unknowingly set up. I’ll spend an inordinate amount of time missing living on the coast. I’ll watch Barbara get married and lament losing time with my family. I’ll secretly wish for a return to a life that really never was. Hopefully The Author and I will have time to meet up and we can wax idiotic on classmates from twenty years ago.

And in two weeks? Putting on the turnouts and climbing on to Truck 2 will seem like a damn fine way to make a living. Even if the coffee pot is empty.