Today is A-shift on the fire department. That means nothing to you, and everything to me. Let me explain.
I work on an “A-B-C” shift schedule, meaning, as a B-shifter, I work 24 hours on duty, then have 48 hours of relative freedom. When I leave the station on the C shift morning, I’ve begun a two day sabbatical from civil service, one of the sweetest benefits of being a career fireman. But C shift is a day for catching up. You run home, throw down some Tylenol and coffee so that your kids’ voices don’t sound quite like angry wolverines mating, you kiss the spouse and take the honey-do list in hand, halfheartedly, with vague promises of productivity. You plug into your life and glare at the lawn to be mowed. If you’ve been up through the night on calls, you cat-nap in weird locations, like the shower.
And then comes A-shift. That’s the morning when you set a sort of mental concertina wire around your bed, informing your rowdy children that their very lives are at risk, should they wake you with revelations such as the genius of SpongeBob or their desire to eat. A-shift mornings are a sacred time for me. I spend time in worship of the coffee maker, I commune with the internet and I offer sacrifice to the gods of chaos. Apparently, and according to Exodus 31:15, desecration of the Sabbath was originally punishable by death, a stance I can enthusiastically embrace.
As we rattle on down the path towards 40, and eventual death, this time away from our commitments to being responsible becomes more precious with each day. I could care less about Carpe-ing any sort of Diem and am more concerned with capturing the false sense of achievement that comes in a steaming cup of coffee. I embrace artificial stimulation, much like the hippies embraced Jerry Garcia as their prophet, as the ideal way to symbolize my Sabbath. Once in a while I try and get all high on working out with the lunatics at CrossFit, but this usually leads to a false sense of fitness and embarrassing moments of thinking I can wear clothes I really shouldn’t (why, helloooo, shoulder hair!). No, it’s best to just accept that my church is that elusive and sacred time, from about 3:00am to 8:13am, in my own bed, when I don’t worry about the bells ringing for another call to another alleged emergency.
So today begins the true day of rest. I woke up in my own home with the hymns that are my children screeching at high decibels, the Nicene Creed in the form of cursing under my breath at the ungodly hour, the body and the blood taking the form of a Thomas English Muffin and a cup of hot mud. And, like church services for the faithful, it will seem over all too quickly for a heathen like me. Life in this adult world does not tolerate too much rest. There is much to be done before I resume life in the firehouse, and if I don’t give heed to this glorious, glorious A-shift Sabbath, I’ll be left spiritually, literally, un-caffeinated.