Friday, April 9, 2010

"Wrong number - I mean to dial 9 - 1 - 2 !"

Man oh man, did I have a great time the other day! After work, some of the old gang from when I worked at 911 was having a little meetup at the Firehouse Tavern over near our place. So many of the old gang have retired, and I would have joined them already, except for a mathematical error. The error was, I forgot to figure that if I wanted to retire in my 50's, I would have to start a 30-year career in my 20's, and of course, I spent the greater part of that decade playing Conway Twitty records on the radio, stocking grocery shelves with ginger ale, Vienna sausage and Fig Newtons, and taking part in scientific research exploring the amount of Budweiser® beer than could be poured down one's neck before one began singing Faron Young's "It's Four in the Morning" over and over at two in the morning.

As I sat in the tavern, belting back bottled water (!) my mind drifted back as we spun tale after tale. One of the greatest parts of swappin' yarns with these guys and gals is that no one has to make anything up or even exaggerate the facts of the stories. And no matter how many times we hear it, the tales of the people who thought there were real live (?) ghosts in the closet, or the women who called with abdominal cramps and denied being pregnant, only to have a baby's head present itself during the call, or the people who called at quarter til midnight just to see if 911 was "still open," the tales spin themselves, and we are caught up in the weave of the yarn.

But now as we unravel it all, there's more of a sense of pride in looking back over a career of accomplishment. All the hassles, the red tape, the blizzards and thunderstorms, the power outages, the petty rules ("no coats on the backs of chairs," "no non-work-related art work on the walls") seem to drift off with the other flotsam of life, and the important thing is the fellowship, the friendship, the stuff you can't get in any other way but through years and years of camaraderie.

Some of the gang are still working. Some of the retirees are taking it easy, some have taken other work, and some are doing different things altogether. One of the women and her wife have taken in a niece whose family life came unraveled a year or so ago, and after literally being on the streets for a year, this young lady has come to live with them. Are there issues; are there problems? You bet there are, and not easy ones, either. Helping a teenager reach adulthood prepared for life is challenging under the best conditions, and surely, dealing with someone who was tossed into the air to see where she would land is a parlous undertaking.

But you can bet I'm gonna bet on them to make it work out fine. The young lady is sweet and charming, and when one of the women helping to prepare her for adulthood is someone who dealt with three decades of fires, shootings, stabbings, lost children, parking complaints, traffic wrecks and life wrecks, you know that nothing is going to slow her down.

I spent an hour with people who have been part of my life for almost three decades. Of course, when I finished my bottle of water and headed home, people knew that it was because if I'm not with Peggy, I'm trying to be. Bless us all, old friends and new, and sweet, sweet love.

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