Beware of Physics and Esprit de Corps

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The original conversation went something like this:

Lieutenant: “He said he never makes mistakes, they’re just misunderstandings.”

Chief: “What were you doing in the sewage pit in the first place?”

Lieutenant: “We’re repurposing it as a site for hose testing.”

Chief: “The county is on board with this?”

Lieutenant: “Yes, it’s just sitting there collecting weeds. They have absolutely no plans for it.”

Chief: “So what happened.”

Lieutenant: “We had all the 1¾ in the pit, plus some 2 ½s,  and I told them to get them out of there.”

Chief: “So they pulled the 1 ¾ or the 2 ½?”

Lieutenant: “2 ½”

Chief: “And it was full?”

Lieutenant: “Yes.”

Chief: “Of poop?”

Lieutenant: “Yes.”

Chief: “Oh my God that is too good did it get all over you?”

Lieutenant: “My hair. Eyes. In my helmet. Down my bunker gear. I’m going to have to burn my gear.”

Chief: “You can’t burn bunker gear. That’s the point.”

Lieutenant: “Okay I’m going to have to throw out my bunker gear.”

Chief: “What did they do?”

Lieutenant: “I don’t know. I was too busy vomiting.”

This was all long before our office-bound days. In fact, it’s how we met. All new graduates of the volunteer fire academy, very adept at saying “Yes, sir!” with rapid enthusiasm in response to an order, we racing to get our hands up first when someone was “looking for a volunteer” in true brainwashed esprit de corps.

It was a strange situation. A former sewer treatment pit for King County being converted into a place for annual hose testing. Indeed, one has to test all the hoses once a year to make sure they’re in good enough shape to put out fires. No bursting. Bursting makes things complicated. Not to mention humiliating. Firefighters do not enjoy the idea of impotence more so than normal people with office jobs like us.

Speaking of complicated, getting this pit ready was a fairly simple process. One, clean out concrete pit approximately 200 ft. long x 100 ft. wise by 15 ft. deep. Two, drop hoses in. Three, spend several hours with “charged” hoses (nozzle closed, full of water pressurized by the running pump on the engine) and make sure they don’t burst. Four, record. Five, get more funding for new hoses if old hoses fail, and maybe, while we’re at it, ask for a cooler looking fire truck.

We don’t remember how, exactly, we went about cleaning the pit. We’re assuming we sprayed it with hoses and let it drain. Furthermore, we don’t remember how, exactly, the poop got up the hose we oversaw in the first place. Must have something to do with an unfortunate vacuum, which is why we never trust physics.

We do remember the strangled scream that followed out rapid, happy hefting of the final 50 ft. of 2 ½-inch hose after hearing the command “Get this stuff out of here.” We never saw the excrement actually douse our lieutenant, as he was down in the pit and we were up top. But certainly we saw the very amused, we daresay thrilled look of the twenty or so fellow firefighters who witnessed our folly. Nobody hated the lieutenant. But firefighters love it when one of their own embarrasses themselves.

After this incident we sort of hid from the lieutenant for several shifts, which took quite a bit of energy and must have looked ridiculous as we’d spontaneously disappear into a chest freezer or whatnot when he rounded the corner at the station. We also may or may not have hidden in a bush.

Eventually we walked up to him and simply said “We’re sorry we covered you in poo.” We’ve found calling it “poo” sort of softens the blow of whatever it is we’re doing, or did, with it, it being the poo, intentionally or accidentally. In this case, no blow was softened, as the lieutenant kind of mumble, “It’s okay” as he stalked off. Needless to say, like any relationship built on poo, things were never the same between us.

So now we’re in an office full of writers and painters and designers and computer people – who exclusively date models – and sports stars and this guy who does “pointillism” and some businessy types (who in theory want our help but may secretly be debt collectors) and a Dodge Charger SRT® Hellcat Widebody.

Mostly to avoid any sense of esprit de corps. But so far, it hasn’t worked.

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