Monday, July 5, 2010

Faded Glory: On Being an Ex-Firefighter, Part 2

Faded Glory: On Being an Ex-Firefighter, Part 1

Faded Glory: On Being an Ex-Firefighter, Part 2

About three years ago, in the spring of 2007, I moved to work at a facility that incinerates chemical weapons. I live in a small town that relies on volunteers for most of their fire calls. I drive past their main fire station often, and I easily hear their sirens. The air horns especially bring strong memories of firefighting...only fire apparatus use air horns.

My work schedule is crazy. They call it a "DuPont Schedule"...I guess it was first implemented at DuPont or something. I only work fourteen days a month, but it's the hardest fourteen days I've ever experienced. It's not hard in terms of work, but it's hard in terms of sleep...I don't get much of it, at least not any of quality. It's a rotating shift schedule, switching weekly between night and day shifts. In black and white print, the 12-hour shifts seem benign:

Night Shift: 5:00 pm to 5:00 am
Day Shift: 5:00 am to 5:00 pm

Day 1: Night Shift
Day 2: Night Shift
Day 3: Night Shift
Day 4: Night Shift
Day 5: Off
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off
Day 8: Day Shift
Day 9: Day Shift
Day 10: Day Shift
Day 11: Off
Day 12: Night Shift
Day 13: Night Shift
Day 14: Night Shift
Day 15: Off
Day 16: Off
Day 17: Off
Day 18: Day Shift
Day 19: Day Shift
Day 20: Day Shift
Day 21: Day Shift
Day 22: Off
Day 23: Off
Day 24: Off
Day 25: Off
Day 26: Off
Day 27: Off
Day 28: Off

Whoa! Seven days off? Why am I griping?

I'm griping because it takes me about two-and-a-half days after changing from days to nights before I stop feeling grouchy, tired, and apathetic. The older I get, the longer it's taking.

I have absolutely no time available to commit to being a volunteer firefighter. I cannot risk losing more sleep than I am able to grab during the first three weeks of the month. During my week off, I want to spend extended time with my wife. I cannot spend the best part of my month away from home, away from family, away from other interests and commitments.

So, I am an ex-firefighter. But, I still want to help.

Next week, the final installment: Faded Glory: On Being an Ex-Firefighter, Part 3

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