Saturday, February 4, 2012

Superbowl Sunday Syndrome

Years ago I saw a cartoon of a mom and two knee-high kids in turnout gear by a fire truck with a charged hose, ready to attack a fully involved house in the background. The frazzled occupants stood in the driveway with question marks over their heads. The caption read:

"What did you expect on Superbowl Sunday?"

That might only be funny if you live in a small community served by volunteer firefighters. Or maybe it isn't funny at all, especially if you live in a small community served by volunteer firefighters. Whatever your perspective, it is a caricature of reality for lots of under-staffed departments.

Volunteer firefighters are the butt of many jokes about saving basements, slow response times, and wannabe firefighter behaviour. As chief of a volunteer department for a lot of years, my coping strategy in the face of this teasing was to laugh along with the rest, knowing full well that the mockers had no clue of what our reality was.

Kind of like me poking fun at politicians. I have little clue what their reality actually is. I should hold my opinions until I've walked a mile in their moccasins. Except that most of them don't wear moccasins. Even if they did, I don't plan to walk in them any time soon, so I'd be holding my opinions for a long time. It's much more fun to satirize these very large targets, even though I don't have enough information to be completely fair. Which is why people make fun of volunteer firefighters.

Here's where I should go into a tirade about volunteers doing a lot with a little, and saving lives on a shoestring budget, and how society is wrong to marginalize these essential public servants who often work for free . . . but no one listens to tirades, and I already talked about it in my June 12 post (in which I talk about the one-eyed king ruling in the land of the blind).

The moral of the story: if you live in the 80% of Canada served by volunteers, give them a break this weekend and be safe so they can watch the game.

And if you are a volunteer firefighter who is a Superbowl fan . . . keep your pager and your DVR handy.


  1. We solve the problem by having a superbowl party of our own at the hall, chili and all, and assigning a duty crew to cover calls. Win win me thinks!

  2. Great idea. Wouldn't work here though, as our hall only has a stone-age TV that is hooked to a stone-age VCR. No cable or satellite :-(

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