Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Continuing Chronicles of the FNG(irl): The Fit Test and Physical

First things first....I passed. (a barely stifled YIPPEEE!!)

Received my Class A certification card which will accompany me to my swearing-in.
There were some aspects to the physical and fit test that I found.....disconcerting:

1.) The eye test: after a rather frustrating several minutes with my face jammed up against what appeared to be a Fisher-Price Movie Viewer, and telling the examiner that I couldn't SEE "A-1" because it was missing....turns out that there was a big black dot of ink or something on the viewer (mascara?, not mine)that was obscuring the upper left corner of the screen. Calamity averted. Test passed.

2.) The Hearing Test: After holding my breath in that sound-proof booth for almost three minutes because I couldn't tell if I had actually heard a tone or just imagined it, and the sound of my exhalations was becoming a distraction...I started to feel like I was on "Win Ben Stein's Money".

3.) The Breath Test: Oh Yessss....THIS is just a barrel of laughs. I take my big deep "from the diaphragm" breath....whoosh it all out as instructed until I'm of the conviction that there is NO AIR left in my lungs or anywhere else in my body, and the examiner pats me on the back encouragingly and says...."c'mon....just a little bit more....keep going, keep going, keep going..." I'm looking at her and thinking....Lady...what is it that you want me to accomplish here? Aspirate my eyeballs? Then I finally get the beep and she says perkily...."Great!! Now you only have to do two more just like that" ...TWO MORE?? My lungs are on the

4.) The mask fit: Ok, this WAS fun...although the whole thing had a kind of Monty Python quality to it. I got a good seal on the first mask (small---thanks for the tip Kenzie)--then we started up with the silliness....nodding up and down....turning my head side to side....bending over again and again....then we got to the "try to dislodge the mask by making faces" ...and I got the giggles. Perky test examiner wasn't anywhere near as amused as I was at the "demonstration" grimacing she was doing....Me? I was almost on the floor. Our rapport kind of went downhill after that.

5.) The physical: I've had extensive physicals before, and this wasn't one of em. 15 minutes to hook me up to the EKG monitor to run five seconds of tape. We're done? Really? Alrighty then....
Next up: The Swearing In and Gear!!

The Continuing Chronicles of the FNG(irl): Unofficially Official

Well, props to my chief, he didn't want me to have to wait another week or so to get the arson check back and then have to wait for the letter from the department, so.....drumroll.........
I'm unofficially officially IN !!!

I'll be getting sworn in at the next department business meeting (first Tuesday in February), that is, of course, as long as my arson background check comes back clean.

They can't count that time my sisters and I set the garage on fire when I was eight years old...can they? I think that requires a short explanation: The backyard was knee deep in those fluffy powderpuff things from all of the trees in our yard...and somehow my sister Cathy figured out that they went up like a Roman candle and then blazed out just as quickly if you lit them with a match. It was a boring afternoon, all five of us were home and in dire need of a diversion before we started picking on each other, and next thing I knew....WHAM!!!!!!!! Those fluffy things practically blew up, and then they set fire to the dried out creeper vine that was growing all over the garage. If Mr. Paul next door hadn't sprinted out with a fire extinguisher, I think my parents might have packed us off to that girls school in the Canadian Rockies they kept threatening us with.

Right, where was I?

So once I get my letter, I'll go get my physical, bring back the proof, attend the business meeting, get sworn in and geared up, outfitted with a pager, and then it's off to FF1 for about 15 weeks. In the meantime, I can respond to calls and develop my traffic safety skills. :) This is, hands DOWN, the single most exciting thing I've ever done in my life, and I have NOT had a boring life.
Stay tuned...I'll post pics of the swearing in and me attired in my fetching turnout gear when I get them

The Continuing Chronicles of the FNG(irl): The Interview (no bacon this time)

Tell you what, I'll save all of you the trouble and say it myself....

I'm a jackass.

There. Everyone happy?

I spent the better part of the day yesterday semi-obsessing, stressing and second-guessing about my interview. I changed clothes twice after work (I didn't want to come across as too business-like, but I didn't want to be sloppy or look too girly) and spent ten minutes alternately putting my hair up and then taking it back down again (who does this??? Oh, only me???) and then took the short walk down the street to the station.

I had spent some time thinking about how I wanted to respond to what I thought would be a variety of questions, and while I wasn't rehearsing my answers, I had certainly dedicated a good chunk of time thinking about what I wanted to say and how I wanted to portray myself and how best to be true to myself and not sound like a moron.

I met with two of the past chiefs, and they conducted my interview in the apparatus bay, leaning up against the rig. I thought it was a bit unconventional, but it actually served to put me at ease.
After we completed all of my paperwork and talked about the whole "what happens after you're voted on" and what to expect in terms of time commitment, not only for FF1 class, but also time for drills, community events and responding, I heard a little history about the department....and then my interviewers took deep breaths and I thought to it comes.....the big important questions...

Well, no.....not exactly; here's how it really went down... (Past Chief) "So, do you have any questions for us? (Me) "I think you covered all the basics, will they be voting on me tonight?" (Past Chief) "Yup, the business meeting starts in about half an hour and we'll vote on you then, then you'll get a letter from the secretary telling you when and where you should report for your physical" (Me) "Would you like me to talk about my background and why I'm here?" (Past Chief #2) "Nah, I think we got enough to present to the membership....basically, as long as you're not the village idiot, you're most likely voted in, and you don't seem like the village idiot".

And THAT was my interview. I'm feeling sheepish for all the hours I spent fretting, and the mental gymnastics, and the response inventory rehearsals, and the outfit changes, and the hair nonsense....but I also know in my gut that if I had sashayed in there with NO preparation, the interview would have rivalled the Spanish Inquisition ("No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!"--a little Python humor), because that's just the funny way that life works.
So now I can start stalking the mailman and wearing a groove in the pavement in front of the mailbox.
On a positive note, I lost three pounds stressing over the whole thing.

The Chronicles of the FNG(irl): Intro

My name is Mary Ellen. Those that know me fairly well call me Mel. The short story behind my nickname is that I used to cook professionally at one point in my life (among other occupations) and had a nasty habit of burning the bacon I was charged with cooking off on a weekly basis. As this was becoming an expensive habit, the chef in charge of the kitchen decided he needed to shorten my name; the thought process was that he had at least a shot at saving a couple of trays of porcine fatback if he used a shortened version of my name to screech at me that the convection oven was on fire....again.

I'm the state-wide training coordinator for the Firemen's Association of the State of New York (FASNY) and I spend approximately 50% of my time criss-crossing NYS running firefighter and EMS training seminars in hundreds of fire departments in every county. The other 50% of my professional time is spent setting up the logistics and ancillary details surrounding the seminars, and then reconciling the classes in terms of the financials and certification. I like my job, I LOVE being out on the road with the classes, meeting FASNY members and listening to the "war stories" and talking about issues facing the volunteer fire service.

I decided not too long ago that instead of talking about firefighter safety all the time, I'd practice firefighter safety and finally get off my rear and join.

So I walked the quarter mile down the road to my local fire department, talked to the chief, filed an application, and next up? (cue the Phantom of the Opera music)..."The Interview". As in tomorrow night, as in I'm sweating bullets, as in my type-A personality brain is actively attempting to second guess how the process is going to go. In general, when I obsess about something, the reality tends to be one million times better than my overactive imagination has portrayed. Take a peek inside my cranium...'What if they don't like me?" "What if they ask me something that I don't know, but should?" "What if they think I'm some weak girl and can't do the job?" ---the list of questions racing around my medulla oblongata is ENDLESS.

I know the following: I want this, I'm ready for this, and I'm physically and mentally prepared for this. I haven't been this excited about ANYTHING in a long, long time. I can't wait to start training, and my most fervent hope is that a.) I don't do TOO many stupid things and that b.) I don't do something so stupid that someone else gets hurt as a result.

My game plan? thanks to some sage advice from a friend...Shut up, listen,don't take any crap, train hard, stay safe, and try not to make too big a fool of myself (I'm a little klutzy).
Stay tuned...I'll be back with the results of my interview.

The Beginning of the Journey; First Steps on the Road to Joining the Fire Service

For those of you who don't know me, actually, even for those who do, my blog area will articulate my latest and hopefully greatest adventure.....finally volunteering for the fire service.

I currently serve as the state-wide Training and Education coordinator for the Firemen's Association of the State of New York...better known as FASNY (not FANCY, as it's sometimes referred to). My job entails working with the T & E committee to offer educational programming to the Fire and Emergency Services. Our constituency is volunteer, but the attendees at our seminars are vollies, paid, local and state police and educators. For the most part, I like what I do. Yes, there are some headaches involved...any time a committee is running the show there are inherent challenges. An attorney friend of mine had a semi-famous quote framed in his office "A committee is a cul-de-sac down which great ideas are lured and then quietly strangled" (Sir Barnett Cocks --yes, that's his real name, unfortunate, isn't it...imagine being married to that guy). I think that sums it up nicely.

My favorite part of my job is being out on the road with the training programs, meeting our members, participating in lively discourse about all matters safety related, and, let's face it...getting out of the cubicle for a couple of days. I'm not a 9-5 kind of girl.

So that said, I've spent three years chatting with Fire and Emergency workers, and inevitably the conversation will turn to me..."So, Mary Ellen, what department do you volunteer with?" --cue the discomfort---"Well, actually, I'm not a firefighter; I haven't signed up to volunteer yet"---cue the blank stares and open mouths--"Well what the hell are you waiting for?" which is usually followed by..."You know, life isn't a dress rehearsal".

After three years I'd had enough of feeling like a sham. I'm a strong girl, I run, I lift weights, I eat right and am focused on fitness and safety. I have no good reason not to walk the walk. I'm marginally limited for the short-term as a result of some reasonably major surgery I had about five weeks ago--I'm not supposed to lift anything heavier than 15 pounds for another five weeks. THAT was ever going to my job for one day and try and avoid hauling boxes of materials around the office. But by the time I'm cleared for all physical activity, that should dovetail with taking FF 1.

So now, I'm putting my money where my mouth is, and have a meeting tomorrow night with the chief at my local department to officially get the ball rolling. If all goes well, I may have my interview on January 7 (and being the type A+ anal-retentive perfectionist that I am, of course I'm already nervous) and then the saga will begin.
Stay tuned...this might get interesting...