5 awkward things that happen when off-duty firefighters meet

Why are firefighters so weird when it comes to meeting other firefighters?


By Billy Galvin

There's that awkward moment when two off-duty firefighters meet for the first time, like two alpha wolves staring each other down, preparing to do battle under a harvest moon.

Two will enter, but only one will leave, because there can only be one. Seriously, why are firefighters so weird when it comes to meeting other firefighters? Here are a few of the strange meetings I have experienced and lived to tell about.

1. The nod

This happens when you haven‘t actually met, but maybe you‘re both wearing a shirt that says your department names. Eye contact has been initiated and we both have acknowledged the other's presence. That‘s when you‘ll witness the mutual nod. This usually goes great and with no hiccups, but there are, of course, those tools out there who don't return the nod.

Those guys are laying down a serious challenge for not only themselves but the department‘s name on their shirt. Actually, who knows if this no-nod-returning tool even works for the department. Who knows if he‘s even a firefighter, damn it. But if not, didn't someone give him some instructions with that shirt.

There's only one way to deal with a no-nodder and that‘s by covering your entire body in oil and pit fighting to the death in the parking lot (only kidding). But it is a serious offense. My good friend and coworker has been known to chase down a no-nodder and demand an explanation (again, only kidding).

2. Mr. perfect

There are those meetings that are just awesome, like you and this other firefighter just click. You like all the same stuff and all the same people — it‘s a match made in heaven. You‘re now officially involved in a firefighter bromance.

Just make sure it's just a bromance, if you know what I mean. Like it‘s cool if your firefighter bro asks you to grab a beer, but not cool if your firefighter bro asks you to go on a ski trip for the weekend. That‘s a major red flag right there — unless you're into that thing, and that's cool too.

 3. War story guy

This guy is my nightmare. He has been there, done that. He once saved the guy who made the save, if that makes sense. His pants are tailored to fit his giant balls and his courage is real because it's written in a tattoo on his arm. He is like the Dos Equis guy, but not interesting.

And once he has your ear, this piece of work ain't never gonna let it go. There's really only two ways out: fake a seizure or bite his nose off.

He‘s the reason why firefighter meetings are awkward. This guy sucks and so do the parents who raised him. Do everything in your power to avoid him. Look for frosted tips and black helmet shirts — these are usually indicators.

4. Inconvenience guy

This guy acts like you just pissed on his leg because you introduced yourself to him. He stares at you with a blank look of disinterest. This puts you in a rough spot. Do you walk away or call the jerk out?

I think it's best to walk away. It‘s people like this that made me make a promise to myself years ago that I would never be like this guy. Even this guy knows he sucks and he‘s actually doing you a favor by sparing you the agony of having a conversation with a turd, you can‘t polish a turd without getting poo on your hand — wise words.

5. Recruiting guy

This guy is cool, but he's always trying to get you to jump departments. He acts like his city is so much better. “Hey man, when are you gonna cash in that medic license and come to the suburbs?”

“Nah, not for me. I love my city and my department and my work family,” I‘ll say. But what I want to say is, "Do I come into your house and say, 'it smells like cat piss in here?'" That‘s my city. Show a little respect. 

But in all fairness, this guy is harmless. I usually dress like a hobo, so he must think money's tight. In reality I just enjoy dressing like I'm somebody's great uncle.

I think it‘s important to try to see the best in each other — that even goes for the jerks of our trade. What other awkward moments can you add to this list? As always, be safe out there. 

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