Yesterday, instead of driving myself, I had a driver. I spent two one-and-a-half-hour stints with a man who considered his life events to be of unquestionable interest. I was the lucky listener of his step by step quadruple bypass reenactment, his recovery, the mean things he said under valium, the crazy things he said upon easing out of anesthesia, where they harvested the repair veins and finally what they served him for breakfast on the third day (ham and eggs and orange juice) all of which he ate. Included was the electrifying diagnosis scene where the medics hovered in a circle and hemmed and hawed over stents vs full by-pass.
This might have been interesting to me as a writer had I not heard the exact story when this same person had driven me before and had the event not been already seven years in the past. The recurring theme in his story was always the man’s triumph over the questionable things that would happen to a person less stubborn, less savvy. The system always gave way to his burly will.
As regular readers know, I can do a blog on the addictive qualities of barley. If I had quadruple by pass surgery and my heart was exposed (not metaphorically) outside my body, I would probably talk about it non-stop in a continuous loop whether anyone was around to hear or not. I would let people tune in and out and just stay as long as they wanted. In my version, however, the system would not only win over my will I would just hope they put the heart back in the right place. So who am I to question the three hour monologue interrupted only occasionally(and without warning) to reprimand other drivers?
When the story was done I got out my Kindle but it was not to be. “If you thought that was wild, wait till you hear this, “ said the man. He didn’t even look back to see if I was still there . I un-slumped myself and he launched into the saga of his son’s entry into the police force. It was a done deal (through connections) but then the call didn’t come and then it did come. The boy was in the probation group but because of a trick question he got out of the probation group immediately. The unifying theme in this family was always: the system gives way for them.
The most interesting things I heard came in monologue three.
If a cop gets hurt in the line of duty, he collects 3/4 of his pay.
If a cop gets killed in the line of duty, his widow only collects half his pay.
Civil Service employees are cleaning up in the pension department, double and sometimes triple dipping by gaming the system. And these “pension” fables become tales to be recounted with awe. You can be a firefighter and at the same time be an instructor and get a teacher’s pension as well as your firefighters pension and maybe even a military pension if you were in the reserve.
I also learned that when firefighters go in to a burning building they are already carrying one-hundred and fifty pounds of gear so their oxygen supply doesn't last more than 15 minutes. They approach a room on their stomach with a buddy hanging on to their foot and they feel around for anything soft on the floor. Sometimes it’s just the couch cushion.