Beware the Curse of the Promise Merchant

Sadly we are members of a fire service which has been fractured a thousand times over. We have moved in a myriad of directions while following a number of local promise merchants.


Mine has been an active life lately. Many are the tasks which must be accomplished if I am to set off on my long-anticipated road trip next month. I have created a series of checklists and am diligently proceeding to check of the requisite number of tasks which I accomplish each day. I am a bit behind schedule, but I am working hard to pull even. I have made that promise to myself. Maybe I will make it and maybe I won't, but it is my intention to try.

It is also my goal to leave for my 2006 FIRE Act Road Trip on Thursday July 6. One does not make a trip like this by themselves. The funding for my trip is coming together thanks to the hard work and generosity of a wide number of people and businesses. In addition, I have spent the past few days booking all of my hotel rooms and finalizing the trip itinerary. Further, my buddy Jack Peltier from Marlborough, Massachusetts will be making the trip with me.

Along the way I will have a place to stay because a number of really special fire departments have stepped forward to take care of a night's stay here and there. I will create a thank you list over the course of the next couple of months and will work hard to insure that no one's name is left off of that list. I have made this promise to myself and have every intention of fulfilling it. Of course I just hope I do not miss anyone.

I am well aware of the fact that I need to make and keep promises. That is just the way I am. I grew up in an environment where a man's word was expected to be his bond. Maybe you are old enough to remember such a time when contracts were only needed for the really big things in life like buying a house or financing a car. I know I remember such things.

Having made that statement I want you to know that this article is about another sort of person. The person to whom I make reference is of the sort for whom a promise is just a few more words to utter when they think the time is right. People like this make promises with neither the ability nor intent to make good on them. They are not very reticent and forthcoming.

Given the number of times that some of you have asked me whether I was hiding in a closet within your fire station, I am starting to wonder how I can hit some many nails on the head. Trust me when I say that I have not hidden in your closet or tape recorded your conversations. I just write about those things within my environment which serve as periodic detractors; as speed bumps or roadblocks on the path of life.

Mine is not a special life. However, I do take a lot of notes. It has been my lot in life to periodically encounter people who seem never to have all of the details right in their lives. These folks are nice enough people, but always seem to be coming up a day late and a dollar short when it comes time to getting down to business. Perhaps you too have encountered these people. I have coined a new name for them. They are the "promise merchants."

In an earlier column I wrote of the dangers involved in associating with people whose sole function in life is taking up space. If my emails are any indication, my words touched a responsive chord with a great many of you. In this case I make reference to another sort of empty suit. These are the people who will say whatever they believe to be popular at a given moment; what ever they think other people want to hear. They are all about glitz with an almost total lack of substance.

Before I go any further, let me assure you that I can sometimes be as bad as the next person when it comes to going off half-cocked in pursuit of a desirable goal. However, as I have aged, I have developed a mechanism for guarding against such unbridled and un-called-for optimism. I have developed a close circle of friends who can sense when I am about to go off the deep end.

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