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My friend the plumber came to my house the other day. I call him my friend because he always seems to be able to handle the emergencies my family throws at him. The funny part of it all is that he has this magic truck, or it seems magic because he always seems to have the proper tool, pipe or part to do the job. I once asked him how he came to have such a well-equipped vehicle.
The plumber's story was as simple as it was educational. He explained to me that he had done his apprenticeship with an old-time plumber who always tried to save a buck. If there was a corner to be cut, this old miser was there to cut it. The problem was that these cost-cutting measures came at a price. That price usually involved unhappy customers, sudden cost overruns and numerous unnecessary trips to the supply house. These all took time and, as we know, time is money.
On many occasions, the lack of something so simple as a roll of duct tape or an adjustable wrench created problems. The young apprentice soon tired of this miserly method of operating. He swore that when the time came to hang out his own shingle as a plumber, he would profit from that old-timer's errors.
This young plumber began planning how he would work when he went out on his own, and how he would equip his vehicle. He was well aware of the fact that this project would cost money, a commodity which was, at the time, in short supply. He decided that he would create a master list of what he needed. He costed out the list and then prioritized it. Even though he did not yet have a vehicle suitable to carry things, he began to gather his inventory about him.
As he approached the end of his apprenticeship, he noted that he now had a sizeable cache of tools. He then moved to the next level of planning. Harking back to the example of the penurious old plumber and his continual lack of parts and pipe, he knew he wanted to do things better. He began to compile a list of those things which were used to get the job done - you know, fittings, elbows, gas for the torch, etc. And he started to sketch out his dream truck.
On that happy day when he completed his apprenticeship and was able to step away from the old-time plumber, he took the man out to lunch. His message was couched in a completely positive manner. He thanked the man for all of the valuable lessons he had learned, and vowed to be the best plumber which his skills allowed. The old guy never knew the negatives.
Of course, the young plumber couldn't afford the vehicle of his dreams right away. However, he did have a nice set of tools to carry in the work box on the old pickup he was able to afford. And he had a reservoir of dreams and talent.
Over time, this young lad worked extremely hard to be the best that he could be. Many times, he took a slight salary from the business and plowed the balance of the money back into tools, parts or the savings account for his dream truck. His wife answered the phone at home, booked the jobs and kept the books for the business. They scrimped and saved, for they had a goal.
It was shortly before his second child was born that he was able to buy that dream truck I spoke of earlier. It was his shop on wheels, and his home away from home. Rare was the time that he did not have what he needed on that vehicle. And to help out during cold weather, he had a plow for attachment to the front, just in case the chance came to pick up some spare change. This plumber is doing quite well today.
After reading this far, you might be wondering just what in the world this story has to do with the fire service. The answer is as simple as it is obvious. To do the job of firefighting, certain tools and talents are necessary. These are well known to us all.
The problem comes from the fact that many of our public officials seem to think that they come from the "Fire Fairy," a mythical creature who has a magic tree in her backyard. Two things grow on that tree: