I drove into work during a recent heat wave. For us in Los Angeles that means temperatures exceeding 100 degrees. I know Phoenix, you are not impressed. If Arizona were Iraq, well,you see, life can get worse.
As I drove up the freeway off-ramp, I saw a column of black smoke rising very near to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I wondered, at first, if it were a terrorist attack. I do not know if that is me as an American with 9/11 forever etched into my conscience or this job. I did not think it was a diesel motor starting up, like the kind that is in the train yards. I did not think it might be a car fire. My very first inclination was that it might be a bomb that just exploded. I did my best to fight off the feeling I might be immediately deployed to this black smoke rising the moment I clocked in.
Working myself into knots and becoming stressed in anticipation of what awaits me out in the field happens a lot. There are times I hear something on the radio and think it might be the nextcall I do. It could be anything in the range of an officer involved shooting, a major crime, or a giant pile up of cars. I have been to all of these situations often enough to know what they look like just by hearing about them.
Reaction is always a matter of degree. Screaming about your bad fries is not appropriate, although it does happen a lot. Hollering your lungs out to warn everyone of a fire or bomb, okay. You get a good citizen certificate from me.
I do my best to keep these odd events from taking over my sense of well-being. I have come to understand burn out; it can happen to anyone, anywhere. It has happened to a loved one. She had that one ‘last case’ and could take no more. The unsung heroes of my day are those in child protective services.
A column of smoke could derive from something nice like a BBQ. Maybe that could be my lesson. I will try to learn -- no, unlearn the trigger that sets my reaction to negative at firstblush. I sure as hell better or one day my head will explode in a column of smoke once the steam stops spewing from my ears.