Too Much of a Good Thing

I like oatmeal.  I especially like oatmeal with brown sugar.  The problem with brown sugar, however (other than the calories) is that it lumps up.  So on days like today when even though it is sunny and 70 degrees here on Hilton Head Island, I made myself a nice bowl of oatmeal for lunch and began to add the brown sugar.  Too lazy to grab a spoon to dole out some brown sugar, I tipped the bag up, and a lump the size of a Volkswagen dropped into my bowl.

Inspired, and having my laptop open in front of me when it occurred, I shook off the cobwebs and began to write.

A plethora, to those of you who care about such things, is not simply a large amount of something, but an amount so large it becomes undesirable.  And in Detroit, Michigan, for those of you in the fire service, they seem to have a plethora of fires.  A few fires every now and then, I suppose, is okay, because while we all got into this career for the huge salaries and the luxury box at the local stadium (note my tongue planted firmly in cheek), really, the challenge of fighting fires is not far away from the top of that list.  It is battle against an enemy that nobody disputes is evil and therefore, it is honorable no matter what your creed, country, or calling.

But in Detroit, apparently, this plethora of fires has lent to a number of interesting decisions that cause me to question judgment, one of which is the "visiting firefighter" idea.  Now while I consider taking people who wish to learn more about fighting fires fight them as a means of gaining experience, and I consider the notion that paying to have that experience is something some people consider a money-making venture, my secretly logical side thinks this is a bad idea.  The main reason I think it is a bad idea, however, is not for any other reason than that while fighting fires in this context should be meant to be educational, I am fully aware that this is instead in more than a few cases, profiting from those who can't get enough fire in their own neighborhoods.  This "tourist firefighting" has some other drawbacks as well, like when you put the tourists on a roof and the roof collapses under them.  And they aren't wearing proper PPE.  And there's the question of, do you put people you have only known for a few minutes in the most dangerous place of the fireground?  Judgment, it seems, is lacking here.

I won't even go to the idea that this is the same city that is unable to keep companies open and has essentially gotten rid of great firefighters with years of experience.  That all can be argued on its own merits.  No, I am concerned that there are "leaders" in the DFD who aren't focused on the real issues- serving Mrs. Smith – and are rather just using questionable logic to run this organization.

Let's discuss the recent disciplinary action being rendered for a DFD paramedic, who is described by friends as being "saintly", and who is undergoing this action because he exercised judgment to give a cold, shivering, underdressed human being a blanket.  A blanket that, frankly, wasn't even paid for by the City of Detroit.

I thought that the only department who could pull off a judgment call that I can't find any redeeming alternate viewpoint for was the DCFEMS.  I mean, here's the department who has a prostitution ring running out of a firehouse getting trumped by a department whose leaders are worried that giving a homeless man a blanket will result in the downfall of mankind.  I'm afraid I am seriously struggling with this kind of logic.

I must, in all good conscience, apologize to those members of both departments, and I would guess by my knowing a few of them to be largely in the majority, for the efforts of a few to cause people around the nation to just scratch their heads and wonder WTF is going on.  I am not some lunatic who believes that the actions of a few define the motives of the many and my heart really does go out to the dedicated, well-intentioned, and competent members of the DFD and the DCFEMS (although my fingers keep wanting to type DCFD) who have to endure these idiots.  But the perception is reality and when people make these kinds of judgment calls, the reality is that the public sees the entire organization as being flawed.

I don't have all the answers, but I can see serious problems as well as the next guy.  When your organization has individuals who are so lacking in judgment that they make these kinds of decisions, how can they be trusted to make the really hard decisions, like how to manage a desperately shrinking budget in times where every aspect of our existence is being questioned?

Good judgment, I'm afraid, is something we can never have too much of.  There are things that even the most materialistic and nihilistic individuals would eventually have to concede there can be too much of, but when it comes down to it, there are a number  of things you just can't get enough of, like love, peace, compassion, justice, and mercy.  And judgment really does fall into those ranks as well.

At the risk of stating the obvious, what has to happen in these communities aside from a total overhaul from the top to the bottom and starting over, to create a culture where good judgment is prized and sought?  Strive for real leadership and remove the barriers to those who exercise good judgment.  Let people serve and do the right things.  If you can't see that we are slipping away from that ideal, then you probably have no reason to stay in this business.

  • Ray McCormack

    And to think if you just liked your oatmeal plain there would be no blog today. You’re still thinking clearly even with the sugar, maybe some of these leaders need to start a better judgement diet.

  • Michael “Mick” Mayers

    Looking at my belly, I probably need to stay away from the sugar.  But I thank you for your observation and am humbled to have a great writer and educator like yourself comenting on FHZ.  And yes, they need to work on that.  Thanks for reading!


  • Ben Fleagle

    In my case, the suprise on my face as the ball of sugar hits the bowl only barely erases the look of consternation previously there due to the size of "one serving"…Cripes, the sugar absorbs the limited moisture and returns the oatmeal to the state of dry goods!  Anyway, I thought your words well spoken. 

  • Michael “Mick” Mayers

    Thanks for the comment.  I guess if the big sugar ball comes out all at once, that IS one serving.


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Michael "Mick" Mayers

Deputy Fire Chief - Operations Division for Hilton Head Island (SC) Fire Rescue and an Emergency Response Coordinator with the United States Department of Health and Human Services  National Disaster Medical System Incident Response Coordination Team.
Recent Posts
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Chief, appreciated in your response to Geoff that you work for the FFs. Believe if more Chiefs lived that philosophy our fire services would be bastions of honor, ethics, and human potential.
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Although I am affiliated or employed by certain entities, I in no way speak in this forum or others on behalf of those entities unless I have specifically stated such. Any implication otherwise is doing so contrary to my agreements with those entities. The result is that the observations and opinions by myself or on behalf of Firehouse Zen are not sanctioned by any other entity other than Graffiti Train Sherpa Publications and are protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America.

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