A long time ago, in a lifetime far, far away…
Angie was a firefighter.
Some of you will be shocked by this. Others will be like, “yeah I can totally see you with a pickaxe in your hands. Or a chainsaw.”
If you couldn’t picture it before, now you can:
You’re welcome. 19-year-old Angie, take a bow.
As I’m sure you can imagine, training was particularly hellacious for firefighters. Particularly for us dudettes in southern Texas at the time I was going through this, about 20 years ago.
We had to do pushups with air packs on.
We had to run miles in 60 pounds of bunker gear in the Texas heat.
We even had search and rescue drills where they’d have us put on a blacked-out mask, lead us into a room, and have us find our way out without being able to see (this is how I found out I’m claustrophobic with masks that cover my face… fun times).
But one of the drills that I struggled with the most was called a “loose hose” drill.
They would tell us how important it is to keep hold of the hose when it’s fully charged. Each end of the hose has a heavy-duty metal coupling on it… and if it ever got loose and started dancing around like Looney Tunes, it could literally kill someone.
These hoses were anywhere from 2-4 inches in diameter, and the amount of water (and pressure) in them made them pretty difficult to handle, especially when you’re already in pounds and pounds of gear, and there’s water and smoke and slippery shit all around you.
So they beat it into our heads… do NOT get distracted. Do NOT drop the hose. Do NOT stop communicating with your team.
And of course, because this is real life… we needed to practice for a situation where someone did NOT listen and the hose got loose.
Because that’s reality… you plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Enter… the loose hose drill.
Because in an emergency situation, there wouldn’t always be someone at the truck to shut off the water, or you might not be able to see them and signal them… you had to learn how to catch a hose gone wild and shut it off yourself.
The instructors cut the coupling off a 2-inch hose. They connected the other end to the truck and opened it up (meaning they turned on the water, full blast).
That thing started writhing around like a snake trying to strike. And it looked just as terrifying as one too.
We’d have to start near the truck, belly crawling on the ground, our full body weight (in full gear) on the hose… until we got to the end of it. In real life, that’d be where you could grab the nozzle and shut off the flow.
In the drill, you just kept getting soaked until you made it to the end and showed them you had it under control.
I saw many, many, MANY people get thrown off that line. I got thrown off the line several times myself.
And it wasn’t until that moment, going through it, that I realized why they were so adamant about such a simple concept… holding the line.
This was the context.
This was the part that was easy to bury, unless you knew what it looked like, what it felt like to be terrified of this mindless thing thrashing around.
After a few tries and getting thoroughly saturated, I did manage to catch the hose.
And because I’m a smartass, instead of signaling, I pointed it at the instructor.
He yelled, “Dammit!” (his actual nickname for me), and shut it down.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because it’s easy to dismiss something that looks simple on the surface.
It’s obvious, right?
Washing your hands.
Sneezing into your elbow.
Maintaining a physical distance between you and others who could get sick (or get you sick).
And it’s easy to get frustrated in this situation where the context isn’t right in front of your face.
But this is a lot like that loose hose.
We got careless. We dropped the line.
And now we’re trying to catch it while it’s out there flailing around like one of those red inflatable dudes in front of a used car dealership.
This part SUCKS. I can tell you from experience.
We’re getting hosed, trying to catch this damn thing and shut it down. But if we keep on it, and keep lives of the people we love in mind… we’re gonna grab this thing and shut it the fuck off.
So don’t drop that line. It’s important.