No matter what your job you are going to get people to complain about something you do. When you drive a big fire engine the complaints seem to get sillier. The number of complaints and the efforts to prevent them would surprise a lot of people.
The popular complaint these days seems to be that firefighters have been seen buying groceries while on duty. Some people really get wound up about this one. I have actually seen a firefighter get criticized for the way he was pushing a shopping cart. The complainer didn’t like that the firefighter was kind of hunched over on the handle of the cart instead of standing at attention as he walked through the store. It is pretty common that people come up to the cart and look at what we are buying, and comment on what they see in the cart. If it happens to be the day that we splurge a little there is always that person that comment that we make too much money. Most people don’t understand we pay for our own food.
If it’s not the shopping that gets residents worked up there is always those people that have a problem with the fire station having something better than they have at their house. We have had people complain that we had too nice of a grill at the station. That person didn’t know that the firefighters paid for that grill with their own money. To resolve the problem of residents seeing us grill, a fence was put in to give a little privacy to the patio area. The big screen TV that we all pitch in for gets just as much criticism. For some reason people can have that TV at home but at the fire station they think we should have an old hand me down black and white set.
I handled a complaint one time from a motorist that called to complain about the fire engine that blew the air horn at him. I was aware of the situation because I was the one that blew the horn. This driver called and complained because they blew the air horn at him when he pulled out in front of the engine going on a call. He said he had plenty of room when he pulled out in front of the engine and we should have slowed down. Instead of arguing I just told him I would talk to the driver. I of course did talk with the driver, and let him know about the silly complaint.
After dinner on an ice evening it was customary for everyone to hang out in front of the station, most would fire up a cigar. It was a good time for visiting and catching up on everyone’s family stories and life in general. We solved many of the worlds problems out there. That was until someone complained that we were standing out there wearing t-shirts. That complaint led to rules about wearing button up shirts anytime we were outside the station.
Most of these complaints come from people that don’t understand our job, to be blunt they just seem like they have a problem seeing people have fun at work. The best way to handle the complaints is through education. I don’t mean having a class for disgruntled citizens. When you do get an opportunity to interact with one of these complainers try and kill them with kindness. Instead of tell them to get away from your groceries ask if they would like to pitch in for dinner and stop by the station. On those station tours explain to all those kids and the parents that bring them how our schedule works. Once people know what is behind the scenes they really appreciate what we do and the time we spend way from our families.