An Open Letter to an Off Duty Firefighter

Dear Off Duty Firefighter,

Maybe you had a rough shift yesterday. Maybe you battled the blaze to end all blazes. Maybe you had one of those shift nights where sleep simply didn’t happen. A call here, a false alarm there or the snoring of a fellow firefighter a few bunks over. It happens. Somedays you’re going to wake up the morning after a full 24 hour shift and you’re going to feel grumpy.

Maybe you went home and your wife left dishes in the sink. Maybe your kids gave you attitude. Maybe you asked a friend, a neighbor, your spouse or your child to mow the grass yesterday and they didn’t, leaving it to you today and in jungle like proportions. Maybe you just wanted some peace and quiet but your wife had friends over for Friday morning muffins. Maybe you don’t have a family and that’s reason enough.

Maybe there are a thousand other reasons that you were grumpy as you sat at that restaurant today. Maybe you got bad news from a loved one. Maybe someone is sick. Maybe someone even died. I hope not. We’ve been through three family deaths this year and I know how hard it is. Maybe you really have a legitimate, honest-to-goodness reason for being grumpy today. But let me tell you something: you need to apologize to that waitress.

It was a busy lunch hour. I was hungry, too. In fact, my off duty firefighter husband was starving, having run around all morning doing errands and other stuff that he does on an off shift day. When he gets hungry, he gets kind of grumpy. And we had to wait for our waitress to even take our drink orders. So he was feeling it; he made a joke about wearing his grumpypants. Or shorts as it’s so hot outside.


But do you know what he didn’t do? He didn’t snap at the waitress. I didn’t either even though I was desperate for an iced tea. All she was trying to do was ask you if your food was good and if you needed anything else. I understand that waiters have an uncanny ability to show up at the table right as you have taken the biggest possible bite of your food. I normally have to nod and force a smile through a full mouth or mumble something despite the rule that I grew up with, “Never talk with food in your mouth.” We had other rules, too. Something about not being a total buttface to those who wait on you in restaurants was high up on the list. There was absolutely no reason for you to say, “Just let me chew.”

My eyes almost bugged out of my head. I thought about you for the rest of my meal. When I saw you walk to your truck with a firefighter union sticker, I wanted to bust you in the kneecap. Politely. I’d wait for you to chew. I know you’ve had people say some stupid things to you about your job as a firefighter. You’ve endured calls with people that you would not have otherwise associated. You’ve dealt with the bureaucracy that accompanies the fire life. So why on Earth would you choose to be nasty to someone else who was merely doing their job? You wouldn’t appreciate it if you were putting out a fire and someone came up to you and started saying nasty things. Why would you do it to someone else?

No, I’m not really holding you to a higher standard. I expect that everyone should treat people in food service with respect. I mean, how do you know she didn’t spit in the milkshake that she brought you later. Or worse. I likely would have written this post even if you were some Joe Schmoe as I’m tired of people treating other people so poorly. Maybe you’re not a firefighter. Maybe it was your dad’s truck. I hope he reads this post and wallops you upside the head because I know he taught you better.


PS – I know that many firefighters have mustaches since it’s the only facial hair that they can have but, trust me, it wasn’t working for you.


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13 Replies to “An Open Letter to an Off Duty Firefighter”

  1. Oh man…..yes.

    And this: “PS – I know that many firefighters have mustaches since it’s the only facial hair that they can have but, trust me, it wasn’t working for you.” HILARIOUS!!

  2. WoW!! Well said. It doesn’t matter if he was a firefighter or a street sweeper, etc……In the words of Phoenix Fire Chief (retired)

  3. BE NICE! We have placed on this earth as public safety officers to make someone’s day better, because, usually, when someone calls us, they’re having a bad day. We don’t need to make it worse. That goes when we’re off duty as well. Jenna, you should submit this as an op/ed to your newspaper.

    p.s. oops, hit the wrong button.

  4. LOVE IT! As a former waitress myself, I have many, many times wished that EVERYONE felt the same as you. The rudeness of some patrons made for several very long and unpleasant shifts for me. So glad you posted this!

  5. Well said. Being a waitress is a crappy exhausting strenous job for little pay & even less respect. There is never any excuse for being rude, regardless of how bad your day has been or even how bad the service might be. I know my momma would have “walloped me upside the head” for saying that.
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..Personalized Crayon Shadowbox Teacher Gift =-.

  6. I love this post. Can you please post it on the door where I waitress? We’re all just trying to do our best.

  7. I think EVERYONE should have to 1) work retail, 2) wait tables and 3) do customer service sometime in their life!!! I think it would really change the way people behave in this world. No one is someone else’s punching bag.

  8. AH-MAZING! I stumbled upon your blog today for the first time. My father is a professional firefighter so I can certainly relate. I enjoyed this open letter! Very, very well said. Oh…and I love the little slap of a p.s.
    .-= Erika´s last blog ..A YEAR OF MARRIAGE….Part One =-.

  9. Dear Grumpy Commenter who Called me a Cuss Word and Thus Didn’t Have His Comment Approved;

    Have a lovely day. :)


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