By Rick Fromm
By Rick Fromm

     I awoke Tuesday morning in a bit of a funk – make that stressed out – because Tuesdays are when I write this column and when I don’t have a solid “idea,” it can make me a tad anxious. I don’t get catatonic – or at least I haven’t yet – but there are times when it takes awhile to suck it up, put one foot in front of the other, quit whining and get on with it.

As I sat on the edge of the bed trying to figure out what I was going to write about, it suddenly hit me – full force. Here I was feeling sorry for myself over basically nothing, when people in Orlando, Fla. were grief-stricken to the core after a mad man entered a nightclub and gunned down over 100 people in cold blood. Forty-nine of those innocent victims died for no apparent reason, while 53 were rushed to nearby hospitals.

How self-centered could I be? While I was bemoaning my fate as a journalist, 1,350 miles away mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, significant others and everyone else directly affected by this horrific tragedy were trying to deal with the fact their loved ones had been murdered because they made the “mistake” of going dancing at a nightclub.

“For God’s sake Rick, get a grip,” I told myself. “Your insignificant problem pales in comparison to what those people are going through.” 

I beg their forgiveness and pray they will somehow get through it and, eventually, move on with their lives. But how can they? How could any of us? They’ll remember the events of Sunday morning, June 12, every day for the rest of their lives.

It brings to mind a profound statement my philosophical Greek mother would say many times throughout my life: “The lucky die just once, the unlucky die a little every day.” Truer words were never spoken.

Unfortunately, however, the fact that yet another incident such as this has occurred comes as no surprise to anyone. It’s happening all of the time at indiscriminate sites throughout America and the world, and has become so commonplace that our mindset is now “when and where will the next murderous rampage take place” (rather than if it will ensue.)

It seems rather hard to believe that in the year 2016, when we should be making progress as a “world community” to live in peace and harmony, just the opposite is happening. Instead of becoming more civilized as a society, violence and mayhem are now the order of the day and there doesn’t appear to be any way we can stop them.

No matter how many gun laws we pass, no matter how many walls we build, no matter how much we tighten our immigration standards, it’s going to happen again and again and again. Those who think otherwise are kidding themselves or are so overly optimistic they can’t realistically comprehend what’s actually going on.

It’s a sad state of affairs indeed, and no one has an answer about how to deal with it. I hate to sound so negative about things, but to ignore it would be folly. Face it, the world has descended into such a dark, evil place that we can no longer be assured of going to the movies and returning home alive. What have we become, and where are we headed?

Will someone come up with a solution that will totally turn things around and the bad guys will lay down their weapons and embrace love rather than hate? Not likely. Not today … not tomorrow.

So what do we do to cope with this ever-growing culture of death and destruction just because someone thinks differently than us? Good question, but we all know there’s no answer. Is this sad state of affairs just a way of life for the world’s population nowadays and into the future? Based on recent facts, the answer to that question seems to be “yes.” In other words, it is what it is so you better get used to it.

Do I have any suggestions that might help keep you and your family alive? No. Sure wish I did. Do Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have the solution? Doubtful.

Until someone comes up with a way out of this mess, I’d be on my toes at all times … especially if you go someplace where large crowds gather (or Chicago).

Does this mean the terrorists are winning? It could sure be interpreted that way, but what other choices do we have? I want to stay alive and keep my loved ones safe. If that means altering the way I live, then so be it. It’s better than having your brains blown out for no reason at all.

Onward though the fog.

Put out the fire

The squabble between the Decorah firefighters and the city – more specifically City Manager Chad Bird – over a memo sent to the firefighters from Bird expressing concern about overtime pay for the department’s three full-time engineers is a legitimate one, but not one that can’t be resolved.

While it’s a given that sending “memos” is not the best form of communication, Bird -- whose job is to oversee the budgets of all city departments -- felt he had no choice after meeting personally with Fire Chief Mike Ashbacher and following that up with a discussion with the mayor, the personnel committee chair, Ashbacher and others after additional overtime was accrued.

The memo in question was a response to those meetings, and although it was not going to be “officially” brought up to the Council, the volunteer firefighters decided to appeal Bird’s decision and addressed the Council directly about the issue June 6.

In the memo, Bird stated that when it’s not possible to avoid overtime or go over the budget for “relief drivers,” the driver’s shift should go unstaffed and the Decorah dispatch center would answer incoming calls to the Fire Department. Volunteer firefighters also would be dispatched by the dispatch center as needed.

“Any employee failing to follow the above outline criteria will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination,” the memo stated.

Naturally, Bird’s edict did not sit too well with the firefighters and that’s why they appealed it to the Council.

Eric Sovern, president of the Volunteer Firefighters Association, told the Council the proposed policy forbidding overtime pay for the full-time engineers would delay firefighters’ response time – and no one wants that.

Sovern said the memo does not take into account what actually occurs when the fire department is called to an emergency. The department consists of volunteers, in addition to three, full-time paid engineers, who work individual 24-hour shifts, maintain the equipment, drive and operate “Engine 1” and page the volunteer firefighters to the station when needed.

“Should the page come when the station is unstaffed, we will still do our jobs as we always do, but our response time will be delayed further,” said Sovern. “Unlocking the doors, finding the address and plotting a route, opening the garage doors and starting trucks – these things seem like they wouldn’t take much time. And they don’t  -- any one of them. As an aggregate, however, we will be adding precious minutes to our response,” he said.

“The engineer on duty gets a vital jump on our response by being physically at the station when the call comes in.”

Is there a solution to the problem? There’s always a solution. The whole thing seems like a scheduling dilemma that can be worked out. I’m sure Bird and Ashbacher can accomplish that … they’re both intelligent men who want what’s best for the community.

They each have a job to do, and sometimes issues arise that have to be worked out by the parties concerned. Now that the dust has settled, the healing process can begin.

Perhaps there could be some leeway with regard to overtime when it comes to an agency such as the Fire Department which responds to emergencies.

Just a thought.