July 15, 1991, I reported to Cobb County Fire Station 4 on Oakdale Road at about 0645 for my first shift. We didn’t change shifts until 0730 but, in those days, the new guy was expected to be early. Significantly early if they wanted to start off on the right foot. And I desperately did.
As I drove by the station I noticed a white shirt standing outside having a smoke. I parked in the parking lot on the opposite side of the firehouse. Nervously and quietly I walked through the bay since the crew was still in the rack.
I stuck my head around the corner, not knowing the man’s rank yet. As he turned I noticed the oak leaves on his collar. It was Major Tom Bassnett, we called our battalion chiefs majors back then.
I was in street clothes since I hadn’t gotten a uniform order yet. “Good morning Chief! I’m Bryan Reid. This is my first shift and I’m assigned here.”
Looking me up and down he replied gruffly “What the hell did they send you here for?”
That didn’t go well I thought. Awkward silence. Where do I go from here? I could apologize, but for what? I sure wasn’t about to snap back at a battalion chief, I knew that much. I needed to strike a wise balance here…As humbly as I could say it; “Chief, don’t kill the messenger…” another awkward pause “Do you think I could get some coffee?”
One of the rare moments in my life when I may have actually said the right thing, at the right time, and in the right way. Chief Bassnett did a 180. “Where are my manners? Sure! Come on into the kitchen”
Coffee! You saved me again.
What does this article have to do with “Bunns”? Everything when you’re talking about coffee makers. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Those dang Bunn coffee makers are really pretty amazing. There is no telling how long that coffee maker had already been siting on the counter in old station 4’s kitchen when I had my first cup of Cobb County coffee in 1991 and I bet that same coffee maker is sitting on the counter at the new station 4 right now.
This short piece is a tribute to what I consider the most reliable, and at the same time, one of the most important pieces of equipment in the firehouse. The coffee maker. These things are tanks! They never break down and they never need maintenance! If you ever had one that needed to be worked on I’ll bet some probie poured a can of soup through it!
Think about it. If you have a Bunn coffee maker in your station, and I bet most of you do, have you ever had to do anything to it besides keep it clean? Have you ever had to replace one? I’m sure some have but I guarantee replacements are few and far between!
I said they were important too. You scoff? What morning tie in between crews hasn’t either centered around, if not the coffee maker itself, the coffee that came out of it? What about those shifts where you got up a few times after midnight and about 0430 or 0500 you just threw up your hands and made coffee instead of going back to bed? Those duties are just routine for the station coffee maker but what would we have done without coffee? For us old guys it wouldn’t be the same having a Monster or Rock Star before the sun came up and we dang sure weren’t going to drink hot tea!
Here are a few specific times the old Bunn really made a difference for me though…
In 2001 I was a new lieutenant at Station #14 Eric Werl and Sean Cook had passed the engineer’s written exam. I bet we pumped 100 scenarios on 14’s ramp that February helping them get ready. Cold? Yes, but it was stinking raining too and Eric had rigged a makeshift tent with a salvage cover from his truck to Engine 14’s pump panel.
I’d put one of them through a pump evolution, blow into my hands, run inside, get another cup off coffee, pour a pack of hot chocolate into it and head back outside. That was before I’d ever heard of a mocha.
We also have gotten some snow the past few years here in metro Atlanta. A half inch, if it sticks to the roads, can shut us down. But we’ve been getting 2 inches plus a couple or three times a year for the last decade. The last “dusting” the weatherman said we “might” get turned out to be 8 inches of “dust”!
I guess it’s just in the cards. Year in and year out B-Shift works the vast majority of the holidays so fate must have decreed we get the snow as well. Personally, after cutting trees out of the road, and investigating downed power lines all night the first place I headed was to that faithful Bunn when we finally got to go back in service.
But I guess I’ve gotten to know and appreciate those old coffee makers the most the last two years of my career. I transferred to Station 25 for a number of reasons; closer to home, closer to the kid’s school, and yes, a lighter call volume. I didn’t get to sleep nearly as much as I thought I was going to at 25 but we did get to sleep fairly regularly. On those mornings when my alarm would wake me up at 0500, undisturbed 7 or 8 hours after I crashed, I’d get up and go straight to old faithful. I like my coffee pretty strong so I put double the scoops in the basket. Get the coffee brewing, head to the restroom, brush the teeth, throw some water on my face…now I’m ready…and by now I can smell it!
Those last two hours of the shift at Station 25 will be something I’ll remember fondly after I retire. Having my first couple of cups of coffee in the bay during cool weather, fan blowing, half the lights out, everything quiet, contemplating the day and hoping the tones didn’t drop before 0700.
If everything was as faithful and dependable as those old Bunn coffee makers life sure would be better.