Jack is about my age. I had his two wonderful kids in school a few years ago. He was a firefighter for 23 years. He's employed by our high school now as director of in-school suspension. He's making $7-8 an hour and couldn't be happier while dealing with some of our less-than-stellar urchins on a daily basis. Longtime firefighters, I think, have a no-nonsense approach to life in general. Their own lives, in many cases, depended on good judgement and following rules. Jack demands that of the kids he supervises. He's called "director," but in actuality, he's "it." In one room, it's Jack and: the smokers, the insubordinates, the truants, the fighters, the pass-forgers,..et al.I asked him one day about the coats and ties he seems to wear 3 days a week. He laughed, saying he was making up for all those years wearing heavy, smoky firefighter garb and not being able to go to church half the time to wear his "good stuff," which he says he's just now getting around to wearing. He says a lot of it just looks new and winks. He gets teased a lot because some of his sartorial splendor doesn't seem commensurate with the "dirty" job he does. He enjoys this.How did Jack catch FIRE? In true Millionnaire Next Door fashion, he took a calculated risk a few years before he R'd from the fire dept. He opened a video store and caught the VCR-tape rental craze just right. This scared him, he said, but once he thought the trend would become a mainstay, he plunged. Nothing big, but he was only the 2nd video rental outlet in our town of 32,000. It was a true Mom 'n Pop. He did this for several years, R'ing from firefighting right on schedule with his full pension and health insurance.Then, the inevitable happened. Blockbuster and two other national chains came to "sniff." They liked the smell they caught. Jack had his ear to the ground. Two of them opened. Jack's trade slacked. He put in an ice cream fountain which helped carry him for a while. Then B-buster bought a prime piece of ground near the mall. The Grim Reaper of Video spoke to Jack. Unfortunately, the Reaper spoke at about the same time that our town's main drag was going to be widened from 2 to 4 lanes. Many flailing businesses flailed their last. Jack's "down time" during construction was the end of him. He closed, but....he kept his small store and grounds. Once the 4 lanes were completed, traffic would really be heavy...someone might be interested.The widening project, due to good weather, finished well in advance of the anticipated completiion date. Century 21 liked the location and came calling. In fact, several businesses wanting exposure to the constant heavy traffic banged his door. Century 21 won what Jack called "a bidding war" and razed the building. I don't know Jack well enough to ask him what he got, but he himself volunteered, "I did very well." His money is "in the banks." He said he "feels better" not exceeding FDIC coverage at any one bank. Umm Hmm. He's the "fireman who caught FIRE," you might say, caught in a "blaze" he admits he couldn't foresee just a few short years ago. Some risk, some elbow grease, and some foresight allow him to come to a job a lot of us wouldn't have up our whazoos: a job he loves. At least I can't fall through a roof here," he jokes. --241 .
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