- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002

This goes out to all potential employers in Washington, the capital of hot air, lobbyists, spin doctors and talking heads.

I am someone, too: a best-selling novelist who attended Oxford back in the day.

I know the difference between cold fusion and Doug Hill's super-duper Doppler radar. I am well-versed in Zen, karma and the martial arts. I once studied alongside Miss Cleo at Harvard.

I also have been a police officer, firefighter, pediatrician and gym rat. I have been a sensitivity-training guru, an anger-management counselor, and once, in a rare moment of activism, I adopted a tree in the neighborhood.

I am, in other words, overqualified for most available jobs in the area. In fact, I can be whatever you need me to be. References, degrees and employment history will be furnished upon request. I can be a singer, musician and actor. However, I refuse to be a dancer. I cannot tell a lie, at least that one anyway.

I mention all this only because three of D.C. Fire Chief Ronnie Few's assistants are having a curious time with their professional memories. Two of them claim to have attended Dillard University in New Orleans, which comes as news to school officials there.

Coincidentally, I also was a student at Dillard at the same time as two of Chief Few's assistants. It just so happens the three of us used to hang out together, chew the fat, ride the trolley around town and have a good time on Bourbon Street.

I was enrolled in Dillard's Fire Management Program, although school officials insist they have no record of such a program. I hate to say this, but they really should keep better records at Dillard. They must have some INS in them. They should be embarrassed.

There is a larger issue here, which is: You see a fire. You put it out. It is that simple.

In Dillard's Fire Management Program, one of the nation's best, we learned you should not play with matches.

Not only that, we learned you should not smoke while attempting to pour gasoline into a lawnmower. If you are able to start the lawnmower, you should not stick your hand underneath it to check on the sharpness of the blades.

That will end a career in firefighting quicker than Smokey the Bear can say, "Only you can prevent forest fires."

At Dillard, the instructors explained the more advanced stuff as well, such as how to respond to a wastebasket that is in flames.

You should not grab a bucket of water. Instead, you should raise the wastebasket to chest level and then press your body against the open end.

Remember, fire needs oxygen to grow. As long as your body can withstand the discomfort, you will be able to extinguish the fire in short order.

That is a good reason to wear fire-retardant clothes around all wastebaskets, those at home and at the office. As the instructors at Dillard used to say and they were the best you just never know.

By the way, one of Chief Few's assistants was the star quarterback at Dillard, leading the football team to an Orange Bowl appearance in 1993 or thereabouts.

He does not like to discuss his exploits on the gridiron. He is modest, in that ex-athlete way. He was drafted in the first round by the New Orleans Saints, but injured his throwing arm while retrieving a cat from the roof of a home.

Life is funny like that. One door closes, another opens. The NFL's loss was Washington's gain.

Those were the good old days at Dillard, and I look back on them with great fondness.

Unfortunately, I lost touch with Chief Few's assistants after that. I went to Beijing to publicize the cause of the Dalai Lama, and they pursued their careers in firefighting. You know how it goes.

Still, it is always nice to learn how old classmates are doing, which reminds me: We should be coming up on our 10-year college reunion soon.

It will be fun to get back to Dillard and meet up again with Chief Few's assistants. We have a lot of catching up to do.

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