When you wear a uniform you are invisible… as an individual. You would think that the opposite is true; that you are more visible However, you are no longer an individual because you now represent something bigger than yourself. It can be both good and bad. As a firefighter I’ve experienced both.
I’ve enjoyed free coffee and burritos while out in uniform. This is good. I always tip the amount I would have spent anyway because I never plan on getting anything for free. I also recognize that when this happens no one is really thanking me as an individual. They are thanking me as the person I represent while on the job as a firefighter. Trust me. I go to the same places out of uniform and no one recognizes me. I wouldn’t dare expect a free burrito because that is tacky and burritos are always delicious.
Cops wave at firefighters and we wave back. This is good. Cops and firefighters are tight for good reason. You never know when you’ll need a police officer to save your ass. I know only a handful of officers by name, but many more so by sight. Sometimes I’m walking my dog in the morning and I forget that I’m not in uniform. Then I am that goofy gal just waving at cops. What a loser.
You are also part of a team while wearing the uniform. This is good and bad. You are somehow responsible for everyone you are with or everyone who has ever been a part of your department since forever. That one guy who wronged someone else? You’ll hear about it and there is hardly ever a polite way to bow out of conversation. The time someone was cut off by a fire truck…? you’ll hear about that too. But you also hear about Mrs. Johnson’s neighbor who helped her clean out the gutters every spring and fall too. She asks “Do you know him?” Probably not as that was a different city or town, but again there is no way to disengage.
All in all I am happy to wear a uniform to work. Most times I feel proud of the organization I represent. It also makes dressing for work easy and thoughtless. But I never forget the heavy responsibility that comes with the uniform when I leave the house and I know that I am never invisible.