By Les Karpluk
July 13, 2015, Prince Albert, Sask. - I recently had the opportunity to present “Influencing leadership through change” as the opening keynote session for the Maritime Fire Chiefs Association (MFCA) conference in Summerside, P.E.I.
This was my first trip to P.E.I. and everything that people told me about the province is correct. I’m a big believer that Saskatchewan people are very friendly and it didn’t take long to discover that people in P.E.I. are the same.
When Summerside firefighter Lindsay MacLeod picked me up at the Charlottetown airport I knew this was going to be a great experience. She welcomed me with her infectious smile and sincerely wanted to know how my flights were. As we chatted about P.E.I. during the 45-minute drive to Summerside, I could feel myself relaxing after my flight.
While I was having a late supper on the outside deck of the Silver Fox restaurant, I received a text from Canadian Fallen Firefighter Foundation (CFFF) director Wayne Jasper. At the British Columbia fire chiefs conference in Penticton in June, he promised to give me a Many to One challenge coin at the MFCA conference. His text invited me for a drink at the Silver Fox. Hey, wait a minute, I was at the Silver Fox! An audible laugh turned a couple of heads in my direction and I responded to Wayne to let him know that I was outside on the upper deck eating. We both had a good chuckle when he came to my table.
One of my enjoyments at conventions is walking the trade show and talking to vendors and building friendships with many of them. I’m a firm believer that the vendors are key stakeholders in the conference and I feel it’s our duty to visit them, chat with them and buy from them. Many chuckles are exchanged when you see familiar faces. When looking for the best places to eat, the vendors usually have this figured out and they can point you in the right direction to get your fresh lobster and oysters. Oh, how I love P.E.I.!
I never thought a three-hour time-zone change would make a difference, but let me assure you, it does! After a long day of flights I was tired and I went to bed around 10 p.m. The only problem was that I woke a few hours later, at around 1:30 a.m., when my internal clock was telling me, “Dude, it’s 10:30 p.m. at home and you actually went to bed at 7 p.m., therefore you are no longer tired.” Have you ever found that the harder you try to sleep, the more frustrated you become and you work yourself into a state of frustration? Yes, thought so, and that is exactly what happened to me on my first night.
So, what does any Prairie boy do when he can’t sleep? He picks up the phone and calls home at 1:30 a.m. and talks to his wife about the forest fires happening in Saskatchewan. Hey, remember it’s only 10:30 there and the late news isn’t even on yet.
On my second night I really thought my internal clock would figure itself out, but I was wrong. The same thing happened, only this time my frustration hit a new level because I wanted to have a good night’s sleep before my opening keynote presentation for the conference. I wish I could say I figured it out, but I actually got very little sleep before my keynote. When I was in the restaurant having breakfast feeling sorry for myself, my body was telling me it’s 4:45 a.m., “What the heck are you doing eating breakfast, and why are there so many cheerful people in the restaurant at this hour?”
The best part of having breakfast before giving my keynote was hearing a fire chief’s phone ring at the table next to me. I have never heard cows mooing as a ring tone and I was trying to figure out how to get his number so that I could get someone to call him during my keynote and use it as an icebreaker.
On my third night in Summerside, I woke up at 1:35 a.m. and yes, you guessed it, no more sleep; it was time to start writing my blog.
Many of my friends and family will want to know about P.E.I. and I will tell them how friendly the people are, how awesome the lobster is (and how I love it cold) and how great fresh oysters taste. I will also tell them how the firefighters, officers and chief officers whom I met have incredible passion for the fire service and want to make their departments better, the profession better and their communities better.
I will also tell them that I have now set a personal record for eating freshly shucked oysters. I stopped counting when I hit 50. What can I say, I couldn’t help myself.
Les Karpluk is the retired fire chief of the Prince Albert Fire Department in Saskatchewan. He is a graduate of the Lakeland College Bachelor of Business in Emergency Services program and Dalhousie University’s Fire Administration and Fire Service Leadership programs. Follow Les on Twitter at @GenesisLes