Where's the outrage now?

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Remember when the Chron‘s erratic features editor Kyrie O’Connor had one of her classic meltdowns over a female firefighter who gave birth, left the hospital, and took an advancement exam because the mean old men in the department don’t make exceptions, ever, even for women who are giving birth?

Okay, in all honesty, you probably don’t. But here’s a snippet:

The other day Beda Kent gave birth to a 7 1/2-pound baby girl, took a brief nap, got up from her hospital bed, took some Motrin, went to the George R. Brown, took and passed a Houston Fire department promotion exam — for captain, no less — scored 104 out of a possible 110, apparently outpointed some 350 other test-takers, lost her hospital bed, left her newborn in the hospital because she had no choice, and went home.

Holy smoke. Now that is a woman.

Childbirth used to be a big deal, back when anyone cared. I remember my mother-in-law telling me that, five days post-partum, the doctors let her sit up and dangle her legs over the side of the hospital bed.

Tell that to Beda Kent who, not incidentally, is a 12-year veteran of the department.

According to today’s Chronicle, the firefighter promotion exam is given with about the regularity of a full solar eclipse, and no exceptions are made, ever, that would allow anyone to take the test at another time. HFD District Chief Jack Williams, who sounds like he takes the rule book very, very seriously, said even a firefighter injured in the line of duty wouldn’t be allowed to take the test at a nonstandard time.

Come again?

You mean, if a firefighter suffered smoke inhalation rescuing a baby from a burning apartment, he or she — presumably he — would not be given an alternate time? And no one would kick up a fuss?

I don’t even believe that. I don’t believe the union, the media, the local mote-and-beam blogs, Bill O’Reilly and for all I know Emeril Lagasse and Michiko Kakutani wouldn’t scream to the high heavens about such an outrage.

But Beda Kent? All she did was bring a healthy life into the world. If she’d decided to spend more than two-and-a-half hours resting up after that minor event, she would have blown her chances for a promotion for a couple of years at least.

Apparently Beda Kent isn’t the kind of person who asked for special treatment.

She’s not asking for special treatment, but I am. The Houston Fire Department should be mortified to put a veteran firefighter through such a stupid and painful exercise. Promotion exams aren’t visions of Our Lady — they’re utterly within human control. What is the point? That Beda Kent, or that hypothetical injured fire hero, would take advantage of the system to study up? Or cheat?

If you can’t figure out a way around such a silly possibility, you ought not to administer tests at all. (If you can’t imagine a way out of this one, how can I trust you to get me out of my burning townhouse?)

And if you’re the union, or the doctors, or the mayor or the mote-and-beam bloggers — I’m calling you out, Anne Linehan — or Ann Coulter or Laura Ingraham or the Blessed Virgin herself, you’ll summon up some outrage against the sorry, stupid, Procrustean, benighted policies that forced Beda Kent out of childbed to go find a couple of No. 2 pencils and show the system what a woman can do, whether she should have to or not.

Big talk!

Flash forward about three years…. to this rare Houston Press HairBalls post covering something other than Rich Connelly’s dissatisfaction with KTRH:

We know have a new leader in the clubhouse for Worst Way To Find Out You Lost Your Chronicle Job.

Dai Huynh, one of the paper’s food writers, was scheduled to come back from maternity leave. The night before she gets a call telling her, in effect, “don’t bother.”

I’m a fan of Huynh, and sad to see this news.

But so much for my white-male perspective. Where is Kyrie O’Connor‘s “outrage” over this?

Not a peep, so far as we can tell.

So much for the big talk from the Chron‘s erratic features editor.


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Kevin Whited
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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX