Memories of My Heroic Youth

I was exchanging emails today with a friend who lives in Lebanon.   She’s a night owl and, in one of her emails, she mentioned that it was five to one in the morning her time.

At that point in our exchange, I had run out of news and other things to say, so it suddenly came to me to cook up an instant tradition: “The tradition of telling fire fighter stories in the wee hours.”

Yes, an instant tradition that, like instant coffee, has only convenience to recommend it.

Nevertheless, here is the email I sent back to her (the story is true):

Five to one in the morning?

Why didn’t you tell me! Don’t you know, my friend, that by tradition the early morning hours are the time for fire fighter stories!

I mean, have I told you before now that years ago I paid for my college room and board by working as a fire fighter?

It’s true! I used to run into burning buildings for fun and profit!  I was mad then, perfectly insane, and I even voted Republican!

But, have I told you my favorite story from those years yet?

The story begins at 5:00 in the morning. I am asleep in bed at the fire station when the alarm comes in.

A motel is on fire!

I leap out of bed even though I am still mostly asleep. I hurry to put on my uniform. Then, I hear the fire trucks starting up. Jeebers! The other men are way ahead of me!

How did that happen? There is no time to pause to find out. I rush through putting on the rest of my uniform, and I dash for the truck bay.

When I get there, the trucks are already leaving, but I run and jump on the tail platform of the last fire truck headed out. I grab the safety bar with both hands, as I am supposed to do in order to keep from falling off the truck.

I made it! What a relief!  I allow myself a smug smile. Nothing can defeat a real fire fighter.

As we siren down the road to the motel, I look over my shoulder. There is a station wagon behind us, following us to the fire. The station wagon is full of little kids and driven by a mother in her housecoat. Obviously they are following us to see the fire.

Little kids!  How sweet! They probably want to grow up to be just like me.

Suddenly I become aware of a horrifying sensation — my pants are sliding down my legs!

I look down — in my haste I had forgotten to zip up and belt!

Damn it! There is no way I can take both my hands off the safety rail, nor even a way to reach that far down with just one hand and pull my pants up.

I look over my shoulder again — only my great big fire fighter’s turn-out coat protects me from mooning a whole family of kids and their mother.

It happens that’s the only saving grace of the morning — my coat — for my pants by now are almost around my knees. In a moment of painful self-recognition, I realize the kids in the car behind me are perhaps no longer wishing to grow up to be just like me.

We reach the motel. The truck stops and I am at last able to reach down and pull up my pants. But just as I finish, I look around and notice the TV crews have arrived with their cameras.

For one tenth of a second, the thought crosses my mind that they have filmed me and that I will be on the morning news pulling up my pants at a fire.

For one tenth of a second, I grasp that my brother fire fighters will never let me forget this morning — not even forget it for at least 30 minutes after I have died — even should I be so unfortunate after this morning as to live to an old age.

For one tenth of a second, I vividly imagine my Chief’s face when he tunes in the news that morning.

For one tenth of a second I come the closest I will ever come as a fire fighter to fainting on the job.

16 thoughts on “Memories of My Heroic Youth”

  1. Buff, yes! I only wish I was still today in the shape I was in then, Sledpress.

    By the way, I was nearly finished with a response to your other comment tonight when I hit the wrong key and lost it. I’ll start again, I suppose, and see if next time my luck is any better.


  2. That’s an excellent point, Sledpress! A truly game changing point!

    Until you just now forced me to reconsider my attitude towards my knees, I had all but forgotten my once cherished childhood ambition of devoting my life to professional tap dancing, and by that means, tap dancing my way through all the capitals of Europe.

    I realize now there has been a void in me all these years since forgetting my dreams. I write to you in tears at finding myself again. Your question had a Zen like effect on me, making me abruptly aware of the deepest depths of my soul. I owe everything to you.

    Of course, I am shutting down my blog now and taking to the road at once! This time, Sledpress, I shall not forget my dreams! Adios!


  3. Hilarious! That really would have been embarrassing for you and the department. And I can see the point you were making on my page, in that just because your pants were slipping down, it doesn’t mean you weren’t there to put out the fire and save lives. Thanks for sharing this.


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