What if we all responded to people’s actions with the sarcasm they sometimes so richly deserved? This is fire prevention week, so needless to say as a fire fighter, I was out most of the day promoting fire safety. Today we were out in front of our neighborhood grocery displaying our truck and smokehouse trailer to teach children how to escape a burning house.
As the morning went by, we got the usual gambit of intelligent questions like: When should you replace your fire alarms, and do I need a fire extinguisher in my house, but today I ran into one gentleman that set my sarcasm meter to high.
This particular gentlemen walked up to our table with his nine year old son and perused the free fire helmets and fire safety paraphernalia as he explained what a great service these nice policemen did for their community. Now don’t get me wrong, I agree that our fellow brothers in blue are an indispensible asset to our lives, but we are not policemen, we are firemen. I let him go on for a few more seconds, thinking sooner or later he would realize he was standing in front of a ten foot long “Fire Prevention” sign, then I politely interrupted him to explain who we were and why we were there.
When I finished, the man looked confused, but instead of responding, he just turned his attention back to the free items on the table.
“So what’s this stuff for?” He said.
“Just some free stuff for the kids, help yourself to anything you like”
I picked up one of the canvas backpacks we were giving away and handed it to his son who had, if nothing else, heard and understood one very important word… Free!
As the boy loaded up on cups, toys and pencils, his father glanced at me looking a bit baffled once again.
“You don’t have any prices on this stuff, how much is it?”
I glanced over at the big sign on the table that read “Free, please help yourself.” and thought, maybe this guy can’t read.
I started to feel a bit ashamed thinking I had misjudged this poor man, then he picked up one the toy badges and read it aloud.
“Jr. Fire Marshal” he said with a smirk, then without missing a beat he turned to point at the fire truck behind him.
Nope, he was a reader and a genius to boot! This was where I wanted to tell him that the truck belonged to one of the cashiers and that she drove it back and forth to work because of the great gas mileage… but I didn’t.
“Yes sir,” I said. “Would you like to take a look?”
“No thanks, what’s this little house trailer you got goin over here though?”
I lead him and his son over to our prevention trailer and explained that we had set it up like a miniature house for kids to look through and learn about fire safety.
“I’d be glad to take you through if you’d like to take a look.” I said, keeping up my best fire prevention face.
The boy yanked hard on his father’s coat before he could refuse.
“Yes daddy yes.” He said with a mouth full of candy. “I wanna see it!”
The dad smiled and patted him on the head then motioned me in. As we walked in the door the man put his hand on my arm as if he’d forgotten something very important, then asked me a question that effectively ended the tour.
“I hope there’s not going to be a lot of noise in here. We had to remove all the smoke detectors in our house because the alarms scared little Joey here.”
I looked at the man, then down at the doe eyed expression if the nine year old.
“Well the poor little guy. He must have been terrified. I removed all the smoke detectors in my house to, that way when I give my kids the matches and gasoline to play with they aren’t startled by the big scary beeping sounds when everything goes up in flames.”
OK, that’s what I wanted to say, but instead I tried to explain that the noise was designed to warn everyone in the house of danger, and I urged him to replace them as soon as possible.
I offered to continue the tour but when I told him there would be a little noise his son threw himself on the floor and threw a tantrum the likes of which I have never seen before. I was reminded of the children on Willy Wonka, thrashing and screaming until they got their way. The father looked down at the boy and pleaded with him.
“Now Joey, we’ve talked about this.” He said in a voice barely audible above the child’s screaming. “It will only be for a moment. The nice fireman says it’s not even scary. I’ll bet he could set it up just like our house so that there’s no noise at all. Would that be alright?”
The boy continued to scream, then the father shrugged his shoulders and turned to leave. As soon as Joey realized he’d won, he stopped crying, popped his sucker back into his mouth, then practically skipped out the door.
I did not follow.
I watched out the window as Joey sprinted into the parking lot at full speed with his bag full of goodies. His father gave a half hearted; “Now Joey, slow down,” and I wondered at how little Joey had survived this long.
So is there a moral to this story? Too many to list I think.
Being that it’s “FIRE” prevention week and not crime prevention, or brat prevention, or crappy parent prevention week; let’s just stick with this.
Replace your smoke detectors every ten years, your batteries every year, and no matter how much your child might complain about the noise, it’s still better than being trapped within the confines of an inferno, blissfully free of the annoying beep of a smoke alarm.
Have a great week and if you have any “little angel” stories of your own, let me have ‘em!