From my office 25 floors up, I hear the sirens. By the time the noise reaches up that far, and the time I look down from my windown, I’ll be able to pinpoint exactly where the fire truck will be on its way down the road.
I’m sure there is a physics calculation that explains the speed of sound versus the distance said truck will be by the time the audible gets to me. Without fail, upon first hearing the sound, the hook & ladder is a good eighth of a mile from the station. They leave their a dozen times a workday – and it usually draws my attention.
Somewhere in the last few days, constantly seeing the trucks I flashed upon something I hadn’t thought about for years: I was deathly afraid of firetrucks as a tot. I don’t know why. I think most boys are enthralled by them – not me.
I don’t think it was the truck itself. I don’t think it was the siren. I never had a bad reaction to police sirens. And I don’t think it was fire – as I think I was too young to even know what fire was.
I would wake up in the middle of my night – my parents were still up (I mean, I was only like 4) and come crying about the sirens. My parents would think I was nuts – until 3-5-minutes later when they’d hear them. They could never quite figure that out about me – and clearly it was just the start of what they could never grasp about me.
Once, my mother left me and my sister (only 18 mos older) in the car in the parking lot of Sauters grocery store. It was the mid-60s – you could still do that without getting arrested or having your kids to children’s services. Unfortunately, Sauters was located directly behind the fire station. Unfortunately for me, someone else had a fire emergency. Damn them!
My mother had to run out of the store without the food needed to nourish her husband and four other kids. To be honest, I’m surprised she heard the sirens or put it all together that she had a kid in hysterics stuck in the back seat of her big Pontiac station wagon.
In retrospect, I think it was the firehouse alarm that spooked me, not the sirens or the trucks. But I always grew up afraid of fire. For the most part I still am. I’d never have been that caveman. Is it any wonder I never smoked? I’ll freeze before lighting a pilot light or a fireplace.
And no surprise, I wasn’t like other boys (for oh so many reasons). I’ve never wanted to be a fireman.