"At any innocent tea-table we may easily hear a man say, "Life is not worth living." We regard it as we regard the statement that it is a fine day; nobody thinks that it can possibly have any serious effect on the man or on the world. And yet if that utterance were really believed, the world would stand on its head. Murderers would be given medals for saving men from life; firemen would be denounced for keeping men from death; poisons would be used as medicines; doctors would be called in when people were well; the Royal Humane Society would be rooted out like a horde of assassins. – Chesterton, Heretics
I had an encounter with firemen last night, but it had nothing to do with death.
Unless you count “of embarrassment.”
The encounter began with a daughter coming downstairs announcing that when she turned on the overhead light in her room there was a flicker, some smoke, and a smell.
Wife went into panic mode demanding we call the fire department and evacuate the house.
I said let me check first.
I went up. The light was fine. There was no smoke, though there was a smell.
Wife kept yelling that we should leave.
I said just let me check.
I turned off the light, unscrewed the light cover, and saw nothing amiss.
I felt the ceiling next to the light. It was warm – the light had just been on after all.
Wife’s panic crossed over to hysterics.
I said let me check above the room in the attic, so I went to the garage to get a ladder (the attic crawl space has no stairs). I noticed the back door was opened.
I suggested that everyone look for the indoor cat who had obviously gotten out and was probably confronting the feral tom cat that had been stalking around the neighborhood.
The daughter whose room was the focus of our adventure - and who had left the back door open in the first place - spotted our cat. She went to pick him up, and he turned on her, scratching her arm. He does that. I have the scars to prove it.
He’s my wife’s cat.
I got the ladder and went up into the crawl space as the wife evacuated the house and yelled at me repeatedly to get out.
I checked above the light. Nothing.
By this point the firemen had arrived. She had called them.
Three fully clad firefighters came up to the bedroom, including the fire chief I have sometimes interviewed.
He looked around at the mess in daughter’s room, then at the light.
He nodded. The kind of bulb was one of those new fangled fluorescent ones – about 4 years old.
He said those kinds of bulbs get old and sometimes do that after a couple of years.
He sniffed the bulb. Yep, that was the smell.
Still, the three firefighters – in full gear in the sweltering heat – did a scan with a heat detecting device in the ceiling, and up in the attic.
He suggested we get a new bulb. He also said we might get an electrician to check the line just to make sure, but that he saw nothing amiss.
Wife was still babbling on, retelling the story for the third or fourth time.
He tried to reassure her that she had done the right thing, even though he could see nothing wrong.
For the rest of the night she kept making comments about how he said she did the right thing. And stubborn pig-headedness.
Daughter kept complaining about the scratches.
I kept quiet.
I was thinking about tonight. I’m scheduled to attend a fire department meeting.
The fire chief will be there.
Introduction to "Hard Times"
1 day ago