This is no game


Email to Al Sullivan


 God knows why people don't want to be firemen these days. Maybe it's some change in society, people just aren't into volunteering for good causes any more. Even with that, I always thought we had a good crew in our town, as dedicated as you're likely to find. Sure, they all quit. But after that business with the fog horn, who could blame them?

 I guess most folks just don't understand how boring a fireman's life can get, sitting around the station house, day in and day out, waiting for something to happen. In a small town like ours, fetching a cat down from a tree can make a man's whole week. Some of the volunteers spend their whole lives listening for the alert horn so they can rush down and do what has to be done.

 In the past, people didn't seem to mind the horn. It was a sign to them the boys were doing their duty. I guess that's the sad part, and maybe I should have put a stop to the thing when I first found out it was going on-- bored firemen drawing bored husbands away from their boring nights with wives and kids in order to have enough hands and cash for a poker game.

 But I saw something good in the practice despite what some angry wives have said since. I saw the game as a way of promoting solidarity among the men, the way secret pass words used to do for them when they were kids.

 I suppose the fire horn going off every night at 5:30 p.m. might have been a little suspicious and a triffle annoying-- though we didn't get one complaint from the neighborhood about the horn. It was the drag racing they complained about, the roar of engines up and down their street and the prospect of a kid getting run over. Still, I had to hand it to the men, they were very careful not to race during school hours or when there were too many kids around-- though one might also wonder why they chose 1 a.m. in particular.

 Nor can anyone blame them for shirking their duty. Eacn and every man kept near a phone. Often the celular phone was right on the seat beside them as they raced.

 The reason I think the police complained is because it interfered with their own races. It seems many of the young women who normally watched the police scooting with police cars through the Grand Union parking lot, perferred the fire department races-- in which official vehicles were often wrecked as part of the show.

 When I finally did put a stop to these activities, the men were so depressed, they moped around for days, like scolded boys, jealous and agnry at the police, peeved at their wives and families for making such a big deal over these things. But I still don't see anything unnatural about some of the girls coming up to see them at the station house. I think people made too much of a few girls winding up pregnant. So what if the tests did show several of our boys as father to the children. No one could ever made it clear to me that such conditions resulted from their visits. And some of those girls did, too, look 18.

 Be that as it may, I did "clean house" as many town resident suggested, making it clear to the men that if all they came to the station house for was these childhood games, they might just as well stay home. Still, I don't blame them for quitting. After all, what's the point of being a fireman if you can't have a little fun? And I'm sure, volunteerism isn't totally dead. Someone, somewhere will want to join...


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