The funniest scenarios I run into at the fire department always involve a member of the lunatic fringe; one way or another we end up interacting with them in the role of Crazy and me as an amused bystander. This is not to say that the nutjobs don’t have their fair share of emergency response needs; it just makes my day all the better when they decide to call 911 and bring us into their world.
But once in awhile, a relatively normal member of society engages us and then the tables get turned. I end up being the one looking unhinged while they end up looking at me with one eyebrow cocked up high. And this is exactly how yesterday’s shift began.
We were out in the street behind the station rolling out some hose for a training evolution with our rookie when a kindly looking older gentleman shuffled on up to me and asked if he could bend my ear a moment. “Well, of course!” I told him, thinking that chatting with one of our denizens sure beats lugging around 5″ hose. He was toting a folding metal shopping cart, on his way down to the stinky supermarket on the corner, a cutoff sock around his wrist to keep his watch from rubbing a raw spot (I guess?) and enough ear hair to fashion a Dickie turtleneck thingy; immediately I liked this guy.
He says to me “So…I know this isn’t on your agenda, but do you know of any way to get squirrels out of my attic? I mean those little bastards have really done a number on my insulation, the wiring, and God knows what else. What would you do, sir?” I have to say….I was taken slightly aback. I’ve never been consulted on pest control issues, and I was flattered he valued my opinion, which may stem from the fact that it looks like rodents have taken up residence in my hair. Nonetheless. After mulling over the idea for a nanosecond, I told him that he ought to call a pest control company, that I thought I saw a truck the other day that said “Critter Control” or something like that on it’s side, and that’d be a good place to begin. Apparently, this wasn’t the answer my new friend was looking for; he said, “No, my son-in-law, he’s got a pest control business, and I can’t call him.” I CAN’T CALL HIM. What in THE HELL? My friend began to look agitated and went on to list the multitude sins these squirrels had committed against his home. No further mention of the son-in-law.
At this point, the station captain is starting to look over at us and no doubt worrying that the man’s angry gesturing is a result of something I’ve said or done. Again, I am asked what I would do by my elderly inquisitor, and after yet another moment of mulling, I told him he could call the Animal Control and see if they could point him in the right direction. No. That was not what he was looking for, either. I’m beginning to guess that he wanted me to solve the problem as an agent of the Fire Department. As in “drive the ladder truck over to his house and engage in hostilities with the squatting squirrels”. The fact that he kept staring at my shoulders when he talked to me was starting to un-nerve me a little as well; what, you can’t look me in the eye as you dismiss every single bit of wisdom I am doling out here on the street?
So, having run out of reasonable options for dealing with his pests, I answered as best I could when he asked how the FD could help get rid of his squirrels. I looked him dead in the eye (which meant stooping a little) and saying “Sir, if you want us to flood the squirrels out, your house is going to have to catch on fire first.” I then gave him a smile to indicate that I was kidding around, that I wasn’t serious about him torching his own home. His eyes wandered up towards mine and then he said…..
“Well, would I get a free smoke detector if it did?”