Friday, May 31, 2013
Rush hour had just reached its peak in the downtown area as bumper to bumper traffic inched through intersections. Compact cars, SUV's, pickup trucks and buses alternately worked their way to a point where the next green light would allow them to quickly proceed through, only to soon line up once again for the next red light.
In each individual vehicular cocoon, drivers sealed themselves off from the noise outside and listened to music, news, or talk radio as they waited to accelerate slightly, only to brake again for another wait. A few drivers alternately glanced up from handheld devices, some displaying text or email messages, and others confirmed on a small screen the very traffic holdup they were experiencing using a map application.
A few blocks away, the doors of a Fire Station opened as the fire apparatus inside started up. Emergency lights, installed both high and low on every side of each vehicle, lit up and sparkled brightly as the doors rolled up and the daylight poured in. Vent hoses uncoupled from exhaust pipes, and the gas and diesel engines powering an Ambulance, Engine, Ladder Truck and a Shift Commander van quickly revved up and moved out the front bay doors. The van led the way down the long concrete ramp, then made a left turn across two lanes where traffic had stopped in both directions. Then came the Ambulance, the Engine and even larger Ladder Truck.
The convoy of red vehicles loomed high over the rest of the traffic, plowing through the gridlocked field of painted metal and windshield glass. Some drivers quickly saw the approaching emergency vehicles, pulling to the side and coming to a full stop. Others, ahead of the fire vehicles in the same lane, quickly confirmed that "objects may be larger than they appear", as the sirens and loud air horns -- necessary to compete with modern vehicle insulation and sound systems -- came even closer.
The fire apparatus approached a traffic light controlled intersection and on-board signal devices triggered and changed the red light ahead to green and switched cross traffic signals to red. Cross traffic waited as each fire vehicle lumbered across in front of them.
As the equipment passed those closest to the oncoming traffic lane, drivers could only see massive black tires going past at eye level. Some craned their necks and looked up to see firefighters inside sliding arms and shoulders into straps of seat-mounted air-packs.
Engine sounds were punctuated by air brakes followed quickly by a loud engine acceleration roar. Electronic sirens and air horns echoed and reverberated off the surrounding buildings increasing the decibel level and bouncing the sounds in every direction.
Customers and shopkeepers moved to front windows to see what was passing, many of them commenting or speculating on where they might be heading. Pedestrians on the sidewalks stopped to watch the equipment pass by.
One coffee shop patron, as he paid for his non-fat, no foam latte, commented at the cash register, "I wonder where they're going."
The young blond barista, not even looking up as she gave him his change, replied, "Oh, that's just my Dad on his way to work."
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Happy Fathers Day!!
Great Fathers Day gift, or anytime gift: “10-24: A Firefighter Looks Back” Paperback and Kindle - soon to be available in iBooks.