It's a view looking down the rungs of the fire company's new ladder truck.
I'm 100 long damn feet up in the air from the truck itself, and I got there by riding up in a motorized basket that extends from the top end of the
ladder. Then, after I got special permission from the captain, they let me climb up the ladder itself and back down again, just exactly like a
real firefighter. Just exactly.
Oh, except that at a real fire rescue, according to what I've learned,
- The whole situation would be an emergency, with lives literally at stake.
- I might have woken up only a few minutes before (the firefighters in this district are expected to get from sleep inside a cozy bed to the rig,
fully dressed and strapped in, in less than 90 seconds).
- I'd be wearing about 60 pounds of gear.
- It's probably nighttime, which means I have to contend with either the darkness or the glare and shadows of spotlights.
- I'd need continuously to read everything I hear from my radio, which is blaring non-stop critical information; and I'd need to be ready at every
moment to transmit a response that's accurate and apropos, thorough yet concise; and I'd have to phrase that response exactly correctly in the special
lingo firefighters use lest there be some misunderstanding.
- I might be trying to save a desperate victim who, according to what I've learned, might not "cooperate." If you're in a room that's
on fire on the seventh floor of a building whose every exit is blocked except the window, and if you're terrified you're moments away from dying, it's
not unreasonable for your rescuer to expect that you will fling yourself at him, perhaps even before the ladder has come to a stop at the right place
or before he has gotten into the right position to help you. (Which is why they intentionally raise the top of the ladder well above the window
before resting it against the building and only then lowering it to the correct height.)
- Or I might have to descend the ladder with you, perhaps a 240-pound dead weight incapable of cooperating, on my back. What with you and my
gear, I'm transporting 300 extra pounds down a 100-foot ladder. (I dare you to transport even one fifth of that, a mere 60-pound weight,
hanging off your back, down such a long ladder.)
OK, so maybe what I did isn't just exactly like what a real firefighter does. I can see why firefighters train as much as they
do. I have learned that, at least around here, the fire department is really good at what it does.