I married a fireman. With that comes great benefits. There are always fresh batteries in the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. There’s a fire extinguisher in just about every room where there’s an outlet, and there’s a separate refrigerator in the basement just for beer. Oh, and there’s a neatly folded rope ladder in a box stored in our attic should the house burn in the middle of the night and we need to Swiss Family Robinson it outside. My husband keeps his rope ladder tucked away on a shelf in the attic so the kids and their friends don’t play with it. However, I’m not quite sure if, while our house is being engulfed by flames, it would be quicker to run up to the attic, take the rope ladder out of the box, and then go back down to the second floor to find a window big enough for all of us to climb through or just chance running down the stairs and out the front door. Jim says I don’t understand because I don’t have the value of all his years of training and preparation.
There’s one great big disadvantage to being the wife of a fireman. There’s no way in hell Jim would ever call 9-1-1 if there’s even the hint of smoke in our house for fear of being embarrassed by his brothers. Considering my track record with oven fires, and randy fireplaces, that’s a problem for me. During a romantic dinner at home, I lit the kitchen fireplace. As we sipped wine, the house shook like the A Train was coming through. Jim jumped up and physically threw me out of the kitchen. As I flew backwards through the air a huge ball of fire came shooting from the fireplace and I felt like an extra in the movie “Backdraft.” Forced to call the fire department, Jim suffered through the taunts and teasing of his brothers as they all sat around our dinner table, in full gear, sharing our romantic meal and our bottle of wine.
One night, out of the blue, Jim offered to do the laundry. (Bear with me, there is a connection here.) However, the next day I couldn’t find where he put the clean laundry. Shocked by my inquiry, he said that the laundry was still in the washing machine. As I stomped down to the basement to retrieve the molding laundry, I shouted that the little laundry fairies who take the wash out of the washing machine and put it into the dryer is a myth.
Jim’s laundry and the fire department have a connected history. Before we were married I used to do his laundry at the laundrymat. One night, he sent some of the firehouse boys to help me. I was so mad that I had them follow me back to the firehouse where they helped me hoist all of his laundry up the flag pole. Unfortunately, by the time he noticed there was a family of four bird’s nesting comfortably in his boxers.
Recently, he offered to do the wash again. It took him 2 minutes to summon me to the basement. I slowly made my way down the stairs to find him staring at the washing machine as smoke poured out of it. He asked me, in all seriousness, if smoke pouring out of the washer seemed normal to me. Now, I don't have the firefighting training or years of firefighting experience that he has under his belt; nor was I, like him, a fire chief, but I was pretty certain that the washing machine was on fire. When I gave him my verdict, he slowly leaned his head into the plume of smoke, sniffed twice, and told me that I might be right. However, he didn’t want to rush to judgment and call the fire department and be embarrassed. I replied that I agreed it would be better to burn with dignity than to have the fire department come and check it out.
Instead, he unplugged the washer, took me in his arms and said it was a good thing he did the laundry or else God knows what could have happened if I had thrown the wash in and walked away. "Well," I thought to myself, "We'd probably have clean laundry."