What the Saint Paul Fire Department taught me

July 30, 2021

As I stepped on to the pavement and turned the corner from the apartment building, my heart stopped.

What were all these fire engines doing?

I could not get a count of all the engines assembled at the intersection I was approaching. My car was parked just beyond that intersection. One of the engines blocked the view, so I couldn’t see if my car was safe, or was even there.

Gawkers were everywhere and their gaze was clearly trained in the direction where my car should have been. I started to imagine my car or a nearby car ablaze.

A closer approach assured me that my car was safe, but disclosed a different problem: It was hemmed in, so I couldn’t leave!

As you can see in the picture above, my car, the black one, needed just a little more gap to get out of there.

Distraught, I approached a fireman about my problem to see if just enough gap could be created for me to get out.

Incredulous, yet polite (but firm), he responded, “I can’t move.” Coming to my senses, I backed off.

We needed to be somewhere and needed the car to get there. I felt like a prisoner in a cell with a porthole, too small to pass through, that tantalized me with what freedom would entail.

Earlier, not finding any free parking space in the apartment complex, I scoured the neighborhood streets and chose my parking spot judiciously, patting myself on the back for picking out a location closest to the apartments.

It was to be a two-minute job of walking over to the car and driving off to our appointment. Instead, we were twiddling our thumbs for over an hour as the firemen toiled in the 97-degree heat, battling the fire in one of the apartments near my parking spot.

Once the fire was put out, whereas they had more work to do in cleaning up the place, the firemen were very obliging in moving the engine a little to let us escape.

The forced hour of waiting along the sidewalk where we could enjoy a warm breeze from time to time allowed us to put things in perspective:

Our troubles always appear huge, but with a little thought we can see them for what they often are: an insignificant speck in the grand scheme of things.

Yes, we were inconvenienced, but we neither suffered a loss like the residents of the apartment where the fire broke out nor endured the agony of donning the fire-fighting suit to face fire on a day of sweltering heat.

We gestured our gratitude to the brave men of the Saint Paul Fire Department and drove off.

In appreciation of all our blessings,

P. Venkat Raman

P.S. If you have any anecdotes of your travails that paled on reflection, hit reply and share!

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