On a recent walk, I passed the fire station across the street from my house. A fire engine was parked in the vast driveway, with one solitary fireman polishing it with a rag and some metal polish. It gleamed like a toy fire engine, like a movie fire engine, like the platonic ideal of a fire engine.
Me: I think you missed a spot.
Friendly neighborhood fireman: Ha ha. This is my engine, I'm the driver, I like to keep it looking good.
Me: You're not being punished for something?
[Several minutes of banter ensue.]
L: I'm Lila.
R: I'm R. Hi. [We shake hands.]
L: Can I ask you a question? [R nods.] There were a lot of firemen accompanying the massed policemen downtown around the G20 area on Thursday, as well as up here in this neighborhood. Why?
[It is explained that there is an empty motorcade making a practice run of its upcoming journey.]
L: Can I ask you a question? [R nods. Another question/answer exchange follows.]
L: Can I ask you a question?
R: You have a lot of questions. I guess you are really a student...
L: Yes, they train us to be this irritatingly curious.
[It ensues that the fire station employees would, yes, appreciate if I brought them some cookies or other baked goods, and no, none of them have food allergies. Also, there have been fewer calls this extended-weekend than usual, possibly because so many people left town to avoid the G20 inconveniences.]
While we were talking, a few people walked by on the sidewalk and R. greeted them by name. I guess polishing his fire engine lets him meet many of the neighborhood perambulators.
Huzzah for friendly firemen!
This post's theme word: limen, "a threshold of response."