Firemen are a superstitious lot. They have their own peculiar notions about what seemingly innocuous turn of events may actually invite bad luck. And while they have no problem walking under a ladder, other seemingly benign circumstances can harbinger impending disaster.
If, for example, the boot fireman announces that he would like a nice ripping fire that shift, that would pretty much guarantee a shut-out, call-wise. On the other hand, breaking in a brand new set of bright yellow turnouts should assure that you’ll be getting banged out on some sort of messy run—a tar pot fire, perhaps, or a fuel spill on the freeway. (My new turnout pants caused a strip mall fire last shift. Sorry.)
The origins of other superstitions are somewhat more obscure. In our station, it is widely held that saying the name of our city more than three times will cause a busy shift (see the movie “Beetlejuice”). Closing the apparatus bay doors too early in the evening (any time before 9 p.m.) portends multiple calls after midnight. And missing the trashcan with your wadded-up paper napkin after dinner will likewise make for a lot of night runs. So there’s a lot of pressure on to make that three-point shot from across the kitchen.
As far as I know, there are no scientific studies to back the claims of these firefighter superstitions. But there must be some definite cosmic causal relationship. So it is unwise to tempt or anger the run-gods by some act of negligence or hubris on your part.
And although I’m an otherwise perfectly reasonable man, I have, over the years, observed an undeniable cause-and-effect regarding certain circumstances and thus cultivated my own particular superstitions. I would swear that a heavy meal—pasta and meat sauce, or chili, for instance— almost inevitably leads to an extremely strenuous and extended call: A few hours in sweaty turnouts, pulling hose, climbing ladders, cutting roof, and sucking down a couple of air bottles, until that spicy sausage and red sauce is rising back up in your gullet.
It’s your own damn fault.
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