When I was five, I learned the meaning of the phrase, “heathen savages”.
The kindergarten class of Lad-N-Lassie School in Mobile, Alabama went on a field trip to a local fire station. When we arrived, one of the fire fighters met us and showed us all around the inside of the station house.
Frankly, it was dull. We saw the kitchen, dormitory, offices, and a living/rec room where the firemen hung out between calls. We wanted to see the Dalmatian and a house fire. We wanted to go flying down the road hanging onto the truck wearing giant raincoats.Finally, we were led into the engine bay. Our guide spread his arms wide and told us, “Go ahead, kids. Look around. Have some fun!”
Have you ever seen one of those videos where they drop Mentos into a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke? How it explodes, shoots out of the top, and then just keeps exploding ‘til the bottle’s about empty?That was pretty much the entire kindergarten class of Lad-N-Lassie that day.
Except, shockingly, me.
Here’s the thing. My dad was in the Coast Guard. He flew; in either helicopters or very large airplanes. He welded them when something needed welding, navigated when they were flying, and jumped into the ocean to rescue folks when they got there.I grew up visiting the base, running around giant hangers, and climbing in and around huge flying machines.
So, to me, a couple of fire trucks were not the fascinating novelty they may have been to other children. But I had spied something that did seize and hold my attention. It was all I could see, and all I could think about. It was that great, shining fireman’s pole. Next to it was a compact metal circular staircase. In caper movies, or films with a big escape scene they all have one thing on common. The need for a distraction. Something to draw the eye and engage the concentration.
If I had ordered a distraction out of the Sears Roebuck catalog, I don’t think it could have been any better.Two classmates were stuck in one giant rubber boot having a slap fight. A couple of kids were doing what looked like swing dancing on the roof of a truck. One girl had found the horn and I think was attempting to play “The Girl from Ipanema” on it. One boy, named Prairie, had taken off his shirt and was sitting on the floor whacking two helmets like bongo drums. The teachers and chaperones were dividing their time between running after some children and begging others to get down.
The fireman/tour guide looked like he wanted to cry.Keeping one eye on the chaos, I sidled over to the steps and started up, thinking as hard as I could, “I’m invisible, you can’t see me, I’m invisible…”
At the top, I wrapped my arms around the pole. I took a deep breath, leaned in, and gave a little hop into space. I slid down, my brand new field trip dress blown up around my shoulders, my underwear fluttering in the wind. It was the most exciting 1 & ½ seconds of my young life.My feet hit the ground about the time the adults registered my trip. I was the first and last kid to make the journey that day. With the assistance of the rest of the fireman, us kindergarten cats were herded out and onto the bus for the drive back to school.
At dinner that night Mom and Dad asked how the trip went. My answer was a question.
“What are heathen savages?”Thanks for your time.