Tuesday, March 29, 2005


If Harrison Ford accidentally stumbled into acting, then I’m living proof it can happen in any career, even Water Treatment and Distribution. I had an unaccountably large amount of fun today flushing my first fire hydrant. I guess it just takes a little imagination, because instead of spending this blustery afternoon on a crumbling sidewalk in the ancient uppity section of a Wyoming railroad town, I was on the corner of a simmering summer street in New York City in 1910, turning that cool water on a pack of ragged immigrant kids. A stretch for you, maybe, but not for me. (I’m inclined to believe I’d be happy for a certain amount of time in any profession. It’s finding the one I can bear for a lifetime that’s proving difficult.)

I’ve always liked fire hydrants. I love how some of the newer ones are a bit rounded and shaped just so, and on Halloween all they need is a polka-dot cape, rainbow wig and knotted pillowcase and voila, they look astonishingly like a little kid tottering down the street in search of free sugar. Not that I’m encouraging you to tamper with hydrants. I never realized how important they are. I could bombard you with intricate details of their ways and workings, or how they’re color-coded by capacity to facilitate the appropriate use by authorized personnel, but that might bore you. Instead I’ll point out that most modern hydrants have a flanged base with about a dozen bolts, so that when hit by a car, the top (“the part you can see,” to the layman) just pops right off and the expensive pipe and underground parts are undamaged and you can just screw the thing back on. They weren’t always like that. Somebody got smart.

But more about why I like them. For one, there are billions of them, and we all know how much cooler things are in multiples. Like in those Chrysler commercials (blech!) where they show a whole fleet of whatever they’re trying to sell (buy G.M.!), and watching the hypnotic maneuvering of that sparkling row of identical overpriced machinery you think “wow, if I had one of those, I’d be as cool as everybody else.” That’s where you’d be wrong. But you can always take advantage of how cool it is to be the one on your street with the hydrant in your yard. Think how many precious seconds are shaved off when your home is in flames and it takes the firefighters that much less time to drag the hose up the street. Of course, hydrants are surely a pain to mow around, and whenever they need flushed those pesky public works employees come out and dig up a circle of your turf about three feet in diameter and a foot or so deep. (This doesn’t matter in Wyoming. We don’t all have grass. We have bark, or pumice. You don’t have to mow or fertilize lava rock!) Another great thing about hydrants is the canine parade they attract, and if you’re a dog lover like me, you’ll be endlessly amused by what shows up on your corner.

Bruce and Dan say Mueller makes by far the best hydrants. I might tell you Mattel does, but what do I know? That’s the reason I get shipped off on gloomy days like today, still groggy from a whopping evil hit-and-run fever that rendered me capable of only one activity for one whole Monday: watching KPBS. But I have to learn, and Bud thinks nothing of shipping my pale, sniffling ass off in the old Ford to take the diffuser box to Bruce and stand shivering in a dry spring blizzard, waiting for that cute little hydrant to drain. Not that I mind. I just don’t like the two-way radio in the truck. (It reminds me of the cab company in Coronado where I dispatched the graveyard shift. This meant that I was on the phones when the sailors got tossed out of the bars at 1:00AM. Goodness, what a drunken boy far from home will say to a faceless girl on the phone! It didn’t help matters that I have an x-rated voice and too much tact and wit to just hang up on them.) One more hot toddy and I’ll have undone the damage sustained standing there with my post-fever head uncovered in the snow. It was still a really good day.

And just for the record, I don’t really despise Chrysler. They’re no more overpriced than anybody else’s brand new cars, and their commercials are no more silly. But if you tell me over the phone “oh, my transmission went out” and I say “wow, your transmission? That’s too bad,” and you hear Dad hollering in the background (I must be at Mom’s) “it’s a Chrysler, right?” and he’s right, well… just don’t tell me he didn’t warn you.


Blogger Libby said...

Hey, I need to catch up on your blog. What's been going on with the "other thing"? Sounds like you are having fun. Yeah!!

March 30, 2005 at 4:14 PM  

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