Opinion: One handy firefighter


I am retired. So, I don’t work.

Neither did anything in our house on Thursday of last week.

The problem began about 2 a.m. One of the fire alarms started making a weird chirping sound. We assumed it was the batteries, but this is not an easy fix. It required one of us to get up on a high ladder and replace one of those nine-volt puppies. We needed a volunteer to take on this risky task, so I offered to hold my wife, Mary Ellen, in case she fell. The next morning, the alarm was still chirping.

Our next-door neighbor is a former New York City fireman. I called him.

“Paul, it’s Dick next door. Our fire alarms won’t stop beeping.”

“Well, Dick, it’s one of two things. Either all the batteries need changing or …”

“Yes, yes, or what?”

“Or your house is on fire. “

Paul thought that was pretty funny. He came over and replaced all the batteries.

Later, Mary Ellen and I went for a walk, and when we returned, the garage door wouldn’t open. Mary Ellen asked me if I put in the right code.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s the date of our anniversary.”

“Oh dear, I wish you had used a number you could remember.”

Paul came over and taught us how to reset the code, but now to open the door we have to remember Paul and Karen’s anniversary.

That same afternoon, Mary Ellen wanted to edge the lawn. She hates mowing the grass, but she enjoys edging it. And then she wants me to come up from my basement office and tell her what a great job she’s done. A woman shouldn’t ask a married man to come up and see her edgings. But the weed whacker wasn’t working. The string line kept breaking. Paul came over and explained that the cord I was using was the wrong thickness. He had several types in his garage, where he has a complete workshop, so he made the necessary replacement. Someday, if you move, move next door to a retired New York City fireman.

Just after Mary Ellen finished manicuring our lawn, we realized the lights in the laundry room weren’t working. I checked the circuit breakers and then made sure those weird things in the garage and on the bathroom walls (whose name I don’t know) hadn’t popped out. Paul saw me in the garage and showed me I was not pushing down on the button long enough or hard enough. Suddenly, the lights went on and the ice maker went to work. Even the dryer started. I went out to buy Paul a case of beer.

When I got back, Mary Ellen told me the cable was out and the water softener wasn’t working. I knew both these things could be easily fixed, but this late at night, I didn’t want to bother Paul.


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