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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ranger TV

When I awoke the other day, I recalled a strange dream in which my son and I were walking around Walmart late at night with three uniformed firemen, shopping for a mailbox.

One of the things I have really enjoyed in my new home near Manassas, VA is having campfires in my backyard. Note the use of the past perfect tense. The fire I had there the previous night was my last, at least for the time being. While I was basking in the warm glow of my personal inferno, I heard the sounds of a diesel engine and air brakes, saw the red flashers reflecting off of the neighbor's windows, and immediately knew the game was up.

I usually work on the "forgiveness" side of the "forgiveness vs. permission" equation, i.e., I'm one to just do what I want (within reason, ethics, morals, yadda yadda), and if I'm violating some important regulation or cultural more, someone will surely let me know. I have also learned, particularly in governmental circles, to be careful whom you ask about the rules, because doing so will get you:

(a) the actual rules

(b) some misguided notion of what the rules are or might have been at one time, or

(c) what they wish the rules were, regardless of whether they know the actual rules.

I've found that some combination of (b) and (c) is about ten thousand times more likely than (a).

So with these parameters in mind, I haven't exerted myself too much in finding out what the actual rules are regarding outdoor fires in my county, and over the past year or so have enjoyed numerous backyard fires under the mandate of my personal dispensation.

That is, until the previous night, when one of my #&%$@ bedwetter neighbors called the fire brigade, who came and made me extinguish my fire. I can't complain too much - they weren't overly authoritative about it, and they did leave the door somewhat ajar: they advised me to find out from the fire marshal what the acceptable parameters are for burning in a backyard fire pit. Okay, I'll add that to my list. At least (apparently) there is some legal way for me to continue to feed my inner pyro, although something tells me that dropping a few hundred more bucks at Lowes will factor into the equation.

A few minutes later, the doorbell rang again, and this time the firemen sheepishly explained that they had knocked over my mailbox with their engine. They sure did - the 4x4 post was snapped off at the base, and the mailbox itself would have required some serious coat hanger wire and duct tape therapy. They were very apologetic, and if they had been a volunteer department (they weren't, I asked), I would have told them to not worry about it. But they were actual paid county employees, so I didn't let them off the hook. When they told me that they called the police I suggested that they just fix it under the table and not bother with them. They said no, they have to do things by the book and get a proper accident report. But upon further reflection they must have thought better of it, as they knocked on my door a few minutes later and wanted to discuss scenarios by which they could take care of it themselves. I figure they realized that in their profession it would be a good idea to keep their driving records clean. What we arrived at was, I'd accompany them to El Walmart and they'd buy me a new mailbox and post.

That's what we did. Young David came along - I thought he'd appreciate the unique cultural experience of having firemen buy you a mailbox at Mulletmart on a Saturday night. I told the firemen not to worry, I'd install it; they seemed genuinely disappointed that they couldn't come back in the morning and do it themselves. I think they must have a pretty dull job. While we were chatting,they said they only got three calls in the previous shift. Not the best thing to tell a taxpayer...

Anyway, what do you think? Too big a fire? I snapped this pic with my cell phone camera shortly before the FD arrived.

So moments after awakening from what I thought was a strange dream I realized that …sometimes dreams come true!

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