The headline was quite clear. There was no mistaking the words emblazened across the top of the page. "Fire poles are now sliding into history." As I read that line my heart sank. I remember a field trip back in elementary school when my whole class went to visit the local volunteer fire station. To my little kid eyes, everything looked so big in scale. Big fire trucks, big axes, big snarling Dalmation with beheaded chew toys laying about. Those firemen seemed like superheroes to me. They were rugged and burly. They reeked of charcoal. They all had that gleam in their eye. I was absolutely mesmerized and transfixed by all that I heard and saw and took in that day. Of course, the coolest part of it was getting to see the big brass fire pole. We even got to see how they slid down the pole when they were responding to an emergency of some sort. When that alarmed sounded, they told us that every second counted. Of course, each of the big, burly men yelled out "Wheeee" as they slid down the pole, so at least they got to have some fun too.
Beyond the eye-catching headline, I learned that fire poles, while fun and neat, also had their dark side too. One of the main experts interviewed for the story, Fire Chief Ax Elerant, was quoted as saying that fire poles were the number one source of fireman-related injury. Oh it wasn't the skin burns on their inner thighs that was the biggest issue, although this was comically serious, it was the startling number of firemen who were wandering around the second floor, strung out from the fumes of the fire that had just been extinguished, who inadvertently fell down the gaping hole in the floor. Chief Elerant stated that while time was of the essence in responding to all emergencies, it was just as important to make sure that his teams got to the scene in one piece. He stated that his men could more safely take the stairs.
Wow, it has come to this. What's next, a long flight of stairs down to the Bat Cave or to the Mermalayer? What of our heroes when they return? The only thanks they get is having to huff up all of those stairs. Part of that hero image that I had for firemen now seems, somehow, tarnished.