(PART TWO OF “LIVING THE DREAM TRILOGY”)
I think it was time to begin forcing the dream to come true. (No, not the Anne Hathaway dream…I am still waiting to figure out that one.)
In Part One I told how I had a chance to fulfil a dream but ended up blowing it. Now, the time had come for me to take matters in my own hands and force the issue. I needed to come up with a way to finally use a fire extinguisher in a responsible manner and settle once and for all the nagging question if the way I envisioned a fire extinguisher working in a story written long ago was accurate.
It had been weeks since the truck caught on fire at the fish bowl – the gas bar where I worked in 1987. Since that Spring afternoon no other emergency requiring the use of a fire extinguisher had arisen. Often friends would come and hang out in the glass-walled gas shack. (I recently learned that there were often late night games of Trivial Pursuit, though I was never invited.) One night Ross dropped in and as he sat there he picked the fire extinguisher up off the floor and without the slightest twinge of guilt grabbed the pin and hauled it out. I couldn’t believe what I had seen. I was shocked. Flabbergasted. How could he simply break the lead seal wired to the pin with out a proper emergency and still sleep soundly at night? I could never do it. I may have daydreamed of doing it but without a valid reason for doing so I could never pull the pin.
The midnight shifts that summer was one unending temptation. Sitting alone in the gas shack, the clock closing in on 4:00 AM, with no one else awake for miles, I would slide the pin out. All it would take was one nerve impulse from my brain to my hand to flex my grip, but I couldn’t yield to the urge to play irresponsibly with life saving equipment. My dream to use a fire extinguisher in an actual emergency remained unassuaged.
Summer passed into Fall, and one afternoon as I sat there, I noticed the charge indicator on the red extinguisher had fallen out of acceptible range, indicating that the pressure was below normal levels. Showing myself to be a conscientious employee, and maybe earning a brownie point or two, I entered the main office and informed management of the situation. To which management promptly told me to get lost.
A week or so later, I decided to drop in and hang out with Melv who was working the night shift. (He must have seen me coming beforehand and hid the Trivial Pursuit game.) We were discussing the state of the extinguisher and how, if there was ever to be an emergency, even though management had been informed, it would probably be us, as the gas attendants, held liable for negligence should the unthinkable occur. This made me mad.
“I am going fix that,” I determined aloud! I stood, snatched up the fire extinguisher, swung open the door and stormed out into the night shrouded parking lot.
Melv, fell back in his seat, his jaw dropped open. “Brad, what are you going to do?” I didn’t answer him because my mind was giddy with excitement. I was about to sear my conscience and surrender to that burning desire to use the fire extinguisher. I was going to discharge the extinguisher in the parking lot, convincing myself that if it was used the management would have no excuse. It couldn’t be ignored. They would have to recharge it.
I yanked the pin, tossing it into the darkness, then squeezed the handle. Behind me, Melv started saying random words, rapidly, as he is aught to do when panicked. The chaulky, dust-like substance exploded from the nozzle as the cloud of fire retardant bloomed in the dark then covered the pavement at my feet as I indulged. My question was answered and yes, it worked, just as I imagined in that story I wrote 10 years before.
My dream was fulfilled, or was it? Why did the experience leave me empty, my expectations let down? My dream was to use the fire extinguisher in an actual emergency, and I cheated. There was no emergency. I sighed, handed the extinguisher to Melv, went home and went to bed.
The next morning I returned to the fish bowl, and when the office opened, I picked up the fire extinguisher and thudded it down on Managment’s desk demanding that it be recharged. He didn’t tell me to get lost this time, instead, he told me to stick that thing up… well, let just say it would have been very painful to follow his instructions. As I walk out with the discharged fire extinguisher under my arm, I turned and pointed my finger, warning, “If anything happens. I am no longer responsible.”
Management called me a name and showed me one of his fingers; different then the one I was pointing.
If this is just part two of a trilogy, then you know this story can’t end here.