I have a neighbor that I secretly admire (well, okay, lust after). He’s a Fireman (with a capital F). And he came right out of Central Casting. He is such a dark-haired hunk that I’ve often thought about setting fire to my apartment just so I can get him to come over. Each day, I see him come and go, off to work. But sometimes, I just can’t help but think that he must have been so totally disappointed to have passed all his endurance tests and exams and whatnot, only to be sitting around the Firehouse with absolutely nothing to do, day in and day out.
I mean, Italy is nothing like America, where they build their houses out of (flammable) wood. Here, I think the biggest excitement is undoubtedly gas leaks - of which there are many - since we all use the gas lines for heating and cooking. And, top it off with none of that ‘cat up a tree’ that is the very fabric of American life, well… In Italy, the cats are free to roam, or they were intentionally abandoned up that tree and so no fretful owner is going to see to it that they get back down. In short, there hasn’t been a major fire since Nero’s day.
Now, I may be a bit hard on our Fireman, because there are huge, life-threatening brush fires raging throughout the peninsula, some nearly right up to my door (no, I didn’t light ‘em, I swear). And a few years back, the sets of Ancient Rome burnt down (again) at Cinecittà. So, I’m certain they have lots of fires, actually, to put out.
It’s just that in the city, Firemen and Fire trucks and all that are just not a part of civic life. I don’t know, but, I wonder if elementary school kids get to even visit a fire station here in Italy and slide down that tube…I think the kids would wonder where the heck they’d been taken and why. And, come to think of it, I don’t even know the word for Fire Truck (as I was searching in google images for an appropriate shot).
This is so much so, that I was quite taken aback the other day when I saw my first full-fledged Italian fire truck come roaring by. Sure, I’ve seen the little Fiats and mini-vans with the writing FIREMEN on the sides (okay, I can translate that to a more appealing Fire Brigade in honor of my cute neighbor), but really. Quite compact, to careen through the tiniest of Roman roads, at first, I thought it was a huge metal garbage truck with a siren and windows. Here was a row of gorgeous guys, arms out the windows looking a lot like the keystone cops in their very strange (for me) aluminum-sided fire truck.
It careened around the corner, tilting almost entirely on one set of wheels, and for a moment I thought that I had stepped into an excellent Richard Scary children’s book. Except, it wasn’t entirely red. Oh well, you can’t have everything.