03 November 2008

A funny thing happened to me on the way back from the grocery store ...

Today I saw a fire truck.

Its sirens were on, and its blinky flashy lights were blinking and flashing. Nobody was moving as it approached the intersection, but nevertheless it stopped at the red light.

This isn't unusual for a fire truck to do in this day and age. Back when I was a kid, emergency vehicles had every right to hit your car if you were too dumb to move out of the way. Park in an emergency no-parking zone and an emergency happens? Say bye bye to your car, and no you can't get them to pay for it because it was your own damn fault for putting it there.

I'm guessing people didn't like that much, and complained enough so that now, instead of barreling right through intersections no matter what light it is, they're all required to stop and look both ways before continuing on. An emergency vehicle looks really dumb when sitting at a full stop at an intersection with all of its sirens and lights going, but as I was saying, in this day and age it's normal emergency vehicle behavior.

So this fire truck stops at the intersection. Then it just sits there. And doesn't move. Nobody else does either, because, well, it's an emergency vehicle and we're supposed to all stop for those. After about half of the opposing green light time has passed us by, everyone apparently decides it's not going to move after all, and so they go back to normal driving.

THEN, right as its own light was finally about to turn green, it suddenly remembers: Hey, wait! I'm an emergency vehicle, and I'm on my way to an emergency! Lots of honking ensues, everyone swerves out of the way, and it finally barrels its way through.

I guess there's all kinds of being asleep at the wheel.


Random Michelle K said...

That's amusing. I wonder what the other men in the truck were saying to him?

I'd guess that the "stopping" at a light has more to do with safety that laws.

I live across the street from a fire station and a couple blocks away from one of the biggest hospitals in the state, so I get to watch a lot of emergency vehicles moving through traffic.

Ambulances slow down to a crawl when they come to an intersection here, but they don't stop (the intersections near the hospital are some of the busiest in town). My guess is worry about drivers listening to loud music/wearing headphones and not being able to hear the sirens approach.

Better to take caution when entering an intersection than to not make it to (or from) an emergency because some moron wasn't paying attention while blaring their music.

Anonymous said...

The real question is, can you use that in your book? Because everything is fair game in November. :D

MWT said...

Ah, the penguin is back. :)

Yes, it's a safety thing, but it's the safety of the other people, not the emergency vehicles. Firetrucks are (or were) built like tanks, specifically so they could barrel their way through any cars that got in their way. Ambulances look pretty sturdy to me too, though I guess regular police cars aren't.

I grew up across the street from the fire dept/police dept/jail, back when the town was small enough that they were all in one building. Every morning at 7am the fire trucks tested their sirens and horns. My father used that as his alarm clock.

MWT said...

Oh and - I don't know if it'll fit into the fiction, but I did write this post as a procrastination exercise. ;)

John the Scientist said...

I once got out of the way of an ambulance with full lights and sirens that came barreling past me on a narrow road in Pittsburgh. I saw them pull into a Taco Bell, and assumed there was an emergency. Then I watched amble on in for lunch.

I reported them.

Nathan said...

I was once driving a truck and getting off of the interstate in Hartford. As I came down the ramp, I realized that the brakes had failed. There was a red light at the bottom of the ramp -- two lanes from the ramp and two lanes for the parallel surface road. Directly in front of me, stopped at the light was an ambulance. I swerved across three lanes to get to the one with no car blocking it thinking, don't wanna hit the ambulance, we're gonna need them in a minute.

Random Michelle K said...

Janiece and everyone whined so much the penguin came back for an encore.


mattw said...

Makes sense that they'd at least slow down at the intersection, which is what they do here, since they wouldn't want to cause another accident on the way to an emergency. But coming to a full stop and sitting there? Someone must not have been paying attention.