Future Fire Extinguishers of America

Excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral, a toast to Dave Linane who unexpectedly woke up dead. If you are new to this blog and want to know more about Dave click the link. If this is your first read, this is about 20 something chapters into the book. Scroll down to March 13 to start at the beginning if you wish by clicking the BLOG link above. You will have to load older posts to get to the beginning. As always, I appreciate your comments, stories of your experiences with Dave or if you are new to me, stories of your loved ones who have had their own Viking Funerals. Thank you all for joining me as I recover in my grief through dark humor. XO M

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I interviewed many people ADLB (after Dave left the building). On this occasion, my husband and I met with Brian, Steve (who rode with Dave in the Ambulance way back when), and Peggy A and Al B. All three guys retired from successful careers serving the SBFD. Peggy had been a paramedic early in her adulthood before becoming a mom. All were friends of Dave’s from High School or younger.

We spent the afternoon swapping stories over wine from Steve and Peggy’s vineyard right outside the door. One would not think great wine could come from grapes grown on a couple of really rocky acres of land in Devore, California, but it is possible! I shared way more new stories with them than I learned in trade. It was still the fun I imagined Dave would have had while he would have theoretically been reminiscing with them himself and writing his (this) book.

This was the occasion I was finally able to ask Steve, “What was the ride to the hospital with Dave like?” Steve knew what ride I meant, but he couldn’t remember anything specific. I wondered if “Dave said anything, or was he silent?” Ultimately, he thought it had been a quiet ride. Having worked in emergency response as a career, I imagine he had experienced so many traumatic events that even Dave’s really bad, terrible, day had blended in with so many thousands of others that he couldn’t remember after 40 plus years. I understood.

We laughed about Dave’s antics following their wedding, another could have ended up in the hospital adventure, but that story is for an upcoming chapter. Peggy went on to keep us laughing as she dramatically acted out her 20-year-old self’s response to her perfect wedding day, being probably ruined before the ceremony started. I had not heard this part of the story before.

The wedding was held in her parents’ backyard. The average age of their friends attending was 19 to early 20s. Tempers and hormones can run hot among young men at that age. A ruckus occurred between two male guests completely unrelated to the wedding party. Envisioning the characters involved had me laughing harder with each additional detail of the story. The scuffle was sparked by nothing more than unfounded and stupid young male jealousy over a girl. There they were, guests all dressed up for a wedding, but instead, they knocked over chairs set up for the event as the two pointlessly rolled around in a knot on the grass. It was a complete misinterpretation of facts and was quickly squashed. They brushed themselves off and sat down after righting their chairs.

As news of the brief tussle reached the darling bride Peggy, up in her childhood bedroom-her bridal dressing room, she couldn’t help but be overcome with tears from the stress of the big day combined with the unpredicted drama on what should have been her magical perfect day. She mimed a pose that conveyed that moment in time, a sulking pout, with eyes closed, head turned to the side, nose in the air, clearly…put out. Four lovely children later, grandchildren, their marriage soon approaching 50 years provided more than enough perspective needed to laugh at that day, at herself, and had us laughing with both of them.

On the heels of the laugh wearing off, Peggy and Steve were smiling with each other, I could see them remembering all of it in their collective memory, living their decades of a lifetime together in the two-second pause where we caught our breath. Keeping eye contact with Peggy, Steve added as the thought came to him probably for the first time in decades, “Dave made the reel-to-reel tape for our reception.”

I had no idea that is what WE were making that tape for, but Dave had selected all the music from his fab collection of records and had me queue each song up on the turntable to record a six-hour reel-to-reel tape of music. This was decades before DJs played at weddings. I cracked up as I realized and asked, “DAVE made the tape for your wedding? I mean, OK, he DID choose all the music but HOW funny that he didn’t tell me what it was for. (Pause as the realization struck them with the obvious-Dave was paralyzed, he could not possibly have MADE the tape without some help), I hadn’t thought about the fact that he or we never listened to it after spending all that time making it.” I saw Steve connect the dots with the flash of a micro-expression on his face, “We listened to that reel for years. It was great music.” Peggy added, “Ya until Pete (placeholder name of someone I don’t know, the name did not stick in my memory, nor did I think to write it down) spilled beer on it.” They looked at each other again and nodded once as they both recalled the demise of the tape while the rest of us laughed about this Pete guy and his destructive beer.

As I edited this section, I realized that I had to have been about 10 when I helped him make this tape. Six hours of music is a big project and this was the first big project I ever worked on. This was also the first time Dave shared interesting insights about music in general but about specific songs he chose to have me record. He wanted it to be done correctly, and he was very particular about how he wanted things in general done. He taught me how to listen to and adjust the sound as we went so there wouldn’t be jarring differences between each song. He explained how to make sure the transition was smooth from each song to the next. I learned about what quality control meant but it wasn’t given a name. He just wanted it done well, and it was. I learned more from him about how to do things carefully and thoughtfully, thinking about the end-users experience by both helping him with daily tasks of living and needing assistance and working with him on that and many other projects. No wonder I want things done a particular way, lined up in a particular order. “Babe, (addressing my husband) it’s all Dave’s fault!”

Al is a reserved guy. He was quietly smiling along with us as the stories were shared. After the laughter quieted a moment, he contributed the second story of the two stories I learned that day. He has a really nice deep, clear voice and is also great at telling a tale. He set the scene of another occasion where they, any of them could have ended up in the hospital.

The guys, Dave, Brian, Bruce, and Al, were out cruising in Dave’s van. Among the silly things they did besides stopping and leaving Dave in the van with the doors open in the middle of E street in town, they also loved, LOVED to prank people, random people, anyone, everyone. It didn’t matter. This was an equal opportunity group of pranksters.

On this occasion, they had at least one old fire extinguisher filled with water with them. They drove around looking for innocent young people to lightly spritz with water. Likely people they might spray on a night like this were people standing outside the adult book store, (apparently, there was frequently a line), people waiting to buy ice cream, lined up for the movies or the parking lot after at a game. There were many scenarios. Any crowd might get the rain out of the clear blue sky treatment. They didn’t spray people in a point-blank manner. From the inside of the van, they would spray one quick burst of water up in the air so it would broadcast down on unsuspecting people from above, making the source of water hard to determine. They would enjoy the shock in response on behalf of the now wet victim(s) and then feel sly as they casually drove away. They did this all the time.

This time they sprayed someone, a random guy in a crowd who did not take the practical joke well at all. He ran to his car, got in, and started chasing after them. Bruce was driving the van and sped around town trying to lose this guy, which they finally did. Plenty of rolling around happened in the back of the van for the untethered Dave and Al in a lawn chair. They laughed and laughed, incredulous that anyone would get so mad about a little water.

After they were sure they had lost the guy, they decided to celebrate by stopping for more beer at their favorite liquor store. Al posed the question to the group, “What was the name of that liquor store we always went to down on… what street was that, like 9th street?” Brian, Steve, and Al remembered simultaneously and laughingly said, “BLISS LIQUOR!!” They didn’t exactly confirm the location, but anywhere south of Baseline Street would have been sketchy after dark. A “sketchy part of town” in San Bernardino, is a strong statement. Al asked me, “Are you familiar with Bliss liquor?” I shrugged no as Brian laughed, “She wouldn’t know where that is!” I’ve never been much of a drinker, and I had zero reasons to be in a sketchy part of an overall pretty gritty town. Al continued, “So we went to Bliss Liquor. Bruce and Brian went in, and I stayed in the van with Dave.”

A yellow van is not exactly easy to hide. The mad, wet guy had not stopped looking for them. Unbeknownst to them, he spotted the van, pulled in next to them, and surprised the shit out of all of them when, in his rage, he “Ripped the side door of the van open to find… a guy in a wheelchair and me on a lawn chair. The guy was livid, screaming, and ready to kill us with his bare hands. Bruce and Brian came out of the store just in time to divert his attention from behind. They tried to calm him down. ‘Come on, man, it was just water. We’re just having a little fun.’ Who knows if it was their words, counting four of them against him, or the crowbar Bruce inexplicably produced from nowhere, held by his side that convinced the guy to let it go, but he did, and he left.”

I could not believe I had never heard this, another potential brush with near-death story. “Did my mom know about this?” Al and Brian in unison laughed, “HELL, NOOOO!” This was in the very early years of nights out on the town for Dave after returning home from the hospital. My mom probably would have had what we called a “conniption” if she had found out. Dave would likely never be allowed out of the house again if she knew how close the group had come to Duking it out over a silly water prank gone awry. Turns out, they did have an idea of her reaction, and they all kept their mouths shut. Dave, obviously taking it to the extreme, by taking it to the grave. I told my mom of the mad escapade the next day. She had not heard it before and shook her head with a giggly sigh of “those boys.”

As a child, I knew all too well these guys had fire extinguishers, sprayed people out in the world, and fully enjoyed every minute of laughing along the way. One of the extinguishers lived in Dave’s bedroom. I had heard about many other occasions that ended with people wet, confused, and these guys driving away laughing.

A few years after the above incident Al described, I too was pranked with water from the sky but multiplied by infinity. I was jogging a block away from home with my bestie Suzie in our neighborhood park. The park was located directly adjacent to the fire department where Brian worked, Al and maybe Steve worked there too at that time, but definitely, my decade in the future son’s father was there. He was the captain of these knuckleheads.

Suzie and I were roughly 13 and jogging an easy few laps around the park when we were sprayed by a shocking surprise of water raining down from above. Instead of a few random little unexpected water drops from a hand-held fire extinguisher, it was from a regulation size fire hose attached to a fire truck or hydrant on the other side of the wall in the fire department training area. They rained a stream, wait, more like a deluge of water down on us. It fell from probably 60 feet at its highest point in the arc of the stream and created a circular shower of water pelting us that was at least 10 feet in diameter. The stream followed us as we ran like a spotlight on a stage. I am talking about enough water to extinguish a house fire torrenting down on us.

It took me a moment after being stunned to figure out exactly what in THEE hell was happening. This was Brian’s signature water prank… on steroids…times a thousand. I have no idea why we continued jogging, but we did. Maybe we thought we could escape it, but we didn’t. The deluge just followed us. It was impossible to talk with, through, or over the inundation of water to explain to Suzie what I knew to be happening. I tried to, but all I could do was sputter out water as we laughed hysterically, trying to slog our way out of the torrent. We could have wet our pants, and no one would have known we were laughing that hard and that completely soaked.

I am sure the prankster firemen got a laugh out of raining on our parade. When we made it about a couple hundred feet away, we were finally out of the reach of the stream. We both laughed incredulously as we headed our separate ways home. Imagine me returning home after a simple run around the park looking like I washed up on shore waterlogged after being lost at sea during a storm…for about a month. We, our family, had heard about epic water fights between those guys at the fire department that sometimes spilled into the street and stopped only when people started calling 9-1-1 to tattle on them. Dispatch would effectively stop the shenanigans by contacting the station with an announcement over the public address system that they would respond to by stopping in their tracks to listen thinking a REAL call was being dispatched, “Station 4, we’re receiving numerous reports from the area of Fire Personnel chasing each other around the street with fire hoses, please grow up.” I think they probably said “Desist.” but I like substituting “grow up” in there.

My mom knew where I had been, took one look at me when I sloshed in the door, and before she could open her mouth, I said one word loudly, “BRIAN.” If there was a practical joke with water involved, Brian was behind it. She just laughed, and I went to peel off my clothes. This was a hilariously unexpected way to get cooled off on a hot summer day, a deluge in the park. No one else was home at the time, and I never mentioned it to anyone, namely Brian. Not because I didn’t want to, I loved this story I just got sidetracked with likely some other shiny object of the day and forgot about it until I remembered when Al told us his story. This is a good reason to share good stories!

I told my tale of water woe to the group, somewhat digging for a confession retroactive to the mid-70s from them. The guys looked at each other and shrugged, not saying anything but conveying a “could have been” noncommittal group eyebrow raise. They didn’t specifically deny it. I followed up with, “Did you drench that many people that you could not remember?” They look at each other again and collectively shrugged again in a very non-excited demeanor, admitted nothing. That was hilarious too. I was WAY WAY WAY more drenched in comparison to that pissed off guy. I could not help but think about his perspective when he thought he was going to beat someone up. Outloud I wondered how many times he told the story of pulling the van door open and seeing Dave in his wheelchair and Al… What in the hell must he have thought? I hope he learned how to chill the fuck out.