Chinese Fire Drill

South Metro RescueThe city recently finished repaving the streets in our neighborhood.  They were overdue; smooth as silk now.

Our daughter, Lauren, and her two little girls came for a visit to our neighborhood swim pool while the work was still underway.  Our street was blocked off so she had to park about a block away and hoof it from there.  Talk about a beast of burden.  The one year old, Caroline, in a pack to the front. A large, all purpose diaper bag slung over a shoulder (I can’t imagine what all she has in there). And a bunch of towels and other swim paraphernalia in a bag on the other arm.  Bridget, the three year old, thankfully able to navigate on her own.

Don’t get upset with me; I wasn’t there as she schlepped all this stuff from her car to our house.  I did help on the return trip.

And that’s were this little adventure begins.

After the girls got up from the extended naps brought on by the exuberant splashing under a blazing sun at the pool, and after all the gear had been packed up (with me carrying one of the heavy bags this time), and after all the kisses and hugs had been dealt out to Grandma, the four of us began trekking up the block to Lauren’s Honda Pilot.

Bridget, who takes after her Mom, looks like a little Viking:  blond tresses, long legged.  Two gears only: 100 mph and zero. Her turquoise Croc knock-offs often on the wrong feet.  Talks a mile a minute.

Caroline (and don’t get it wrong: it’s Caroline as in “pine,” not as in “pin”) takes after her half Korean father: luxuriant brown hair from birth, a vaguely swart complexion.   Irresistibly plump; a regular Buddha baby.  Look away for even a moment and she’s crawled-where?!

At the car, we buckled the girls into their rocket-launch-ready car seats and tossed the gear in back. Next, it was my turn for kisses all around.

I’m not quite sure why Lauren was distracted, maybe the unfamiliar parking location, maybe the traffic that was heavier than usual because of the paving equipment.   But, when she closed the passenger door, the first words out of her mouth were, “Oh, shit!”

Which, as you probably know from one of my favorite movies, Blast From The Past, is a 16th century French colloquialism meaning, roughly, good.

Actually, NOT.  “I just locked the girls in the car!”

“Is the air conditioning on?”

“Yes,” she answered.  Which was a relief; it would have been a lot hotter in the car than it was outside.  “Do you have another set of keys at home?”

“I don’t know.”

“You stay here,” she continued, the urgency rising in her voice.  “I’ll run down to the house and see if there’s a key there.  If there isn’t, I’ll call 911.”  With that, she set off at a brisk lope, her long legs taking her out of sight before I got around the car to see what I might be able to do with Bridget.

Although she’s quick, Bridget wasn’t quick enough to make much sense of my shouted urgings to get out of her outer space ready car seat to see if she could unlock the door from the inside.  (I can only imagine what a passerby might have thought of my ravings.)  All this produced no more than a blank look of bewilderment from Bridget’s side of the glass.

As the minutes dragged on, it crossed my mind to hurry back to the house for a hammer.

Fortunately, before it came to that, Lauren hove into view.  Her cell was pressed to her ear, ” . . . I can’t really see a house address from here, but I think we’re on Geddes Circle.  I know we’re in the Homestead neighborhood.”  She stooped to be able to see underneith  some tree branches to get a view of the street sign at the nearest intersection.  “The cross street is Ivanhoe Court.”

With that, I thought I heard the first faint wailings of a siren; I certainly hoped so.  In less than a minute, I knew I did.  A minute more, and a red pumper truck, siren, lights, and horn blazing, led a parade of South Metro Fire District response vehicles into the street next to the car.

Years ago, when I was campaigning door to door, I actually came upon a house that had flames leaping out of an upper story window.  (Someone else had already reported the blaze.)  What impressed me most about the incident, was the matter-of-fact way the firemen went about their business when their truck pulled up.  They calmly hooked up the hoses, carefully put on their equipment, knocked in the front door, and walked into the burning structure behind a wall of mist.  They were up to the second story in seconds. Visible flames disappeared almost as quickly.

400x550 house fire

It was the same here.  While they didn’t waste any time, the firemen very methodically went about their business of freeing my trapped granddaughters.  No panic, no drama.  A crow bar to pry open the door enough to force in a heavy duty coat hanger that, soon enough, released the door lock button.  And, voilà, the little ones were back in their mother’s arms.

And while Bridget shed a few tears, especially as the trucks pulled up with sirens screaming, they vanished when she got her official “South Metro Fire District” badge.

“Papa” didn’t do much to contribute to the happy outcome.  I noticed that the passenger window frame was bent as Lauren pulled away. I sent her a text that she might want file an insurance claim; the old insurance agent in me speaking.  Always thrifty, Lauren replied, “Good idea. We sprayed some water at it and there was a leak. ”

But even that came to naught.  Haden, her husband, muscled the frame back into place so that it looks good as new and doesn’t leak.

But, of course, all’s well that ends well.  And that’s what counts in fire drills.









  1 comment for “Chinese Fire Drill

  1. July 7, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    All’s well that ends well, Spence. We had a great time on Fathers’ Day! Thanks. BTW, my blog can be found at


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