Column: Adjusting to life without sirensWhen I lived in town, I used to count sirens at night. Weird as that might sound, I did it, whether I wanted to or not. I’d hear the sirens in the summer especially, when I would have my windows open in the evenings. At times, I’d wake from a sound sleep. I’d lie there, listening, and counting.
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
When I lived in town, I used to count sirens at night. Weird as that might sound, I did it, whether I wanted to or not.
I’d hear the sirens in the summer especially, when I would have my windows open in the evenings. At times, I’d wake from a sound sleep. I’d lie there, listening, and counting.
When I heard eight or more, I usually swore, truth be told. In my mind, hearing that many individual sirens usually meant something more than a fender bender or a stove fire. I’d swear because I knew what was coming next: I was getting dressed, putting on shoes, a jacket, whatever, and I was getting into my car, rolling down the window, turning off the radio and going for a drive.
I was a bona fide siren chaser.
Living right off of Highway 3 had its perks. Sometimes I’d hit the stop sign at County Road 66 and Highway 3, look to the south and see the flashing lights. Those times I’d chase the lights as far as I could. If I missed them, I’d drive through neighborhoods and, more often than not, I could find the trucks. Fire trucks are hard to miss.
Other times, I’d end up driving around town, trying to guess where the trucks had gone. I’d run by the fire stations and do a quick count of cars in the parking lot – you can tell how many firefighters are out by the number of cars that show up, and that would give me an idea of whether the incident would be one to call about the next morning.
Seeing this in print, it seems like a rather nutty practice. Borderline creepy to anyone who didn’t know I was a newspaper reporter, I suppose. But my friends, on more than one occasion, it got the job done.
For instance, one night the sirens sounded so close I couldn’t help but get up. It was about 1:45 a.m. I got in my car, drove out of my townhome development and caught a glimpse of an ambulance heading eastbound on County Road 66. I followed. I came upon a fatal motorcycle accident. Another night, I was sitting on my living room couch when the sirens started. I got a feeling it was something I should know about. I caught sight of a police car zooming into a development on the east side of Highway 3. It didn’t take me long to find the house fire.
You would think that with all this sensitivity to sirens, I’d pay a little more attention to my surroundings at my new home, right? Wrong.
At first, I counted. Of course I did. But after Fourth of July in St. Paul, I lost count of how many times I was counting sirens. There must have been five or six sets of sirens going off in the couple of hours I was outside gardening. And that was in the afternoon. The evening was worse.
Long story short, I didn’t even budge last week when an arsonist apparently set fire to a house two blocks away from ours. I slept right through the sirens, in fact. Reading details on Twin Cities Fire Wire, a Facebook page that tracks fire and emergency crew activity in the metro area, I found out there were at least a dozen trucks on hand. The neighbors put down mattresses and helped to catch the two children who were trapped on the upper level of the house. A firefighter and one of the victims were both injured.
I only noticed it when The Beau and I drove past the house later and saw all of the television trucks set up outside. Whoops.
It’s kind of bugged me the past few days that such a newsworthy event happened literally right down the street from me, and I missed it completely.
On the other hand, I’m kind of glad for it, too. It turns out I don’t have to be thinking about work in the middle of the night. I can be just a normal person once in a while.
And I don’t know if counting sirens is really all that normal.