I had to run to the store the other night. We were out of moose tracks ice cream. It was a dire emergency; how are we supposed to catch up on the last season of LOST if we don't have ice cream? It can't be done.
So, I jumped in the car, rolled up all the windows, (this after I told my firefighter that I don't like it when he leaves the windows down because the black widows in the garage might get in the car), gave him twenty verbal lashings under my breath, turned the radio on and drove off.
I got about six blocks away when I noticed the faint smell of something burning. I scanned the lights on the panel; nothing was showing, so I figured it must be a nearby car. I sang along to the radio and enjoyed the night and the aloneness for about four more blocks. That's when I noticed the smell was getting worse.
I looked at my rear view mirror--I wasn't trailing smoke. Still no warning lights on the panel. I couldn't quite place the smell. It had the scent of an electrical fire, like a blown fuse, but there was a strange pungent undertone. It kind of smelt like the breaks. Ah, that must be it, I thought.
I turned around and headed back toward home, just in case, and called my firefighter. He had used the car last and I wanted to know if he had slammed on the breaks.
"Honey, did you happen to hit the breaks hard on your way home from work today?"
"The car smells like smoke and I'm starting to get worried."
(Silence on the other end of the line.)
"Katie," spoken with a detectable smile on his voice, "look in the rear view mirror. What do you see?"
"...Oh...heh...yeah. Your turnouts--you're a FIREFIGHTER. That would explain the smoke smell!"
I'm such a rookie fire wife. (Please tell me I am not the only one who has done this!!)
He had recently picked up his turnouts from having them washed after a fire, and they were in the back of the car. What smelled so strongly was just his helmet, which hadn't been washed yet. As I continued driving to the store, I felt bad for mentally giving him a hard time for leaving the windows rolled down to let the smell out.
It's amazing how powerful that burnt house smell is. You know how aromatic bacon becomes when you cook it, and the scent lingers in your house all day? Imagine that sort of magnification of smell, but not with nice-smelling bacon. This smell is closer to the scent of opening up a box of new athletic shoes--that synthetic, man-made smell--mixed with an undercurrent of smoke. Imagine that scent magnified x100, the chemicals soaking through every piece of clothing, forced out of your gloves and into your pores by the heat of the fire. My firefighter's hands will smell like that for a day or so, no matter how many times he washes them after a fire.
I am thankful for that gear, that allows him to safely fight fires in houses upwards of 1000 degrees.
But MAN does it stink!!
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