The Parking Lot Seems to be on Fire and Other Stories.
Now, I normally work on Saturday nights. It's our busiest shift of the week, so it makes sense that the assistant manager and I man the store together, usually with at least one other person. I showed up for work this afternoon with no idea that I would be chatting with the 911 dispatcher again. That is, after all, a Sunday sort of thing.
Not five minutes after I arrived, a customer who had just left scared the bejesus out of me by pounding on the glass by the exit door and screaming something panicky. I rushed over to open the door to hear what the hell she was yelling about and noticed smoke billowing across the parking lot. Hmm, I thought. That's not... usual. At first, the customer and I thought it was coming from one of the cars, but we soon determined that a shrubbery was aflame. A shrubbery. In one of the little median island-type things in the lot. Was on fire. For no reason. In the middle of a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Now, the fire couldn't really go anywhere. It was surrounded by cement, and no one was even parked anywhere vaguely nearby. It's difficult to see why that really constitutes an emergency, per se, but it's not like the fire department has a special number you can call just for stupid fires. Maybe it should. I felt an acute need for such a phone number today, someone I could call and just say, "Hey, if you guys have nothing to do, no people to save, maybe you want to swing by and put out this bush that's burning in our parking lot, get a little fresh air, whatever. No rush."
Of course, I ended up talking to a 911 dispatcher yet again. The conversation went like this*:
Dispatch: 911, what is your emergency?
Me: Um, I'm calling to report a fire. A little fire, it's not really... big.
D: And where is the fire, what is your location? Is it where you are calling from?
Me: No, it's outside in the parking lot at (location). It's a bush.
D: I'm sorry?
Me: It's a bush, a bush is on fire. Out in the parking lot. I don't know why.
At this point, I saw two of the strapping Italian fellows from the pizza joint next door walking across the parking lot, still in their aprons, with buckets of water. A random guy pulled his pickup truck over by the fire, too, and got out, eyeing it up.
Me: Um, some guys are trying to put it out.
D: They're putting it out?
Me: Yeah, a couple of them have buckets of water, and one guy... is using mulch.
Me: Yeah, he's... well, he is picking up handfuls of mulch and sort of... dumping them on the bush. It's really kind of... stupid. The mulch is catching fire, now, and kinda... falling all over the place.
D: Is the fire getting bigger?
Me: Sort of, but now some guys are stamping out the mulch and pouring the water... yes, that appears to be working.
Here is where I start laughing, and the dispatcher follows suit as we talk.
Me: I'm thinking this is probably really not any kind of emergency, and I am sorry I called. Very, very sorry. I hate to think that this is tying up emergency resources. I think the pizza guys have put it out.
D: The pizza guys?
Me: They had the buckets of water, and they stopped that moron--excuse me, concerned bystander--from trying to 'smother' it with mulch. Should I just hang up now?
My employee is leaning against the counter for support and tears are actually running down her face from laughing so hard. The dispatcher, still laughing with (at?) me, took my information and ended the call.
It was about five minutes before the firemen arrived. The impromptu pizza firefighting unit had gone back inside, and the mulch moron had also left, shamed. No fire was to be had, but I watched them carefully unroll the hose, thoroughly spray down the already-sodden area, then roll their hose back up again. I know at least one of them was laughing.
We all spent some time speculating, this evening, as to what could have caused the fire to start in the first place. Most likely, we think, it was an errant cigarette or something. But it occurs to me that perhaps the whole burning bush thing is not the way Jehovah should go about manifesting, should he decide to do so.
At least, not in my parking lot.
*Trust me when I say this is almost verbatim, because I had to listen to one of my employees tell the story again and again and again, portraying me on the telephone.