After a few years of firefighting a pattern emerges for certain types of superstitions to grow. They may seem as ridiculous as superstitions found in other endeavors, but none the less they persist.
I have heard of professional athletes that engage in rituals to maintain a winning streak, they won’t change their lucky jockstrap or allow their uniform shirt to be washed, things like that.
Good news is firefighters don’t, as far as I know wear jockstraps, so no worries about that kind of conversation coming up in the firehouse. “Hey Timo is that you or your cup?” never happened.
We do have some superstitions though. I was a big believer in full moons influencing the general population. I also felt that weekends had an effect on people and if you coupled Friday night with a military payday all bets were off on having a normal shift.
Although I was first exposed to this belief system in my early days of service, my real life experiences cemented the concepts in place over the years. The time of year also had an impact on call volume, but that component was easily explained by logic and wasn’t hitched to the supernatural.
More people are out playing and partying in public parks in the summer, more people sled in the winter and so on. But the phenomena of a full moon, military payday, weekend causing weirdness in the world, was in my mind a fact, not explainable by logic.
One pleasant afternoon I was working at firehouse number seven on a Friday the thirteenth, I hadn’t really signed off on the numerology component at that time, but this day changed all that for me.
At 1:00 in the afternoon following a hardy lunch we got tapped out on a medical call; severe bleeding was all we got. Off we went in to Friday the 13th at 1300 hours.
In route we were advised by dispatch that we were rolling on a “cat attack”. We all looked around the cab at each other, “Did I hear that right?” I asked, “A cat attack?” “Yep” said Tommy my friend and driver.
Colorado is home to some big cats, we have mountain lions, bob cats, and lynxes, problem was firehouse number seven wasn’t located in the foothills where such creatures were found; no 7’s was in the middle of a major thoroughfare and surrounded by commercial property and residential housing. Not the most likely place to find a big cat.
My officer shrugged, keyed his headset and questioned dispatch. “Dispatch from engine 7, did you say cat attack?” dispatch came back with an affirmative, it was a domestic cat. Now we unfortunately found that funny. I said “Oh no a kitty attack, I hope the cat isn’t still on the lose.” Tommy said “At least it isn’t stuck in a tree.”
The house was pretty close to the station so our response was fast; the address was 1313 such-and-such street, seriously. The other firefighter brought this to our attention, “You guys remember today is Friday the 13th right?” “So?” I said. “It’s one o’clock, 1300 hundred hours, and the address is 1313. Just saying.” I said “I’ll bet it’s a black cat.” This brought laughs all around, kind of tense laughs.
We pulled up out in front of a basic little house indigenous to this neighborhood. No commotion, no waver or pointer, just a little house. We grabbed our gear and proceeded to the front door, the interior door was open, the screen door closed.
I looked in. Oh my God, there was blood everywhere, all over the walls and floor. It looked like a ritual killing or something. Once again I was caught flatfooted; all the joking about a kitty had allowed me to slip into a casual frame of mind. My mind slammed into high gear.
I hesitated to open the door, what the hell kind of cat was this? The others stacked up behind me ramming me into the screen door. “What the hell Timo?” my lieutenant asked. “Look in there Lou.” He slipped past me. “Hold up guys.” He grabbed his radio, “Dispatch from engine 7.” “Go 7.” They replied.
“We need animal control here if they aren’t already coming and PD.” “Copy engine 7 animal control and PD.” And that is when we heard him. “Help!” came a call from inside. At that point, when you hear that call for help, your fears fall away. I didn’t give a damn what kind of cat we were dealing with, someone needed us.
I pulled the door open in time to see a man stager down a short stair case in front of me. He had a blue bath towel held tight against face, the blood turning it purple. “Help me.” He moaned. I slipped a little in the fresh blood and gripped his shoulder. “I’m a paramedic with the fire department, I need to see your face, so I’m gonna pull the towel away for a look. Okay?”
“Okay” he answered. I gripped the towel gently and peeled the side away from his face. Never seen anything like it in my life, if you can imagine what it would look like to put a person’s face through a document shredder that is what I saw. I quickly pushed the towel back into place. “Just keeping holding it like you are sir.”
Thank God the ambulance paramedics were right behind us. “Hey guys, this is gonna be a code three return, spike a couple bags and we’ll bring him to you.” They were a bit dazed and flatfooted themselves, cat attacks will do that to you I guess. They both spun on their heels and dashed back to the bus.
I enjoyed a reputation as a pretty good medic so when I was serious those around tended to be serious as well. “We’re gonna have to guide him to the ambulance.” I told my crew, “Sir, we are going to lead you to the ambulance, you just hold that towel as tight against your face as you can.”
Sorry guys hit a 1000 words again, I’ll finish tomorrow.