Slice of Seattle

"So long, suckers!"  Sea-Tac Airport, by way of Dallas-Fort Worth, the latter the busy American Airlines hub where connecting passengers crush their way into tiny tram cars that run between three terminals and look on in decided un-amusement when a certain, Hawaiian-shirted someone shouts to those who missed the proverbial bus.

My Monday morning flight from Raleigh arrives early, around 12:45, so we taxi for a spell. I take the opportunity to eyeball the airport fire station, noting the name of the side street. (Air Cargo Road.) Forty minutes later and after claiming to be a baggage-- I hear its a terminal condition-- my companion and I enter the lobby of the Port Authority-operated fire house.

We're given an exceptionally friendly, on-the-fly tour, mostly of the apparatus bay, which houses four (I think) Oshkosh 6x6 rigs, a pair of pumpers (presumably one reserve), one or two ambulances, a haz-mat/heavy rescue unit, and a command van. (Plus and parked outside, a tractor-drawn "oh shit" trailer containing 250 backboards and other grim accessories.)

I spend half the time fumbling with my camera, newly lent from a friend and including a manual that I haven't finished reading. My companion, having never visited an airport fire station, asks her own questions and even tries on a set of "bunker gear." (Reprints will be available later, though only for the expressed purpose of embarrassing Sara.) While touring the "day room," an "alert" is called. Blown engine. Pilot returning to airport. Number of "souls" aboard not known. They scramble; we race outside, for more film and to watch from the "civilian" side of the fence. Alas, the lime-colored trucks quickly roll out of sight. And, since the plane is fourteen minutes out, we opt to take off. Ha!




First impressions of Seattle: look at the mountains! What's with all the tandem trucks? Stop signs mounted on white-painted poles with red horizontal stripes. Airports everywhere. Freeway Hell, congested at all hours. Drive-through espresso booths! Look at the mountains! The Space Needle's tall, but other downtown buildings are higher. Cops everywhere. And those red flashing lights are tow trucks. Sparkling blue sky, at least this one day of the year. Look at the mountains!

Fresh from the fire station, we turn toward Renton, a suburb of Seattle and where a drive-away agency is located. (I hope to save hundreds on a rental by instead "driving away" to the East Coast. More on that later.) We're also damn hungry, so we opt, first, to find food. Along Rainier Avenue we go, past the usual fast-grease joints, plus quite a few Mexican and Thai places. (Neither appeals at the moment. And Seafood's out, 'cause I don't eat it.) Drive, drive, drive, whine, whine, whine, and nearly an hour later-- and having finally turned around after entering Seattle from the scenic Lake Washington side-- we take a booth at... Pizza Slut. (But, oh, was it good. At least until this occasionally lactose-intolerant person suffered certain consequences later. If I'd only remembered eating that ice-cream cone at the airport...) By now it's around 3 and my companion has to return to work. She's a "postdoc" at the Fred Hutchinson Research Center near downtown, so we go there. The Center is also around the block from a naval-themed park on the waterfront, so we go there next. (One of the artifacts is a docked fireboat. Since the park is closed, however, we drive one block to the opposite shore. I again fumble with the camera.)

Aside: In some cities, fireboats are used to supply water to land-based pumper trucks. These are typically rarer events-- multiple-alarm structure fires or, as has happened in California, water supply-disrupting natural disasters. Like earthquakes. On the flip side, firefighters have been using barges since the olden days. Just drive the pumping engines on board and let 'er rip!

Next stop is home, a pricey (but with a great view!) apartment in Wallingford that's also one block from a business advertising "Anti-Rape | Weaponry | Self-Defense | Fitness | Stress Relief." [ Insert own off-color joke ] We hang for an hour; she relaxes, I don't unpack. Then back again to the lab, by way of a car wash (she uses rubber gloves) and, on the "less best" side of town, a K-Mart. (In order, we pass "Chubby and Tubby," a junk store "serving Seattle since 1947," the side-by-side "Classy Nails" and "The Love Panty," and a string of firms for renting trucks, moving and storage, and ready-mixed concrete. Oh, and one pink-painted wrecker with, I swear to God, five giant toes atop the cab!) At Blue Light Special, I nab crackers, cookies, and a Diet Coke. She buys a hair dryer. I also unsuccessfully attempt to have "Harry Crack" paged. By 10:00 p.m., we're back at the lab; by 12:00 a.m., we're home and I'm lying on the floor, atop a couple sofa cushions (with sheets), and wondering if this large-massed, heat-sensitive, and very, very furry house guest can actually fall asleep in a home that, like all the others in the area, doesn't have air-conditioning. Stay tuned.

Copyright 2000 Michael J. Legeros


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