Friday, May 18, 2007

Small town excitement

Even though Chicago is a big city, my neighborhood is a very small town. If I look in the neighborhood phone book I can easily pick out names of people I know. Today was our neighborhood garden fair and there were any number of familiar faces.
Yesterday younger son and I were leaving his school when we noticed fire trucks and large amounts of smoke. We all know that fire trucks in an urban area can mean anything from a heart attack to a false alarm in a public building. But the smoke made it clear this was for real. It had the smell that burning rubber makes.
We immediately decided to park and check it out. Fortunately we could park before we got in the way of the fire trucks. Another less lucky driver had pulled into a driveway to clear the road but then could not get back out. I was a bit surprised that he actually asked the fireman to move his truck to let him out. I mean, really. There's only a burning building and who knows, people at risk. The fireman was up to the task. He told the guy to drive on the sidewalk.
I forgot to mention that as I had been out at a meeting in the far south suburbs yesterday, I actually had my camera with me. So here was my big chance for a little photo journalism.

House on fire

My first shot of the action was of the firemen unreeling the hose and running toward the back of the building. I could see a man and boy who appeared to be helping with the hose. That struck me as surprising, kind of like the paramedics letting someone help with the CPR. Then I saw the family walking toward me; I couldn't see there faces but they looked shaken up and teary. I guessed that it was their house on fire. I couldn't take pictures of their pain. It just isn't in me. So there goes my career as a photo journalist.
Funny since I talk to people about their pain all the time. I see them cry, see them scared, embarrassed, panicky. When someone apologizes to me about crying in my office, I tell them that's why I keep the Kleenexes and joke that I have stock in Procter Gamble or whoever it is that makes the tissues. In real life I don't own stocks. I once meant a psychiatrist who was chatting with a drug rep about her investments in pharmaceutical companies. This troubled me ethically. I don't want stock in something I prescribe. It seems like a conflict of interest.
Anyway, even though my job in a way gives me a license to pry, I didn't want to pry into the business and pain of someone I didn't have a professional or personal relationship with. Don't you always cringe when there are journalists interviewing the families of a murder victim and so forth? How ghoulish. Not that I'm better than anyone else. I gape at car accidents too.
And here we were going to gape at a fire. There was quite a crowd gathered. This was a real neighborhood event. A number of police, a bunch of local people and the local electric company men who stopped working to gape too. There wasn't much of a show fire-wise. From the front of the building there was little smoke and no flames to be seen. The ladder trucks had their ladders extended into a second floor window and you could hear but not see the firemen breaking out the windows of one apartment. Most of the action was hidden by a tree.
In many ways it was more interesting to people watch. A woman walked by with her two pedigree dogs, one of whom had his leg in a cast. Several people had their cell phones out, probably to call and tell someone about the fire. Some parents were showing their kids what was going on.

Watching the Show

My son asked why the people we saw were so upset. I told him I'd be upset if our house were on fire. He replied, why, it's just things? I wisely didn't mention our cats because that would have scared him. He's right, if no one comes to harm, it is just things. But losing one's home to a fire would be devastating nonetheless. Fortunately, judging by idle ambulances and how quickly the fire department was able to start pulling out, it appeared that no one was hurt. With fire hoses and men with axes and picks at the scene, there probably was a fair bit of property damage.
I let my son take some photos too. I figured he'd enjoy it (he has the makings of a fair little photographer) and people would mind him taking pictures less. Although it is a big camera for a little kid. He was a bit too excited to keep the camera still and take the time to focus. Some of his pictures looked more like modern art than photos.

Ladder work

So that's the highlight of my Thursday. How was yours?


Kathe said...

I think it's because you do see much more of people's pain that makes you not want to take those kinds of photos. That and the natural empathy you seem to have.

Just my two cents worth. But, then again, two cents doesn't get ya much these days -- if anything at all.

You know how my Thursday was. Nice post. :^)

tarakuanyin said...

I'm glad you don't own stock in pharmaceutical companies. I think that's a clear conflict of interest and ought to be considered a breach of ethics. Aren't there codes governing that doctors/psychiatrists can't own stock in companies whose medications they might prescribe? It just seems like there ought to be.

My Thursday was fine because the musical my daughter was in opened and it was great. She (of course!) was great. :-)