I was a fireman in Drainville but the problems were all in the paperwork-that, plus the lousy equipment kept breaking down so that we'd all wake up with our ears on fire, our heads pounding with the roar of smoke, the fine but useless mist of futility still dripping from our grimy coats.
Mostly, though, it was the paperwork. Nobody knew how to ask to get anything done or how to get the parts to do it. No one ever had the proper form at the proper time and therefore nothing ever got done. The bosses came in one day and discussed the idea of painting yellow lines here and there on the concrete floor, but no one really seemed to know why such a thing should happen, so, instead, everybody got a raise. Things like this happened all the time.
People talked about the old mechanic a lot: how good he'd been, how organized and compliant, how well he'd stored his tools. Nowadays, they all agreed, there were far too many pairs of pliers hanging about unaccounted for, and far too few jokes being told in the mechanic's offices. Everyone in Drainville knew the value of a good mechanic, but nobody ever volunteered for the job; people knew their limitations.
How things worked in Drainville depended largely on where you'd left them sitting the night before, which everyone did, regularly. The bicarb canisters tended to expend themselves if left face down on the floor; air tanks tended to rust, exposed and strapped to the bumper of the ladder truck. Even the thick face shields developed scratches and grainy smears for no more apparent reason than being set on the coil of hoses to dry.
Why people came to work each day was a mystery. Some of them had the job in their lungs and couldn't let it go, but most did not and came to work faithfully every day anyway.