My morning routine is always to blindly swat at my alarm clock before slowly and painfully opening each eye. Once both lids acquiesce to stay open of their volition, I reach for my phone and, in the era of “there’s an app for that,” check the weather so that I might plan my outfit accordingly. This particular morning I was given a wildfire weather advisory. My eyes skimmed over the wording (dry air, strong winds, blah, blah) before I set aside my phone and proceeded to ready myself for the day ahead. Here in the suburbs of Birmingham I’d never seen a wildfire, and I felt reasonably assured this particular advisory would have little impact on my day at flower.
It was at the end of this completely ordinary day at the office that I waved goodbye to my editor’s husband, whom we affectionately call “Macguyver”, who was standing in the yard as I climbed into my car. He waved jovially back as he revved up a leaf blower and cleared the driveway of bits of foliage and pine straw. I noticed tiki torches lining the drive and assumed he was anticipating visitors for an evening dinner party. I rolled down a long, narrow road and admired the accompanying cheery glow of the torches against the dusky sky. I’d nearly turned completely off the lane before I noticed one torch blazing particularly bright. With eyes narrowed, I took a closer look–instead of a small flame at the top of the torch, the entire head was aflame.
I looked beyond the torch and noticed the large, wooded lot behind it. In an instant, the weather advisory from the morning came to mind. Although I had little knowledge of the nature of fire, I could add two and two together. Uncontrolled flame + wooded lot = problem.
I revved my car backwards up the lane and rolled down my window in front of Macguyver. I waved frantically and yelled over the leaf blower until he took notice of me and quelled the roar. “Your tiki torch is on fire!” I exclaimed. MacGuyer tilted an ear my way with a bemused grin. “Your tiki torch is burning!” I repeated, but he just laughed like we were sharing a joke and revved up the leaf blower once more. Confused and concerned, I sped back down the drive to check on the burning torch. It was now a pyre of flame, the post of the torch completely consumed. As my eyes took in the rest of the contained torches glowing calmly, I realized my miscommunication to Gates. “Your tiki torch is on fire.” He must have thought I was making a weak joke. Somehow I found a little room in my panic to be offended that he thought that was the best I could do in regards to comedy.
The matter at hand, however, seemed to quickly be reeling out of control. A concerned bystander had pulled over and stood watching the growing flames helplessly. I, too, got out of my car and considered trying to stamp down the slowly spreading flames. I looked down at my sandaled foot, however, and thought twice. Instead, I ended up hopping up and down in place with my arms waving helplessly, yelling inside of my head: Fire! Fire! With the bystander now looking at me a bit accusingly, as my panicked little hops were admittedly absolutely worthless, I finally flipped out my cell phone to prove I was effective in a time of peril. I called the flower office to have them escort Macguyver to the source of the problem, where he soon arrived, with his shovel in hand and a calm demeanor in the face of fire that I simply will never possess.
As he stamped out the flames with several good blows from his shovel, the panic welling up inside of me also subsided. The lot wouldn’t burn down, a wildfire wouldn’t blaze across Birmingham, and life would continue as normal. As I rolled my car past Macguyver, I couldn’t help rolling down my window with a sly grin. “I told you your tiki torch was on fire.”