Fighting Fire by Caroline Paul (Softcover)

Caroline Paul is a Nietzschesque Ubermensch. Basically a homo-sapien version two point oh. Normal peeps wither and die in her presence from the radiation of her awsomeness. She is also really measured, reasonable and supremely likable. Which is weird, considering she’s a vegetarian [1]

As a kid I never wanted to grow up to be a fireman or a policeman. I wanted to be a zoo keeper. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure why that was. Possibly because of a Gerald Durrell type upbringing where I collected (and raced) dung beetles, kept tadpoles in terrariums and rescued hedgehogs. I got bitten catching lizards with my friend once. Which lead to my first tetanus shot. In fact… now that I think about it… I’ve been bitten by A LOT of creatures. Including the kindergarten hamster. (which ran up my chest and bit me on the lip)

Whatever strange enthusiasm for animals this was, it waned in middle school. And was likely replaced with (I’d like to say girls… but really it was) Dungeons and Dragons and computer games.

It’s only much later on in life that I decided I wanted to be fireman. (Like five years ago when I was having this big Ikigai-ian, Raison d’êtr existential type crisis) Ie. When I decided I wanted a job that actually meant something (and had a positive impact on the world). You know… that thing that motivates you to get up in the morning. Not that I’ve done anything about it… it was more a theoretical thought exercise…

If you want to read a book about someone else’s enviable life however, this might be it. Caroline is a pilot, white water rafting guide, firefighter, Golden Gate Bridge climber, diver, paraglider and Olympic luge(r)… published author, decent writer, TED speaker….

Writing that last paragraph makes me feel a little inadequate. I can flip pancakes. And… *Joey considers for a moment*

…can block a jab/cross with my face. But really, that’s where my talents ends.

Fighting Fire is a memoir of Caroline’s time with the San Francisco fire department.

I really enjoyed it. It’s a quick, easy, entertaining read. It’s also made me realize I am definitely not firefighter material.

Firefighters have to deal with a lot of seriously disgusting stuff. Some of her stories really gave me the heebie jeebies. A two month old body in the apartment whose face had collapsed inwards and was writhing in maggots for example…

Maggots freak me out. Not as much as sharks. Or getting eaten by a shark. But it’s definitely in my top 10.

And then there’s having to deal with the dark side of humanity. I think cops get this more than firefighters… but still… how they manage to compartmentalize and carry on really impresses me. I don’t have that sort of mental fortitude. I would get angry. And then depressed.

More than the book I really like Carolines personal philosophy and her girl child advocacy. I recommend her various appearances as a podcast guest and her TED talk. It’s because of Caroline that I’ve been really conscious of letting my daughter climb to the highest point on the jungle gym. I’ve also been really careful about demonizing spiders and snakes as something girls should be afraid of. Which of course has led to to snakes, spiders and all manner of insects now being her favorite animals.

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As if on cue the female progeny discovers me, reclined on the sofa, Macbook balanced precariously on my midsection. She quickly adds her thoughts to his blogpost.

Then she sneezes on me. Some of it goes into my mouth

 

Notes

[1] Caroline replies to my mail to tell me she is now in fact a vegan. She hopes this means I won’t cut her out of my life.

After thinking about it for a while I decide that I still like her.