On Tuesday, January 26th, the entire NYC block of East 56th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues was closed to motor vehicle traffic due to a possible mainline gas leak (the pedestrians were allowed to walk into the danger zone without any restrictions or even a warning). Apparently someone called 911 around 9 am to report the suspicious smell, which not only filled the street but was also distinctly (as I was informed) felt inside the buildings. Yet, at 3 pm, when I happened to turn the North-East corner of Lexington and 56th, three emergency vehicles were still there and a few maintenance-looking people were poking around the uncovered manholes. A fire engine just joined them a few minute ago (it passed me on the way in).
By today's standards 6 hours lead time is totally okay - the emergencies nowadays are not what they used to be, as some say, back in the day. Plus, the City was assaulted by the blizzard just three days ago; it would be silly to expect an expedient clean up. It is rather difficult to get around, on foot or wheel. And maybe there was no real danger anyway; maybe everything was in order and the repair people were just knocking about to clock the working hours away. A little gas escaped - not a big deal!
However, clearly there were still some concerns regarding possible flameage that required a certain level of readiness - the red and shiny FDNY vehicle was connected to one of the hydrants, taking in the water. Well, maybe "connected" is not the right word. Even by mediocre working standards, a proper connection of the pumping hose between the truck and the hydrant would imply seamless fitting, tightening of the locking mechanisms - some sort of professional decency, for the lack of a better word. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The connecting hose was carelessly shoved onto the hydrant and the truck, with water gashing through and over both ends, forming a small river on the ground.
I guess at $76,700 average annual salary it is too much to ask of a firefighter to care about the quality of his work. And what else can we possibly expect? That the emergency workers would be different from anyone else? I was standing there looking at that sad metaphor of the way we live now, contemplating whether anyone in their right mind can trust their lives to these "rescuers" in case of fire. And don't get me started on the water waste...