Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tot Finder

totfinderThis morning on the way to work I was behind a Salvation Army truck. The kind that goes around when people call the SalArmy to ask them to come over and pick up stuff that they can't be arsed to drive to the donation center themselves.

And I saw this Tot Finder sticker on the back of the truck and it brought back some memories. I had one of these in my bedroom window, so did my sister.

When we were growing up, my parents would bring us to the annual firemen's demonstration night. They gave big speeches about fire safety, and then set fire to a car or a temporary building to show off their training and skill. It was usually pretty exciting, especially for the ten and under set. To see the firemen set fire to a building, and then watch them use their ladders, hatchets, hoses and stuff to fight the fire once it was fully raging was pretty cool.

Each year, I recall people walking away with these reflective window stickers and in the dark of the parking lot, headlights danced across them as they were held in the hands of the tot that may have to be found one day. The stickers are meant to be seen when the fire department hits a blazing house with a search light. Through the smoke and the insanity, the Tot Finder sticker will beckon out "There's a kid in here! This room is priority! Come help him or her now!"

As a child, I would ride in the car and see a Tot Finder in a window and think "Whew! That kid will be rescued, just like I'll be rescued if my house ever catches fire and I'm trapped up in my room!"

I had no safety route out of my bedroom. It was the only bedroom in the house that didn't have a porch roof below it, just a 20 or so foot drop to sure calamity. Honestly, looking back it was one of the things that scared me the most and actually kept me up at night.

Both my parents smoked. And it is no exaggeration to say my dad would often drink a lot. I feared on many nights that they both would fall asleep with their cigarettes dangling out of the corners of their mouths almost like a cartoon character would, and the falling cigarettes would ignite the house. They'd be burned to a crisp and my sister and I would be trapped upstairs. She could climb out onto the porch roof and maybe slink down to safety. I would be doomed to a smoky or flaming death!

... but I had a Tot Finder sticker, and it gave me great comfort.

I would sit on my toybox and look down out of my window and think of how bad it would hurt if I had to jump in an emergency situation. And I would thank the Tot Finder sticker for the sure beacon it would send out to the fire department search lights. I knew they'd come save me so I didn't have to fall and die.

Sometimes I would sit in the window and stare through the sticker where the street light from across the road hit it, and read REDNIF TOT and trace the helmet and bodies that were shining through on the other side. I would feel a sense of relief.

You can still buy these stickers, but according to the US Fire Administration (USFA), they don't support the program any longer for three big reasons. From their website:

  • One, there is no assurance that during a fire evacuation, a child will be in the room where the sticker is posted;
  • Two, many fire departments do not have the capability to keep current information on residences that have Tot Finder stickers nor do many families alert the fire department if they have moved; and,
  • Three, individuals in some areas do not like to identify rooms where a child may be located because of the fear that someone may be able to more easily victimize a child.

Number three never crossed my mind as a kid, but as an adult I know I've driven down the street and thought to myself "There's a siren call out to a pedophile if ever there was one." One of the things I found so reassuring as a child now seemed sinister and irresponsible.

I don't think my parents left the stickers in the windows once we were grown. I think they eventually peeled and dried out, and were removed from the pane long ago. My parents have moved from where I grew up, but in my mind's eye, I still see the sticker in each of the two second storey windows and it reminds me that my parents cared enough to put them there after seeing a fire demonstration one night in the 1970s.

On the back of this Salvation Army truck though, all I could think was "I doubt there's a kid in there."

Jess got the part that she wanted in the play. Thank you for the emails and questions. Cast list was supposed to be posted on Friday, but she delayed it until Monday, and then last night I just didn't have time to write, what with birthday dinner and all.

Doug's Birthday dinner was good. We went to Joe Fish in North Andover and it was very tasty. Hardly anyone was there, I guess Monday night is not a popular dining out night so we had the place pretty much to ourselves. The kids were pretty well behaved. My dinner was spectacular, but the one scallop that Doug shared with me gave me dinner envy. I should have had the scallops. Such is life. We talked about school and work and what we're reading. Geoff was tired and cranky, so we left without dessert and I think were all asleep by 9:30.

I guess that's about it. Oh -- one other thing. If you're a BNL fan, and you have iTunes (or don't yet have iTunes) BNL's iTunes Originals was released today. $11.99 for live recordings that they did in studio this past fall, mixed with a couple previously released tunes, and a mess of funny banter from Ed and Steve. It's a must have. I highly recommend it. If you're not yet really familiar with the band, I think it is a nice sampling, and the banter is very good... explains a lot about how they got where they are today. So go download it. I'm BNL's official pimp.

Have a great night.

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