So another perk of living in the student ghetto along with the cast of Shakespearean inspired characters that grace our presence during the wee hours is the area around our home.
Needle and Junky Park boasts riverside picnicking, summer music festivals and countless people some with permanent residences and some without. It also has a needle drop box. The needles don’t always make it in.
This lush spot is one of my favourite places to run. It’s also the meth heads’ favourite place to run after me. As of yet I haven’t been caught.
So there I am running through the park, almost to the playground which marks the end of Needle and Junky Park and the beginning of Soccer Mompreneur Park when I spied a man carrying a GIANT branch. He also had with him a soiled grocery bag packed to the brim. Rather than being weary of him I concluded that he was an artist, hellbent on creating the perfect scene with just the right branch. However he was quite heavy and as a rule most starving artists are just that- starving and very skinny. With all of these factors indicating something else I clung to my hopeful idea; he was an artist there to create incredible and heartfelt images with nature.
And then he gave me crazy eyes as I passed him. So I picked up my pace a little bit and decided he was a crazy artist. I continued on my run for a while then turned around. I didn’t think of the man again until I saw the thick cloud of smoke next to the river on my way back. Next I saw the fire, and watched Crazy Eyes pick up more branches to add to it.
Now in school they educate people on things like “Don’t eat poison.” “Don’t talk to strangers.” “Don’t play in traffic.”
They never covered what to do if you see a man start and tend a fire in the middle of a public place. What made the whole situation worse was that no one else batted an eye.
I came up with two conclusions;
- Building fires in public parks is a normal and acceptable practice, my life has been incomplete up to this moment and I am probably a little unpatriotic for never having done this myself.
- He made crazy eyes at the people around me and they were equally terrified and refused to pull out their cell phones to call the police in front of him.
Walking until there was a fair amount of space between me and the crazy eyed arsonist I phoned 911. Then immediately felt guilty because I had been taught never to call 911 unless it was an emergency and I still wasn’t sure this was an emergency.
“Hello, Emergency 911. Do you need police, fire or ambulance?” asked the operator.
I hadn’t thought I would need to make a decision that if it was an actual emergency the operator would be comforting me because I would be going into shock.
“Uhhhhhh police?” I said, thinking that the only thing needed was for a stern man in uniform to walk down to the park and say “Hey! Stop that!” At which point Crazy Eyes would cease tending the fire and dig through his soiled grocery bag for a bucket to gather river water in. Or possibly a fire extinguisher, for all I knew Crazy Eyes could have been an organized man who plans ahead.
“A man has built a fire in Needle and Junky Park.” I said into my phone as inconspicuously as I could.
“I’m transferring you to the fire department” said the 911 operator humorlessly.
What made the whole situation worse was that the fire department operator didn’t seem at all fazed by my story. “Is the fire out of control?” She asked.
“No” I said now thoroughly convinced that this was not in fact an emergency and may very well not even be illegal.
“Thanks ma’am we will try and send someone to check it out.”
The try in the last sentence before she hung up now has me questioning whether making campfires in public is something that people do.
I guess the only way to find out is to go get my own giant branch and light it aflame in the middle of the park.
This post is a part of the Student Ghetto Chronicles series. To read more about living in a place where items like pants are unnecessary click below.