Years ago, I had a Co-Op job at Brown University. Brown is a “City Campus.” It’s on the East Side of Providence, Rhode Island. The East Side is a beautiful place and an old place. It’s a compact area jammed with old houses, college buildings, businesses, shops, and restaurants.
One day I was driving to work coming up Brook Street. There was some kind of detour. There were many Fire and Police cars and a detour around a few blocks. This was not uncommon, and in an area of congested and old narrow streets, it didn’t take much to divert traffic. I got to work and everyone was talking about the detour. A few days passed and we all forgot about it until we read the news story in the local paper……with a little poetic license, it went like this;
One day the “boys” are sitting around the Brook Street Fire Station watching Ellen or Opera….or “whatever” when an older woman walked right into the station. We will call her Gladys.
“May we help you, Ma’am?”
“Yes; my husband is crazy! He won’t listen to me. He ignores me. He won’t do anything I say”
“Ah OK. How can we help you?” The boys thinking she needs a counselor, not a Fireman.
“He’s always in the basement, he never comes upstairs. He will never tell me what he’s working on.”
“Ah OK.” Now the boys are thinking of getting the large butterfly net and calling the psych ward.
“He’s a danger to me, him and everyone else.”
“Ah, OK.” Now the boys are thinking they will never get to watch Ellen, or Opera, or whatever.
“He’s a Mad Scientist! I want you to look in the basement.”
“Ah, OK. Ma’am, where do you live?”
“On Williams Street,” she said. The boys exchanged looks for a moment thinking that sounds really familiar.
“I live right behind the Fire Station……right next to you,” said Gladys.
“Ah, OK……..let’s take a walk.”
Being so close, the Fire Fighters didn’t even bother to get in the trucks. Hoping this would be a really quick call and so close, they didn’t even call it into headquarters. They walked into the 110-year-old house. “Everything seems to be OK” they said. “I take care of the upstairs,” she said. “It’s the basement where the lunatic works.”
The men walked down into the basement, stopped and stared in silence. Working in the middle of Brown University, they had been in school science labs many times but were not expecting this. The entire basement was filled with beakers, test tubes, Bunsen Burners, Jars of Chemicals, flasks of liquids, (rakes, shovels, and implements of destruction) and various other “lab” equipment. This was quite odd, but living in the middle of an academic community, not completely out of the realm of reality either.
Milliseconds before each guy was about to throw our their best Dr. Frankenstein crack and head back to Ellen or……or….well, you know, whatever, their collective eyes converged on one jar of a clear liquid on a shelf. It only contained two letters.
That’s right; as you know by now, that’s Nitroglyercin! Highly explosive.
The men silently turned, gently grabbed both arms of Gladys, and ever so gently marched her up the stairs in a concentrated manner and out of the house.
I’m not sure what happened to the husband and wife at the end of this story, but I know a few things that are true.
- The Providence Police and Fire Department evacuated 2 full city blocks; hence my work commuting detour.
- Not everybody who talks like their crazy is lying.
- Not everybody who talks like their crazy is crazy.
- If you’re not sure who’s crazy or who’s lying, it’s best to ask questions and try to figure things out for yourself.