There are many things that fit under the label of The Great Unknown. Death, tropical rainstorms and the lifecycles of those microscopic bugs that scientists continue to find living in our eyelids and other cutaneous habitats all fall into this category. I would venture to add another to the list: the Fire Marshal.
The Fire Marshal is an entity which personifies the unknown. He (she? they? it?) operates, like death and tropical rainstorms, on schedules unpredictable by man. Like our microscopic friends, the Fire Marshal has never been seen, even with the most powerful and innovative scientific instruments.
He/ she/ they/ it roams from room to room, spotting even the best-camouflaged items with his X-ray vision and bringing fire-safety skills and inflammability to absent students everywhere. Almost like Santa Claus.
Almost, but not quite. There is a reason merchandisers and small children everywhere rejoice at the appearance of this particular fat man in a red suit, yet the Fire Marshall passes unheralded, even disparaged.
Perhaps the Fire Marshal needs to work on his jolly chuckle. Perhaps he needs to put on a few pounds so he will have a better lap for students to sit upon. Perhaps it has to do with the simple concepts of addition and subtraction.
Whereas Santa bears copious gifts and takes little other than the occasional cookie or glass of milk, the Fire Marshal tends to take things away with him and leave a bill.
But this does not explain the mass prejudice against this enigma. Though students may initially find bitterness in their hearts when their appliances disappear, after reflection they realize that hot pots and bright lights could, at any moment, cause the entire Williams campus to burst into a blazing inferno. Merely harboring such illegal appliances lowers the overall morality of the college several percentage points. In this way they are indirectly responsible for any and all thefts, mayhem and senseless acts of violence which occur during the period prior to when they are relieved of these instruments of death.
You see, it is not the Fire Marshal but Santa who is the handmaid of corruption. Bringing toys to clutter rooms, closets and doorways, blocking escape routes in the case of an emergency, he is increasing the average Joe’s chances of turning into a pillar of flames.
The Fire Marshal, on the other hand, clears away all potential hazards and teaches us the valuable lesson that in an uncertain world, money and possessions are only temporary.The problem of the Fire Marshal must lie on a deeper level â€” a level having to do with the existence of little pink slips.
To be more specific, it is the color of these slips which is wrecking havoc with the Fire Marshal’s image. Pink is the color of valentines, cotton candy and baby bottoms. When I walk into my room and see a little pink piece of paper lying on my desk, I want to think happy thoughts. I do not want, upon reading it, to see that the message consists solely of check marks by the words “toaster oven,” “candle” and “flashlight,” without even a “How’s it going, my name’s Bob, and though I may have taken your toaster oven, candles and latest issue of Glamour, you can rejoice in the fact that the world is now a safer place.” Pink deserves a little more consideration.
If I were the Fire Marshal’s public relations guy, I would suggest some steps to rid him of his “Dr. Evil” reputation. Maybe he could tie the pink slips to carnations, or fold them into tiny origami bunnies. He could write a short poem regarding the joy of spring and the plight of these bunnies following a severe brush fire.
This would validate the color choice and spread love all over campus. People would start calling the Fire Marshal to chat about the latest developments in fire-prevention technology, inviting him to fire-hazard-free parties and baking gingerbread in the shape of fire hydrants. Several lines of merchandise, including posable action figures, would not be far behind.
Packaging is everything. If people were critical thinkers, the cereal industry would be out of business and Santa Claus would have followed New Kids on the Block into cultural obscurity. A light sugar coating does not negate all nineteen essential vitamins and minerals, but it certainly makes them easier to swallow.