As soon as the tone drops, it happens. I change.
Like David Banner going green or Bruce Wayne racing to the bat pole (an Adam West Bruce Wayne, if you please), I change. Mild mannered editor Rick becomes Fireman Rick (think Underdog).
Here's where you cue the music, because every superhero worth his salt has accentuating music to point out his superheroness.
Inside my car, just up from the gearshift, there it is: that little switch with the small red light plugged into the power outlet. I live in an area that allows volunteer firefighters to run courtesy lights. And my little switch leads to some serious lumens suctioned on the windshield.
One flip of that little switch and I flood the entire neighborhood with a dizzying display of wildly pulsating blue light — epileptics beware. The light says in no uncertain terms: (and here's where the voice goes super baritone) "Step aside good citizens, there is superheroing to be done."
You can't go superhero without a superhero car. And that blast of blue light changes an ordinary sedan into something that would make the Green Hornet, well, green with envy. Music, one more time, please (and see the side of the road where quivering-handed old men hold a salute, children stare in wide-eyed awe and women swoon as the car steaks past).
Here's where I have an embarrassing confession to make. I've never fully outgrown stupid.
A few years before I joined the fire service, I was at the home of a friend who is a volunteer. His pager went off and he said something to the effect of, "Do you want to drive to the station?"
And I said something to the effect of, "You have a blue light; that means I can drive as fast as I want and blow stop signs and stop lights."
Fortunately, we had a couple of frosty ones under our belts and had the good sense not to go anywhere.
Here's the thing: I was old enough to know better. I knew full well you couldn't go blazing through the streets, but the thought of rushing into action was more intoxicating than a few brewskis.
In life, you learn things about yourself. And while that scene years ago was more banter than serious consideration, it taught me that while I may not have outgrown stupid, I must learn to anticipate it.
So when the tone drops and I hear that music in my head (Ta-da-da-dah-da-Da), I know Self-Important Man is a phone booth's visit away.
I use my blue light sparingly, because I know that the first motorist to ignore the light's superhero power will send me into a fit of steering wheel banging and expletive hurling.
"C'mon you bleepity bleeping bleeper bleeper. Don't you see the saluting old men? Don't you hear the accentuating music?"
I use it sparingly because getting that wound up and that full of myself is not the proper mindset for even the most innocuous of calls for help.
Although my leotard suit pinches and binds where no material should have the right to pinch and bind, and although my cape flaps violently even in the absence of wind, I pause. I take a deep breath and try to contain that inner superhero who, if unchecked, is destine to cause myself, my fellow firefighters or the public injury.
Fire fighting is serious work. It is a grave mistake to take that job too lightly. So too is it a grave mistake to take ourselves too seriously.