I was asked by my niece to be adult supervision during a student honor society activity. With nothing on the schedule for the evening, I casually questioned what the activity was going to be. She replied that she and her fellow students would be making dinner for the local fire department. I am socially awkward at the best of times, but to be thrust into close quarters with hunky firemen was an off-the-scale anxiety inducer. My nice waiting while I caught my breath and assured me I did not have to volunteer, but if I didn’t she would not be able to participate. I swallowed my fear and agreed to be the chaperone.
At four o' clock, my niece and I ventured out to meet the other students. I pulled my car into the parking lot which was deserted. My niece assured me her comrades would be along shortly. We sat in my car and listened to music, casting glances every so often to the parking lot entrance in hopes the others would arrive. After ten minutes passed, we wandered out of my car to the nearby public park. We recounted our day, made jokes, and wondered aloud where the other students could be.
Finally, another car arrived full of energetic teens ready to serve. We circled the building unsure of where to enter until we found a doorbell. A kind fireman opened the door and ushered us into the firehouse. He asked if we were excited to make dinner, I quipped in return and asked if he was excited. His answer surprised me when he smiled and said, “Any day I don’t have to cook for myself is a good one.”
We passed through a maze of doors and hallways to the kitchen/dining room area where we were joined by a second fireman. We all kind of shuffled around uneasily until the first fireman showed us where to find cooking pot, pans, and utensils. I stood back and watched each person washed their hands and took up a task to be completed. French bread was sliced, fettuccini noodles were added to boiling water, and the tasting began for the lemonade Kool-Aid.
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My niece weaved in and out of the teenage fray making Chicken Alfredo. She and another student were responsible for making the lemonade taste good. It was comical to watch the expressions when the liquid was still far too sour. While the students were in a frenzy of action, the firemen asked about what is meant to be in honor society. The only young man in the group piped up and shared that their society was all about maintaining good grades and serving their community. Then the question was asked, “Why did you want to make dinner for firemen?” I laughed to myself thinking what teenage would not want to be able to crow at school that they hung out with hunky firemen? The question posed was answered by the student leader, “Each month we have a group service project, and we thought it would be a good idea to serve you.”
Satisfied with the answer the topic was shifted to a more practical matter. The first fireman announced that there were only three firemen at the station that evening, and if they are called away the lights and ovens automatically shut off. He gestured to the big, red reset buttons and returned to his observing post against the wall. A few minutes later a red light on the ceiling flashed, and the two firemen dashed out of the kitchen. The students fretted over how long it would take the team to return. In the end, we reset the ovens and finished cooking the meal.
When everything was cooked, we were greeted by the third fireman. He was more akin to Santa than a fireman in attitude and appearance. He had been resting while the other firemen were on active duty. He teased everyone good naturedly and asked if the students were staying to eat. The final amount of food prepared was far more than only three firemen could consume. The student leader had set the table for three and looked at everyone to see what the consensus would be. Everyone was in favor of staying and moments later the two-man team returned. Luckily, the call was a false alarm about a gas leak.
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The firemen picked up their dinner plates and returned them to the cupboard laughing. We were confused until they pulled out plates that were almost the size of platters. They stood in line as they were served pasta in man-sized portions and then served themselves salad and toasted bread. My niece and I cleaned up as the rest of the students sat to enjoy a fun meal. We were frequently urged to sit and eat, but my niece had another appointment to attend. We said our good-byes while the firemen and honor society students heartily enjoyed the dinner they concocted.
In the end, it was a triple triumph, I did not act weird socially, the firemen enjoyed being served a palatable dinner, and my niece earned an hour toward her monthly Honor Society quota.