Saturday, February 18, 2012

Miscellaneous Things and a Bin Fire

Just before fire really got going.

Hi Everyone,
Things have been going along OK, for the most part, since my last post. We’ve gone through a Siberian cold snap which killed about 300 people across Europe. This is not the worst cold I’ve experienced. Being a Minnesotan and then living for years in the Rockies, you are accustomed to much worse cold and more snow. Still, it was pretty cold. 

Along with that, my back/leg trouble is still in process. The neurologist ordered another, more extensive MRI, to see what it might show. We’ll have the results of that later this week. They aren’t completely sure what’s going on, aside from the herniated disk. I’m hoping we’ll have some resolution soon as it’s been nearly eight months of severe chronic pain. I was ready to be fixed several months ago. Anyway, we’ll see how this will all come out. One real positive is that I’ve lost about 27 lbs. I still have more to lose, but am working on that.

Exciting Morning

There was some excitement around here this morning. I woke up around 1:30AM from smoke. It was strong, thick, acrid smoke that got my asthma going. I got up and thought we had a fire in our flat, but couldn’t find anything wrong. Then I stepped out onto the balcony and saw that acrid smoke pouring from a garbage bin on the corner near our building. Jiri was sleeping, so I woke him up to ask if we should call the fire department. He said no…it was only a bin smoldering from a cigarette, it was nothing. Jiri said he’s seen many of these over the years. Then he went back to sleep. I couldn’t sleep, so stayed out on the balcony to keep watch for a bit.

About fifteen minutes after Jiri went back to sleep, the bin burst into flames! That was something to see. The fire and smoke resembled one of our chase and smash-em movies from back home! Only this was a real fire. Once the flames became evident, I woke Jiri up again, and told him the bin was now on fire. He got up and looked and said it was nothing and went back to sleep. Here you have a funny picture—one housewife watching a bin explode into flames, and husband who says it’s nothing and goes back to sleep!

Incomprehensible Reaction

My husband’s reaction was quite incomprehensible to me, even at 2AM, when none of us is usually too coherent. Why on earth would he not want to call the fire department? Back where I come from, we would try to fight the fire (if we have the means on hand) and/or call the fire department right away. 

Most of my life has been spent in drier places, where even a spark from a truck’s exhaust pipe can start a fire. Of course, my reaction is we need to do something before the fire spreads. However, my husband was also correct. Right now, it’s still cold and the ground’s wet from melting snow and rain. The bin was on a concrete sidewalk, not close to the building. Still, it could have spread under the right conditions…thankfully it didn’t!

Police and Firemen to the Rescue

When the fire really got to going good, a car drove by. The driver stopped and watched the fire for several minutes, and then must have called the police. The police came and tried to use a fire extinguisher to put out the by now 10 ft. flames, but they couldn’t get the fire out. The police then called the fire department. In the mean time, two more police cars came to join the “fun.”

The firemen came in a medium-sized fire truck and doused the flames for several minutes. The bin was melted down to just an outline of plastic, still on fire. The firemen then took some sand and more water to the fire; then spread out the embers and soaked them down again. It was quite exhilarating to watch all of this from our balcony while Jiri slept.

Bin Fires are Common

Bin fires do happen here occasionally. I’ve seen the results of these fires before—not far from where we live. It’s a wonder that more buildings don’t become involved in the flames! We suspect “our” bin fire was started by someone who tossed in a smoldering cigarette. That’s typically the case with bin fires in this country. Sometimes, you’ll come across the small bins, on the light poles, smoking away for the same reason—someone tossed in a cigarette. No one seems to take much notice—it’s surreal for me.

Cross-Cultural Misunderstanding

You could say this is another example of a cross-cultural misunderstanding between Jiri and I. To Jiri, the fire was just a small thing and nothing to worry about; on the other hand, to me, the 10 ft flames were something to be concerned about and professionals should have been called. 

We have different perspectives due to coming from different places and having different experiences with fire. Thankfully everything turned out OK. It was amusing when the dustmen (garbage truck guys) came to empty our bins this morning. They saw the destroyed bin and were amazed, wondering what had happened. But I think they were happy to have one less bin to empty today!

That’s all for today! Have a great day!

God bless,
Sher :0)

12 comments: said...

Hi Sher,

Like you, I would have called the emergency services not least because the fire might spread. But I guess that Jirka's attitude is still part of the Communist era mindset, that you don't call the police or tell them who you are or where you live. To be fair to him, there are many Czech people who say that the police mindset hasn't really changed post 1989. Witness what happened to you & others when we had Charles & Camilla at Church! The police, in the name of security, tried to prevent regular worshippers from getting there!

Ivanhoe said...

Haha! Why does that not surprise me :) They just take everything so easy, don't they?
Interestingly enough, I would have to translate Czech garbage men as ashmen (popel=ash).
Have a great weekend!

Sher said...

@chaplain: Great comment! You're right on. Jirka did make a comment about not wanting to get involved with the police--and it was the very reason you shared with in your comment.

Yes, I remember very well when Prince Charles and Camilla came to visit! The police were somewhat "fierce" that day!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

@Ivanhoe: Yes, they do! I've lived here five years, and never experienced this side of my husband before! For that matter, he had never experienced this side of me, either. Amazing what a fire can bring out in a relationship!

Yes, I've heard them called that in Czech! For some reason, Jirka calls them "dustmen," so that's why I used that term. Back home, as you know, we call them the garbage men.

You just reminded me--when we see a chimney cleaner (ashman?), Jirka always asks if he can touch the guy and get some soot. He had me do that one time--I'd heard of this tradition, but had never experienced it before. You touch the chimney cleaner, taking some of his soot, as a mark of good luck. Do you know how this tradition came about? I think they do that in the UK, too...I may be mistaken :0)

Have a great day,
Sher :0) said...

Hi again Sher,

Dustmen is British English. Garbage Men is American English. Two nations, divided by their common language :-)

Anonymous said...

Another tradition connected with chimney cleaners in the CR is touching a button on clothes you are wearing when you happen to see some of these guys, It should bring you luck :)

Sher said...

@chaplain: You're too right! I remember our discussion of clothes peg and clothes pin :0)

Thank you for the clarification of the term dustmen. Sometimes Jirka does use British English--it was the first English he learned. In fact, some of our Czech friends have a bit more British accent to their English--it's really interesting!

I must also say, since being exposed to more Brits and British English, I've begun to use a bit more British English myself--sometimes :0)

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

@Anonymous: Thanks for sharing that! We don't have these traditions where I come from in the U.S. I've heard and read about's really neat to see how it works in person.

Another interesting point--the chimney sweeps are so happy when you come up and touch their sleeve--they get a big smile and are very friendly. I really enjoy encountering chimney sweeps here!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Karen said...

Wow Sher, congratulations on losing all of that weight! That's quite an accomplishment, especially if your leg is giving you trouble at the same time.

Sher said...

@Karen: Thank you! It's been part effort--cutting down on portion sizes and junk, but is also due to the amount of pain I've been in, and the pain med makes me nauseated every day.

That's one of the positives of this episode! Along with gaining a better understanding of how life is for disabled people. You really gain a new perspective by going through these types of things.

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Anonymous said...

Bin fires are common? I've NEVER witnessed any - and I've been living in Prague ever since I was born, which is nearly 30 years.

Sher said...

Yep, bin fires are fairly common. My very Czech husband has also lived in Prague for 30 years--he's seen many bin fires in his day.

Maybe in your part of Prague people are more careful and avoid throwing lit matches and cigarettes in their bins!