Coming home from a fire is like the best/worst thing in the world. It's exactly the same as going to a fire, but the opposite. All of the idealistic anticipation about how Wonderful Everything Will Be when you get to where you're going meets the relief of leaving all of the chaos and hardships of where you're coming from behind and it's like this bittersweet mingling of excitement and a Still Small Voice telling you not to be disappointed when it's not as awesome as you had planned. Because inevitably, when you get home, the bathroom will look like a troll habitat, the dog will have pooped in the dining room and Someone has definitely been sleeping in your bed.
Coming home from this last fire was a lot like all of the other homecomings and firegoings, but since it had been a 21 day assignment I was extra excited/full of dread. The dread was definitely offset by the anticipation of getting into my own bed, dirty sheets or not, after sleeping in the back seat of a crew cab for two weeks at spike camp. I didn't INTEND to sleep in the back seat for two weeks, but they kept telling me that I was only staying at spike for two days, so I never put my tent up, even after 7 different 2 day stints. It was probably a divine set-up to make me appreciate my bed all the more.
Anyway, on the way home, after 21 days, I decided to stop at Costco. Mostly because A) I knew we were undoubtedly out of dog food again and B) I wanted to see how much more stuff I could squish into my already loaded down SUV, so Costco seemed like the logical place to stop. Obviously I bought everything. All the things that Costco sells. One of each. I was feeling all perky and energetic and productive - as sleep deprived people with Lots of Caffeine on board often do, plus it was only mid afternoon and I was almost home. I crammed EVERY of the Costco items into the back of my car, even taking the time to shove the cold stuff in my cooler, which for some silly reason has "return to fire cache" stenciled on the lid. With All the Things tucked nicely away, floor to ceiling, in the back of my rig, I careened merrily out of the parking lot at Costco, right into that busy side street just before the light.
Some hideous crashing, crunching, grinding, popping noise happened behind me, and to my horror I looked in the rear view mirror and realized that the back hatch of my fire-mobile had flown open mid-careen into the street. A trail that involved the entire inventory of Costco Wholesale was strewn across the street behind me, along with a few well placed fire items. I watched as my two pack of milk gallons tumbled down the street nine times and three minivans full of screaming homeschoolers swerved around them. It was amazing. Somehow, I found my emergency flashers, which always seem to go missing from the dashboard in the event of a real crisis. I had locked up my brakes and watched helplessly as several Angry Faced City Drivers who were nearly killed by swerving minivans made their way around my entire pantry and assorted socks and underwear.
Out of nowhere, or at least the office building on the corner, three of The Nicest People In America came sprinting into the street, gathering up butter, cheese, commercial sized boxes of tampons and six jars of Nutella at a dead run. One of them was barefoot. I was much too concentrated on my salvage efforts to remember to ask her why she had no shoes on, but maybe she was Buddhist or something, but judging by her leopard print toenails, probably not. These Lunch Hour Angels even loaded my cold stuff back into the cooler and insisted on doing a two-man lift with me to get it into the back of my car (after we had pried it out from under the rear bumper where it had tumbled and wedged). I alternately apologized to and thanked my heroes profusely as I tucked my rank-smelling dirty fire laundry farther behind the dog food and toilet paper. Really they were so nice I almost cried. Miraculously, nothing was damaged. Not the milk, not the bread, not the 6 pack of romaine hearts. Nothing broken or lost - I have no idea how in the world that is possible, other than the cushion of my fire bedroll breaking some of the fall.
I drove home in mortal fear of a repeat event, starting out from every stop at the slowest imaginable pace, pissing off a whole new wave of minivans and Angry Faced City Drivers at every light. Thankfully, the rest of the trip was mostly uneventful, and I made it home with out airing any more of my dirty laundry - on the street at least.