Is the Reservoir on Fire?

Another place I cannot pass without remembering something that happened decades ago is this spot along the loop in Central Park. It was back in the late 1980s and I was happy not to be working. Back then, days without work were relaxing. As with freelancing itself, only when it’s no longer your choice does it become a problem.

So on this late-Spring/early-Summer day, I was riding my bike downtown, through Central Park. As I was approaching this area, several fire trucks, with their sirens blasting and their lights flashing, were travelling up Central Park West, into the park, and then from behind me, stopping at the entrance to the reservoir. Those of us who happened to be in that area at that time looked to see what was happening. I rode my bike up towards the water and I said to one of the firemen making his way in the same direction “Is the reservoir on fire?”. (I was only half-way being facetious. I came from an area where a river caught on fire when I was a kid. Anything is possible under capitalism.)

“No,” he said. “Some homeless person was bathing himself in the reservoir and got sucked into the drain. There’s a big drain at the bottom of the reservoir, otherwise the water coming in would flood everything. There’s a huge pipe leading downtown where the water goes. If he got sucked into that pipe he’ll come up somewhere out in the harbor.”

Horrified, I stood on the path that surrounds the reservoir for a while watching them work. They were not able to locate the man, so they started hauling their things back down to their trucks. I made my way down on my bike and a woman came up to me and said “Is the reservoir on fire?”.

It was a reasonable question.


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