We now live 4 doors down from the village offices. Also, in the same compound with the village offices are the police station, the volunteer rescue squad, the volunteer fire department, the village museum and the library.

The first week we were here, after we’d taken care of procuring a hamster, we went down the street to the library to get library cards. It’s an old-timey library like the one that used to be in downtown Canton, OH, where I grew up 40 years ago. They tore that library down and built a new modern one. They did it in the 1970s, which was an unfortunate time to build anything because architects were so bad. The new Canton library was an ugly-ass building. (It was the first major building in Ohio to be fully solar heated and cooled, which is cool, but it was an ugly-ass building. And because of the funny roof they had constant problems with leaks — water leaking on books, not good.) But this Potsdam library is still a lot like the old Canton Library. So it brings me fond memories.

Having the volunteer rescue and the fire department so close means that every time they get called out, we know it. They each have sirens. Loud sirens. People in the Midwest and other parts of the country reserve those kinds of sirens for tornado warnings and air raids. In New York, small towns have a tradition, leftover from the 19th century, where they blow their sirens whenever there is a call for fire or ambulance services.

It’s totally unnecessary in the 21st century. I was on a volunteer ambulance squad for a while. We all got pagers. We did just fine without a siren. The siren is a way for these groups to keep the community aware of how much they do, how often they are called on for help, how they are heroes.

And of course, they do provide vital services. I’m not saying they don’t. But the sirens are strictly for massaging their egos. And keeping the neighbors up at night. In the 21st century there is absolutely no excuse for sirens. Besides, if there’s ever a tornado or an air raid, nobody will know to take cover.

On the short walk back from the library, on the corner by the fire station, there is a carving, carved from a huge block of tree trunk, of a fireman and a dalmatian in set up in the yard and surrounded by shrubberies. From one angle, approaching from the lower Main Street side, you can see perfectly well what it’s intended to be. But coming from the other direction, the carving looks like the fireman is peeing in the bushes.

peeing fireman

We’ve started referring to it as a kind of landmark.

“Ok, to get there (to the library, the village offices, the Presbyterian church) you leave the house to the left, then turn left again at the peeing fireman.”

It has also come to represent how we feel about the firemen interrupting our conversations during the day and waking us up in the night.

But did I mention, we love the library.