I don't remember why it came up over chips and salsa with my friends the other night, but I was absolutely shocked to discover that fire stations no longer have poles.
A comment about fire station poles had been made, and my friend -- who is a great source of useless knowledge; the kind of annoyingly smart person you call on trivia nights -- said, "Well, you know they don't use those anymore."
"What?" I exclaimed. "But I saw one on 'Fireproof.'<2009>"
"Nope," she said. "If they're present in a station, it's only for historical purposes."
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I checked this fact on Wikipedia, just to be sure, and discovered that poles are no longer used in the U.S., New Zealand or Japan because of the risk of injuries, such as breaking limbs on impact, friction burns and falling.
Plus, apparently it's faster to take the stairs.
Not that I spend a lot of time thinking about fire stations, but it was unnerving to discover that all this time I had believed something without ever bothering to verify it. It made me wonder what other incorrect images I had in my head.
I'm reading the "The Screwtape Letters" right now -- it's an amazing book -- and a question posed in the last chapter really made me think.
C.S. Lewis asks if our idea of the devil is formed from Scripture or from the pointy-eared cartoons we see in everyday life. Browsing through costumes for an upcoming church function, I came across many such comical examples: pitchforks, red faces, pointy tails. The devil we see at Halloween, all cute and offering us candy corn, seems like a minor nuisance tempting us from our diets rather than a demon waiting to drag us to hell.
Yet the supernatural reality is that there is a devil -- an angel who rejected God, his creator and is trying to tempt us away, too. He's not some friendly little snake who got Eve to eat an apple, nor is he content with having achieved just that. Scripture tells us that Satan is "a murderer from the beginning ... a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44).
Now, I'm not calling for an end to trick-or-treating or the Great Pumpkin. Nor am I saying you should dress like Bible characters for Halloween -- although I have rocked my fair share of holy costumes and think everyone should give it a try. However, as we spend a month with haunted houses, ghost stories and little devils running around offering us candy, it's important to remember that just as my idea of a fire station was incorrect, these caricatures of evil are far from the reality of the battle of good and evil, which continues to be waged in our midst.