When was the last time you waved at a passing train or siren-blaring fire, lights-flashing fire engine? “Why so long?”- this week’s “Coffee with Colm”

Seriously, when was the last time? I remember waving at a train when we lived in Celbridge in Co. Kildare and that was almost a quarter century ago! And before that? No idea.

I was driving through Limerick city during the week heading to the Carambola office mid morning one of the days and I noticed a speeding fire engine, lights flashing and sirens blaring heading towards me on the opposite side of the road. Nothing unusual about it, we see it regularly, you and I.

I was semi-aware of cars on both sides of the road pulling in to allow clear passage essentially down the middle of the two lanes.

Next thing I see a bunch of school kids, probably 2nd or 3rd class, 6 or 7 years of age on the pavement in a ‘líne’ holding hands two by two, being shepherded along by their teachers, obviously on a school outing. And what do they do? They stop, turn, and wave at the fire engine passing by. Brought a smile to my face.

And the coolest part was the fireman in the front passenger seat waved back equally heartily.

I was thinking, when was the last time I waved at a fire engine passing by? I can’t remember to be honest, but these kids saw the joy in the spectacle of lights and sirens on a large red speeding vehicle.

They didn’t see danger. They didn’t see men at work. They didn’t suspect some emergency that had mustered the crew out in the first place, they just saw spectacle. And it was joyous to them.

The fireman waving back was wonderful.

To find out where my head went as I pondered the scene, watch the 4-minute video (with transcript), listen to the 4-minute podcast, or read on below…

There was a man at work. A professional. Heading to some emergency. Equipped and trained to handle whatever was awaiting him and his buddies at their destination, yet so comfortable in his own skin and with his professional capabilities, that he could afford to take his mind off where he was headed – he could do nothing until he got there – and wave back at the young admirers.

I tell you, the whole scene, over in seconds, brought a smile to my face.

And a raft of questions to my mind, beginning with ‘when was the last time?’

So, when was the last time you waved at a passing fire engine, or a speeding train, or a boat traveling up a river, or a plane at an airport about to take off? Can you even remember?

What’s that about?

It’s a bit sad to be honest. What happened you and me? Life. Life is what happened. Do you remember those zero-responsibility days? Long time ago now. When the amount of stuff we got into our day was phenomenal – there was before breakfast, after breakfast, during school, ‘sos beag’, big lunch, after school before homework, after homework, after tea, before supper. And for many of us, it was different stuff in each of those day parts – cops and robbers, mammies and daddies, pirates, firemen and nurses – fantasy play that allowed our imaginations soar.

Now what do we do? Get up, go to work, Netflix, bed, rinse, repeat. We are lucky if we get anything out of the ordinary done during Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. Multiple day parts, interrupted by the stuff we had to do such as eating or bathing, have been replaced by four year parts where we might schedule some fun, a holiday perhaps, or a visit to the coast.

Why is it that as we grow older, we tend to forget to see the joy in the simple things in life, such as the spectacle of a passing fire engine.

And it happens early on in life.

If you were to ask a classroom of five year olds, “Who, here, is a good singer?”, every hand would shoot up – regardless of whether they had a note in their heads. Ask a classroom of fifteen year olds and most will put their head down, or, my favourite, hang the class talent by swiveling towards one of their classmates known for their stand-out voice!

So, this week’s “Coffee with Colm” is perhaps a shout out to myself as much as to you out there to take a moment to stop and periodically recapture some of the wonder associated with a passing train or fire engine. In this next week, wave at a fire engine, wave at a train, wave at a plane in the sky, wave at a stranger in the street – confuse them! – they’ll be left wondering what’s going on.


Thanks for thinking with me.

Yours truly.


Watch | Listen | Read | Think.

Did you enjoy that? Fancy a sip of some of my recent “Coffee with Colm” Blog posts:

  • Dr. Sinead Kane’s Interview: Part 3. Sinead has “Coffee with Colm” in Bewley’s Café on Grafton St. Dublin – click here.
  • Dr. Sinead Kane’s Interview: Part 2. Sinead has “Coffee with Colm” in Bewley’s Café on Grafton St. Dublin – click here.
  • Dr. Sinead Kane’s Interview: Part 1. Sinead has “Coffee with Colm” in Bewley’s Café on Grafton St. Dublin – click here.

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