If you’re like me, your head is filled with impossible fantasies about adulthood based on movies, TV, and lady mags, often making reality fall short of expectations. For instance, prom was supposed to be the best night of my life because I was convinced my entire high school would spontaneously erupt into a synchronized dance in front of a live band just before the guy who hadn’t yet made any indication that he knew who I was confessed his love. In reality, it was merely an opportunity to wear the least bedazzled gown I could find out of the annual barrage of ugly prom dresses. My career as a writer was supposed to involve much more time spent shoe shopping and doing light self-reflection in the form of too many rhetorical questions and much less time figuring out why a soul-sucking blog post went viral. And in general, I imagined that my twenties would more closely resemble the articles in Cosmopolitan magazine.
The other day, through a series of incredibly fortunate but random events, my roommate and I ended up having a home-cooked meal at our local fire station with the firemen that were on duty that night. And the experience taught me a few valuable lessons. The most important being that it’s a helluva lot easier to get a date with a fireman (if you’re into that sort of thing) than I originally thought. I mean, it’s not like they’re hard to spot: They ride around in huge, red trucks with blaring sirens. And at any given time of day or night, manly, fit, capable men are hanging out in clearly marked stations all around the city, waiting for someone to injure themselves or light something on fire. So basically you know where these men are at all times, which makes picking one up way easier than going to a bar. Plus, there’s a fair amount of downtime at the firehouse. In between saving lies, they just kind of hang out, watch TV, play pool, and apparently cook elaborate feasts and do chores all together like taller, studlier versions of the seven dwarves. It’s awesome.
So here’s my advice to anyone who has wanted to meet and potentially date a fireman. Or anyone who thought that Sex and the City episode in which Samantha had sex in the firehouse looked kinda fun.
Step 1: If you happen upon a fire or any dangerous situation, call the fire department. You should do this anyway for obvious reasons, but also know that a nice perk of being a good samaritan is that firefighters will show up when you call.
Note: Do NOT start a fire just so you have an excuse to call the fire department. Arson doesn’t make a good first impression.
Alternate Step 1: Let’s say you’re sick of waiting for a catastrophe to fall into your lap, go to the fire station anyway. Try to time your visit for when there are no natural disasters happening or drunk people hurting themselves, as your potential love interests will be busy in that case. In other words, it’s better to go before it’s dark out. Chances are that someone will be around to greet you at the station. Firemen love visitors. Maybe bring a baked good so you can pretend that you’re just a friendly local who wants to thank them for their tireless service. Do that if you’re shy and don’t want to admit that your motives are actually driven by clichéd sexual fantasies.
Step 2: If offered, accept a ride in the fire truck. Always. It’s really fun. It also says “I’m the type of girl who would love to be invited to your fire station for a meal.” This is exactly how my roommate and I ended up eating tri-tip and polenta with firemen. She happened upon a burning trashcan, performed her civic duty and called 911, and after some brief questioning by the cute firemen, was driven home and invited to a feast. So let that be a lesson to you: if you do the right thing, you have a better chance of ending up getting dinner cooked for you by your city’s finest.
Step 3: Once in the station, ask lots of questions. Ask what things are for and how they learned to slide down the pole without hurting themselves. They’re used to answering these questions for kids on field trips, so don’t be shy.
Step 4: Slide down the pole. If the opportunity arises, that is. You are a guest, after all. If you slide down the pole, make sure you have at least some upper-body strength so you don’t hurt yourself.
Step 5: Offer to help them cook dinner. They will say no, because like I said, they are just as gentlemanly as depicted in movies. Still, it’s nice gesture.
Step 5: Allow them to drive you home. Not only will you get to ride in the truck one more time, but this will give you a few minutes with your firefighter of choice, allowing him the perfect opportunity to ask for your number and you two to plan the next date. You could also take the lead, with a clever albeit cheesy line like, “Well I guess I know how to reach you — it’s 911, right?” Har, har. Maybe don’t do that, on second thought.
This post originally appeared on Divine Caroline