Fireman Jimmy and the Fifth Teletubby
Issue # 4
By Rich Wilhelm
April 12, 2000

This is a story about my two-year-old son Jimmy and how he came to own a fireman hat (hereinafter known as “Fireman Hat”). This is also a story about how Jimmy’s great love and possessiveness of Fireman Hat led us to discover the identity of the elusive Fifth Teletubby. Finally, this is a story with a rather abrupt and silly ending, so be prepared.

This story just happens to start out with a tantrum. Of course, stories about toddlers and tantrums are almost as common as stories about Elton John and tantrums, so the beginning of this story should be familiar to anyone who has kids or has spent any time around kids. Or around Elton John.

I should mention immediately that Jimmy is a sweet little boy but he can pitch a hissy fit with the best of them. When we arrived at the daycare center to pick Jimmy up one afternoon the week before Christmas, he was running around happily and wearing a toddler-sized fireman's helmet. We knew Jimmy wouldn’t be happy but we took the hat from his head and told him he could wear it another time. We then dragged Jimmy out of the center as he screamed "Fireman Hat" over and over again.

The meltdown lasted all the way home and about 30-45 minutes after that. Jimmy was indeed mad, and our mission was now clear. We had to find a Fireman Hat to give him for Christmas. It seemed like an easy enough task—we figured every toy store would sell Fireman Hats. Oh, how naive we were!

The three of us headed out for some last minute Christmas shopping that night. While out at one of the Largest Malls in the World, we scoured every toy store we could find and, of course, ended up disappointed at every turn. There was not a single Fireman Hat to be had. By the time we got home, Donna and I were discouraged, yet totally obsessed with finding a Fireman Hat. It was 10:00 at night, but Donna grabbed the yellow pages and hit the phone. Calls to the three most likely stores in our area proved to be busts. Each store was, of course, still open for the convenience of insane Christmas shoppers like us, but none had the elusive hat.

Finally, Donna contacted a store about thirty miles away. Yes, the store manager said, they had Fireman Hats, but they were going fast at $15.99 a pop. He didn't know if there would be any left by the time the store closed at midnight. Better hurry, he said.

So I hurried. I jumped in the car at 10:30 and began my trek, feeling just a bit silly since I'm the kind of guy who would usually make fun of people going to ridiculous extremes to buy a toy for their kid. When I became a father I made a vow to myself that I'd never beat up another dad over a Furby. This is different, I kept telling myself. This isn't some trendy here-today, gone-tomorrow novelty toy. This is a good old-fashioned American Fireman Hat.

I hit the store a little bit after 11:00 and discovered, to my surprise, that not only were hundreds of Fireman Hats available, they were only five bucks apiece. I grabbed one, before some other raving Fireman Hat-craving (and, in reality, non-existent) consumer dad knocked me down to snatch one up, and ran off to pay for it. We finally had Fireman Hat.

So what did Jimmy think of the hat, you ask? Since Christmas Day, there has not been a day that he hasn't worn the hat. It is even part of his bedtime ritual. After the stories have been read and the lights have been turned off, he instructs us to cover him with his "blanky," put the "Wimmie-the-Pooh" blanket over his "piggies" and place Fireman Hat at the foot of his bed.

At first Fireman Hat was simply something Jimmy wore, but this all changed after his Aunt Lisa gave him a video called There Goes a Firetruck. This video is a documentary for kids about firemen and it’s actually pretty good, although the background music sounds like the instrumental tracks for some long-lost Laura Branigan technopop album (for those of you not familiar with pop music of the 1980s, I can assure you this is NOT a good thing). There Goes a Firetruck quickly became one of Jimmy’s most-requested videos and through it, he learned that firemen have an entire uniform for fighting fires. Before too long he could only watch the video while wearing his own uniform: his coat, snow boots, and sometimes a pair of his mom's pink or purple Totes socks for fireman gloves (don’t ask—I’ve got no explanation for that). Fireman Hat was the final touch in the transformation of Toddler Jimmy into Fireman Jimmy.

Eventually, Jimmy went from wearing the outfit and watching the firemen to pretending to be a fireman. He'd run around, squirting us with a "hose," a plastic tube container his Pap Pap had gotten at work and given him. He'd take the cushions off the couch, lean them against the couch and began climbing up his "ladder". None of these embellishments were our ideas. Jimmy was inventing all of this on his own, improvising like crazy. Fireman Hat is probably the only Christmas present Jimmy received that he plays with every day and since it has sparked such imaginative and funny play in him, I'm certainly glad we tracked it down.

Fireman Hat was instrumental in leading to our discovery of the Fifth Teletubby, singer/songwriter and all-around cool guy Lyle Lovett. This bizarre and historic discovery basically happened because Jimmy has become a bit possessive of Fireman Hat. He might occasionally let one of us wear it to become Fireman Daddy or Fireman Mommy, but borrow the hat from him at the wrong time and he'll loudly bellow "MY FIREMAN HAT". One morning recently, while we were getting him dressed, Donna casually sang him a line from the Lyle Lovett song "Don't Touch My Hat": "You can have my girl, but don't touch my hat." Maybe not the best thing to sing to a little boy when we're trying to teach sharing, but it was funny and certainly seemed to describe Jimmy's relationship with Fireman Hat. Of course, he picked up on it immediately, and was soon singing the line, "don't touch my hat," on his own.

It just so happens that I had made a music mix tape (Vol. 5 in my world-famous My Awesome Mix Tape series), in which I prefaced "Don't Touch My Hat" with one of the narrator's lines from a Teletubbies CD we have: "Now is a time for a story about Dipsy's hat...” I sometimes play this tape in the car and now when Jimmy hears it, he is absolutely convinced that Mr. Lovett ought to be eating tubby toast and tubby custard with Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, La-La and Po. In anticipation of the song, Jimmy will say, “Teletubbies don’t touch my hat!”

Lyle Lovett as the Fifth Teletubby is really not that weird an assumption, when you think about it. While Lovett is a long, lanky Texan and the 'tubbies are short, roly-poly creatures of somewhat indeterminate origin, Lovett's hair has at times looked as wacky as any of the antennae sticking out of the Teletubbies' heads. Also, both Lyle Lovett and Teletubbies have seen their personal lives overshadow their work, what with Lyle attracting the attention of tabloid newspapers when he hooked up with Julia Roberts and Teletubbies attracting the attention of Jerry Falwell when the right reverend discovered that Purple Boy Teletubby Tinky Winky’s favorite toy is a matching purple purse.

See what I mean? The ending of this story is abrupt and silly.

(Please feel free to email to others who may be interested or to print hard copy for them but remember: The Dichotomy of the Dog is copyright 2000 by Rich Wilhelm. If you plan on making a bazillion dollars from this piece of writing, please let me know so I can sue you or something.)