I was standing at the bar when a wise old man approached me wearing a thick robe and a dusty pair of sandals. I could tell he was wise because he looked like Obi–Wan Kenobi. It has often been said that all great fictional characters have a serious flaw, and when confronted with the image of him sipping casually at a Bacardi Breezer the reader may observe that this man is no exception. The crowd at the bar went quiet as the man (let us call him Jebediah) spoke out “Kempez”, it was as if he were speaking for all of them. “Why is it that you choose to be a park ranger? Is it for the money, the women, the fast cars, a sense of duty to your country, or is it for some cause altogether more noble?” Right then on the breeze came a whiff of sea air, and with it the thought that in Caesar’s year, in Calabria perhaps or on the cliff at Syracuse, some other park ranger, quite differently dressed, heard the same question and answered with the same sentiments as me.
“Friend”, I replied, “you have listed many of the delights of being a park ranger. When I cruise the little electric cars to the shed where they’re kept, freshly endowed with a months pay and to the adoring gazes of the nubile single mothers, I am proud of the service that I am doing to my park and to my country. But that is not the reason I do the job.” I stop and sip at my half pint of shandy (I hate being designated driver), pausing partly for dramatic effect and partly to gaze further into the depths of Jebediah’s eyes. “When I was a little boy I used to go canoeing on the lake. Sometimes I would paddle so hard that I could not paddle any more, and I’d sit stranded far from the shore. On those occasions a man with a hat would put on a green pair of waders and come out to pull me to safety. These days I am that man with the hat, that bastion of safety in the dangerous world of Markeaton Park canoe lake. Why do I do the job? It’s because the children need me.” Jebediah is clearly satisfied with the answer, he sits back for a few seconds contemplation before disappearing into the night, and I am alone in the crowd once more.
A free go on the bouncy castle for anyone who can spot the passage I stole from a famous play and tell me the play.