I went out to do errands. I brought Jimmy’s Nikon (very sharp, with a telephoto lens), because there’s a store sign I pass all the time that’s awkward in a provocative way. I meant to take a picture of the words; I forgot.
I did, however, see something else amazing: a blue VW bug on fire. It was directly across from me at the intersection of Rt. 1 and the entrance to the Dedham Mall. I was stopped at the red light; the burning, smoking car was in my sight line; and I remembered I had a camera. Opportunity!
I paused. The camera remained momentarily on the seat beside me. I mulled over my situation, step by step. This is what went through my mind:
- There’s a burning car. I should take a picture of it. I, for once, have a camera with me.
- If I roll down the window, and lean out with the camera, the car might choose that instant — with my luck — to explode, and spray burning gasoline and shrapnel in my direction.
- I could get burned, badly.
- Could the spraying flames from the exploding VW ignite the fuel in my car? Could I blow up?
- How terrible that would be, to be either horribly injured or die, in the act of taking a completely unnecessary picture of a stunning event.
- Perhaps I should turn into the parking lot and consider my options.
The light changed. And I turned into the parking lot. Then I took, with me sitting in the open window of the car to get some height and the lens zoomed to the max, this picture:
The shot I missed was better: Herbie the Love Bug, looking me in the eye, with flames coming out of his rear end and smoke rising in billows over his roof. I guess I could never be a photo journalist (although I don’t recall ever having wanted to be one). I don’t act fast enough. Even a few seconds of hesitation, which is about what it took to go through that series of thoughts, adds up to a lost chance.
This tendency could explain my not being good at fast-moving multi-player sports.
This habit of pausing to gather my thoughts, however, which drives my kids nuts, could also account for my being pretty helpful in emergencies, as I think Julie, for example, could attest. If you’re with me, and you have a wound that’s dripping blood, I’m not leaping to the mental conclusion that you’re about to bleed out and die. I’m wondering where, exactly, did I stash the car’s first aid kit, and where on your body should I place some gentle pressure to get that blood to stop, and what should I say to you so you won’t worry.