– Hesitation

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:

  1. There’s a burning car. I should take a picture of it. I, for once, have a camera with me.
  2. 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.
  3. I could get burned, badly.
  4. Could the spraying flames from the exploding VW ignite the fuel in my car? Could I blow up?
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

VW Fire, Rt. 1, June 12, from Uno\'s parking lot

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.

3 thoughts on “– Hesitation

  1. If Steve and I were there we would have had our first chance to use our fire extinguisher we carry, just in case.
    If you carried one, I expect that your first thought would have been to carefully approach the car, checking for occupants and then estimating the force and direction of the spray, Before actually spraying.
    Do you think the owner of the vehicle was carrying gasoline in his trunk to stockpile against future increases?

  2. elizabethellen — That’s right! I forgot about your fire extinguisher in your trunk. Wow, I honestly don’t think I would have been brave enough to get close to this car and the fire, even if I had a fire extinguisher in my car. I really was thinking about the likelihood of explosion, and I was kind of nervous that people were standing so close to the side of the road, watching. I thought someone should try to herd them away from the accident, but, I must admit, I didn’t feel like being the one to do it, because there were so many of them. (I could see, however, that there were no occupants of the car.)

    I’m pretty sure, from what I recall about Charlie’s VW bug anyway, that the engines are in the trunk area. I’ll bet that someone rear-ended him, and that an engine fire started immediately.

    When the firemen arrived, which they did about 5 minutes after I pulled over, they used fire extinguishers, and not water, to put out the fire. They seemed mad that so many people were hovering so close: “Get out of the way, people!!” There was no cop directing traffic, and the situation seemed to need one.

  3. I can, indeed, attest to your prowess in all situations that could be considered “emergency”. Hmmm, let’s see:
    1. there was the time that Georgie slammed his hand in the minivan door and you nursed and wrapped it with such skill that my pediatrician hated to undo your handiwork
    2. and the time Grace threw up in my backyard (an occurence I always consider an emergency) and you swooped in for the rescue
    3. and who could forget the time I got stuck, while 6 months pregnant, in my overpriced maternity pants and desperately needed to use the bathroom and your calm de-knotting skills came to rescue? (anyone who has ever been pregnant appreciates the emergency inherent during any phase or moment of pregnancy!)
    4. and the time Georgie got lice (a true emergency since I had just had surgery and it was, well, lice) and you got rid of those nits like nobody’s business.
    Your calm in situations such as these is yet another reason that I love you…

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