My greatest fear is that I’ll be useless in a crisis. Well, strictly speaking most fears are situational. Put me in a room full of ferrets and my greatest fear will be that they’ll collectively attack me. I realize a lot of people love ferrets and they think it’s weird that I’ll handle snakes but that I’m terrified of ferrets which are basically snakes with fur and tiny legs. And also large, sharp teeth. So I point out to my friends who love ferrets but don’t like snakes that I’m selective when it comes to ophidians. I won’t go near a ferret for the same reason I won’t go near a cobra. A ferret’s bite may be less deadly but it still has bigger teeth.
Now that I think I’ve built up the courage to get back to my first point I’ll proceed. The other night I was driving home in the dark and saw a couple of people standing around a ditch. Then, as I got closer, I saw a pair of feet sticking up from the ditch and it looked like the standing people were kicking someone. I was pretty sure I was seeing an assault in progress and every neuron in my brain fired with the same message: Keep going. This is none of your business.
So of course I stopped, backed up, and rolled down the car window.
In the faint glow from the headlights I could see the standing figures were a couple of tall, lanky teenagers with matted blonde hair. They each wore blue hoodies and jeans, and looked enough alike that they were probably brothers.
And then the person in the ditch sat up and I heard him laugh.
“Hey!” he yelled. I could see he had a blue hoodie on too and that he was smiling.
“Everything all right?” I asked.
“Sure!” said the one still sitting in the ditch. He laughed. Then one of the others said, “Yeah, we’re just messing around. Sorry if we scared you.”
“Sure,” I said, and I forced out a laugh too. “Thanks a lot!” And I drove on.
When I got home I was shaking. I felt like my heart was going to pop out of my chest. It was just some kids out for a walk, having some fun, but I couldn’t, I still can’t, shake the thought that I don’t know what I would have done if it had been something terrible. Would I have gotten out of the car? Rushed to help someone who needed it? I stopped but that was the very least I could do, and I can’t say what I would have done if it had been a real emergency.
The kids are all right. I’m not sure I am.