This past weekend I went in the company of three good friends to see our buddy Gabe at bible school in Pennsylvania (SMBI). Right after we turned out the lounge room lights on the second night of our stay, someone mentioned Olan Rodgers. And soon thereafter his face was on a smartphone screen telling us a story. His stories, such as “An Odd Way to Die” are great – he’s not there to teach you a lesson or convince you of an ideology, just tell you a story; that’s refreshing sometimes. So, in that unencumbered spirit, here is a story for you.
One day last year, in the fall semester, my friend Collin and I were walking through the Tri-County parking lot after another day of classes. As we searched the parking lot for the vehicle we came in, we noticed this super-hipster looking white car. It had all kinds of bumper stickers on the back – including one that bore the Switchfoot insignia and one that said, “If it’s broke, fix it.” There was also a copy of “The Ragamuffin Gospel” in the backseat. All things considered, I figured the owner of this worn out Honda must be an alright dude (or dudette). It is most unfortunate indeed that I had to bear witness to, and participate in, the eventful demise of such a lovely chariot.
The next time I took notice of this car was last week on Wednesday. Another day of classes was in the books. I had weathered another painstakingly boring Astronomy 101 class and was home free. After leaving the classroom, I ran into the chief of campus security in the hallway, and we talked for a few seconds as we walked together (this the same guy who got me out of the parking ticket a couple months ago). Once outside, I descended the stairs below Fulp Hall and took a right at the second parking level, eyes peeled for my car – it’s such a large parking lot. Without much difficulty I found it and was headed over when I noticed large plumes of white smoke pluming to and fro in the level above me.
These plumages were definitely coming from a certain white car, out both windows. I reckoned it was probably two people sitting in the car puffing away. I used to work with a guy who vaped, so I’m fully aware of the incredible clouds one person can produce. Dragon breathe caliber. Quite impressive. With this in mind, I decided I’d casually meander up to the first level and make sure everything was good. As I approached, a few things became quickly apparent. First, the plumages were still billowing forth steadily – like these people weren’t even pausing to breathe. Secondly, this was that same car I’d seen last semester: dilapidated white Honda with the back-glass full of bumper stickers. Thirdly, there was no one in the car.
I quickly dropped my backpack on the grass. And then moved it back a bit farther. I don’t need my laptop and textbooks getting charred if this thing blows up. A quick assessment revealed that there were orange flames coming from between the two front seats. The windows were cracked, and all the doors were locked. There were cars parked on each side of this flaming mobile, all of which were also locked.
I’d like to just pause a moment here to point out that if these people had been on board with my theory of driving a not-so-nice car and never locking it, their vehicles could have been removed from impending danger. And the fire could possible have been stomped out. But that would have been less exciting I guess.
So with no way to move any nearby cars or get to the fire, which was starting to produce a blacker smoke, I began digging through my backpack and produced my phone. I quickly dialed up the security chief whom I had just passed in the hall.
“I’m down in the parking lot below Fulp, and there’s a car that’s on fire. You need to come down here and check it out.”
“Oh! Uh, Ok. I’m right behind you. Be there in two minutes.”
Chief Aman rolled up in hardly anytime at all. Then we stood there for a few seconds, each unsure of what to do. He got on the phone to request a fire truck and sent me running to the Fulp lobby for a fire extinguisher. I tore back up the hill and into the big brick building. Inside, I ran over to a glass case, opened the door, and headed for the exit….as I moved for the door it occurred to me that I’d never seen a fire extinguisher of this sort before. Then I read the label – something about AED assisted breathing….not a fire extinguisher. I slammed it back into the case, which made the beeping noise stop, and found a real extinguisher in the next room.
Halfway back down the hill I saw Collin walking to his Jeep. “Hey dude, come check this out!” I ran down to the still flaming car, extinguisher in hand. It occurred to me then that I’d never used one of these things before, and really hadn’t been shown how. It’s easy though. I broke off the blue plastic thingy, pulled the pin like a Marine arming a grenade, and went to town. I stuck the hose into the cracked window and let fly the yellow dust. I couldn’t really see what I was shooting at through the smoke and blackened window. But boy did I torch them flames. Extinguish them I did. I put the whole bottle in through the windows: a lot through the driver’s side…and a lot through the passenger’s side. Like I said, I hadn’t ever got to use one of these before, and the chance wasn’t likely to come again soon.
By this time another officer had arrived as well as a faculty member. The senior members of our group decided we ought to break the window and get inside. In hindsight, this probably wasn’t really necessary. But a body tends to get caught up in a moment of glorious public service. Officer number 2 took my expended extinguisher and bludgeoned with all his might. No good. Then faculty member produced a hammer. Smash! Glass everywhere. Window no more. Yep, sure enough the flames had been put out. Completely. And there was so so much yellow dust everywhere. I daresay if the flames didn’t destroy the poor guy’s interior, the extinguishing agent probably did.
Collin and I shook hands with the security guys. “Well good luck boys. We’re gonna head home.”
They had to stick around and inform some poor student that he would not have a ride to bomb around in over spring break. At least not one in which you could roll up the window…or breathe inside of.
As I climbed into my unlocked car and drove away, I seen the firetruck coming down the hill behind me. I smiled, feeling like something of a public servant. Heh heh, we already got the job done boys. It was broke and we fixed it…sort of. Butt-slaps all around.
And that’s how it went down. I hope one day you all get the thrill of pulling the pin and letting fly the yellow cloud. Now treat yourself to a truly masterful storyteller by clicking the link in the first paragraph.