This morning on the way to work, my husband and I stop at the stoplight in front of the gas station just as we observe a massive cloud of smoke rising from the area.
We see a white minivan at the gas pump, and bright orange flames consume the entire front of the van. A vehicle is burning! It’s burning right next to the gas pump! We realize that people are moving into action: We hear the rising wail of the fire trucks coming; cars and people begin to scatter; everyone moves far away from the van (it looks empty with no passengers inside).
But we’re stuck at this red light, next to a burning car that sits next to all the gas pumps.
Something’s going to explode.
My husband, along with another pedestrian, pushes cars on through the red light, knowing that sometimes you break traffic rules to save lives.
I’m so nervous as I drive on and watch those bright flames by those gas pumps so near the neighborhoods and all our friends.
We never hear the explosion, and we reason that the firefighters arrived with just the right extinguishers to save the day. In my mind, I imagine all the water hoses coming out, but I know that’s completely and dangerously wrong. Most people realize that water applied to a gasoline fire only spreads the gasoline around, making the first worse.
Different kinds of fire need different kinds of remedies, and firefighters know just what to do. I’m so relieved that, as of right now, I haven’t heard any bad news about the burning car incident. Thank you, firefighters!
I think about fire and gasoline all morning–and that possible explosion–when I consider how I approach any kind of conflict, stress, or negative situation at home or at work. I think about emergencies. I think about danger. I often apply instinctual, habitual remedies from tradition or experience that actually make matters worse. Sometimes, you apply a different technique called for by a unique situation. It’s wise to pause and ask better questions about what a situation calls for instead of bringing out the water hoses.
And sometimes, you do what you’d never do (driving through that red light!) because it’s the safest and wisest thing.