Thursday, December 04, 2003

Fire on 40

The heat washed over the side of my face, even though a closed window and about 50 feet separated me from the fire. Flames swept away from the car, into the sky and the next lane. The other cars gave their brother's funeral pyre a wide berth.

I've never seen a car go up in flames like that. Once I was driving in rainy slick conditions when a truck did two 360s right in front of me, but I've never seen anything so vivid.

The most striking part of it was the car's owner standing a ways back, huddled against the wind and mist, talking animatedly into his cell phone. I couldn't help but wonder if there was another passenger. How did he get out before the fire consumed the car?

I don't think I knew him, and I thanked heaven it wasn't me in that car. Or any of my friends or family. I often joke about going out in flames, but it's definitely not on my short list of ways to die.

Usually, I rail against people who slow down at accidents, but this was so out of the ordinary, so bizarre that I understood the impulse. No one was apparently hurt - it was just the car quickly melting down in the autumn mist.

As the flames receeded into the background, I could see a fire engine pull up behind the car, and the firefighters clambered out and started to put out the blaze. All was well with the world again.

Still, my foot was definitely less heavy on the gas pedal the rest of the afternoon.

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