Janet Sheridan: Putting things into perspective
August 18, 2011
The conversation went like this:
"No, I don't want to write about that," I thought.
"But it's current," the voice said.
"I know, that's my point. It's too fresh. I have no perspective. I still want to clobber someone and shriek bad words."
"Writing about it would be more ladylike," came the response.
"But I don't want to focus on negative occurrences in Craig after everything I've written about the great life we have here. I wrote that our spring snowfalls are like cherry blossom festivals, for Pete's sake."
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"Janet, good things are more believable when bad things are also acknowledged."
Tired of arguing with myself, I capitulated.
So … picture a perfect night in Craig: flowers a-bloom, birds a-chirp, breezes a-stir. Harmless clouds cluster in the east; children bounce bicycles over curbs; and volunteer parents gather at Sunset Elementary School to ready its outdoor areas for the coming school year.
After dinner, Joel and I decided to stroll to the library to return some books. As we exited the backyard gate to our driveway, Joel looked around and, with no alarm, asked, "Where's the car?"
We instantly reverted to form and assumed the other had done something with it.
"I don't know. Where'd you park it?"
"In the driveway. Where'd you move it?"
"What are you talking about? I haven't driven it since you came home."
Slowly, reality struck.
"If you're not joking, it's been stolen."
I denied any prank and peered both ways along 7th Street as though our headstrong car had wandered off like a mischievous puppy and would soon come home.
Joel, as usual, showed more decisiveness: "I'd better call 911."
That quickly we became embroiled in loss of property, police reports, negotiations with insurance companies, and a realization of our need — even fondness — for a reliable, comfortable car and the items we stored in it.
Three adults stole our car from our driveway while inside the house I gathered library books, exchanged flip-flops for walking shoes, and collected Joel.
As we walked through our yard discussing which border flowers might need transplanting, the thieves drove at high speed up the hill on Barclay toward 10th Street, through quiet residential areas.
While we paused at the gate and examined the Russian willow to see if we had arrested its aphid problem, our car bottomed out in an intersection, lurched out of control, and hit two parked trucks.
Assuming a passing police officer was responding to Joel's 911 call, we waved him over.
When he said he'd be back after investigating an accident a few blocks away, we realized our car could be involved.
Joel — the keeper of our data — knew the year, model, and license number of the car, so he remained in the yard. I took the truck to look for the accident.
I found it. Our car sat sideways to the street: crumpled at each end, air bags deployed, interior untouched, and Joel's golf bag squashed up against the back window.
I drove home and reported that I'd found the car: wrecked, totaled, looking as abandoned as an old couch left curbside.
Not only does Joel act while I dither, his perceptions are fast, focused, and true compared to my foggy ruminations.
His first response: "I hope nobody was hurt."
I pictured young girls with bouncing hair skipping along a sidewalk, grinning boys flying down the hill on bicycles, a family on its way to a soccer game driving into the intersection as a missile launched across it.
"Oh, Joel, I didn't think of that."
I hadn't thought that our replaceable loss could have been a tragedy.
I hadn't experienced what I knew: that some who live in Craig make bad decisions born of addiction, greed, anger, or disregard for the lives and property of others, and that innocent parties suffer because of them.
I never understood how quickly feelings of security and safety shatter, even when your loss is only a car and some golf clubs.