This morning around quarter to one or so, I was in my converted garage where I shoot those Silicon Graffiti videos, with headphones on. I was adding an update to my post about Mort Zuckerman, and about to watch a little of A&E’s World at War collection on DVD on the video computer, when I heard what sounded like a pretty good-sized boom — even though I hadn’t even pressed play on World War II yet.
At first I thought my house’s hot water heater, inside the closet in the room, might have malfunctioned.
No, it seemed fine.
Then I got paranoid — no, nobody kicked in the front door!
Then I looked out the window, thinking my next door neighbor had stormed out of his house and slammed his front door closed.
No, but the cockpit of his 1966-ish Ford Mustang was burning up. In the pitch-black night, there was a sickly orange glow easily visible from my front window.
I opened my front door just to confirm this was indeed happening, then I woke my wife up.
“‘Wake up honey, the neighbor’s Mustang is on fire!”
“One of our cars is on fire?”
“No, it’s the neighbor’s old Mustang. I’m dialing 911.”
I called 911, gave them my address, told them to look for the house next door lighting up half the San Jose suburb we live in. Having already gotten dressed, my wife grabs the little fire extinguisher we keep in the kitchen, which is definitely not up to this task. We ran outside. We woke the neighbors up, and about four or five minutes later — which seems so long at the time, I called 911 again — the fire department rolled up, and commenced dousing the car with water. (Their fire extinguishing equipment is definitely up to the task. Not to mention their skills and manpower.)
I took the above snapshot with a digital camera, but really didn’t want to shoot away, as the flash going off at 1:00 AM or so would likely be distracting, not to mention feel weird to the fire department and/or ghoulish to the neighbors. (Though this morning, the fire inspector was thrilled we had a photo.) And this is hardly news, except perhaps to the local weekly paper.
But it is a reminder that your life can be upended in the wink of an eye, and that everyday life goes on as it does, even as Washington and the Overculture relentlessly reinvent and devour itself inside our computers and TV screens. I’m sure my neighbor had hoped to one day restore his vintage car; now it’s very likely a total loss, especially after the fire department crowbarred the hood and trunk to make sure that no embers remain. Fortunately though, no one inside the house or its neighbor’s homes was hurt.
And given how quickly and thoroughly the fire and police department responded, I’m very glad that I don’t live in this suburb of San Jose.