Saturday, December 04, 2010

Too Much Perspective

For some reason Hoddle St became Nicholson street in my head and I went to far. I'd forgotten that exhibition st turns into Nicholson once you cross victoria parade. So riding along Hoddle as soon as I remembered this I turned down the first lane that presented itself.

There I was riding along.

An SUV parked in front of a business on my left had smoke come out its window. Like it was just a glance but it was like a white smoke signal emerging from this car it was too big to be cigarette smoke and too small to be a sheep.

I thought 'I better check this out' or I 'have to check this out.' Now I have to stress here, up until I fell over my own bike, I really didn't think at all. I WASN'T THINKING, a bunch of decisions were just being made so when I try to rationalize what I did it may sound dumber or smarter than it actually was.

Firstly in hindsight when I pulled up and got off my bike I felt reluctant, it was like doing something I really didn't want to do. Like kissing a bearded aunt hello but times 10.

The smoke was white and it didn't occur to me there was a fire. I could see white smoke billowing at the windows, but that was it. Perhaps its the movies I've seen biasing my judgement, but what I 'thought' was happening (not thinking) was that somebody was committing suicide. I walked round the back of the car and all the windows where opaque with white smoke. I smelled the air and it smelled kind of funny, but not like fire funny and I don't know what monoxide smells like.

Then I recall I had my phone in one hand dialling 000 and my other hand outstreched palm to the passanger side and it wasn't hot. I remember that. The metal wasn't hot.

Then I saw the passenger door was actually ajar, like open just resting there. I touched the handle thinking it would be hot, it wasn't so I opened the door and I don't really remember what happened next. The plan was to ask if anybody was in the car. But the white smoke turned black and the car was just full of black fucking smoke, and it was black and I couldn't see an inch into the vehicle and then I saw orange and then I was on the phone to 000 behind the car.

Now I'm pleased that I stopped, and I'm pleased that I went to check if anyone was inside the car. But here is what bothers me, without thinking my mind was like 'I can't deal with this.' and I backed up and, what was funny afterwards, like maybe 20 minutes afterwards THEN I got upset about the prospect of having to HAUL a dead man out of the car. And it wasn't like I ever thought 'child could be in there' or 'that could be my sister in there' or anything like that. I just envisioned this heavy middle aged balding guy in a navy dress shirt laying back committing suicide. And that upset me even after I knew, that wasn't the case and worse than that having to help somebody who is on fire. I'm grossed out by burns and burning flesh and people on fire. So maybe it was an unpleasant but have to do it x 1000.

But the moment I saw orange flames I didn't leap in to see if anybody was actually in there or what. I just gave up and backed off. I wasn't thinking, I don't feel like I got a chance to decide. I just did things and I'm not sure if that would have been a fail.

Anyway I left the door open and connected to 000, told them fire. Then I'd assumed they'd know where I was, so I was asking this other cyclist that had stopped across the road what street we were on and he gave me some names and the 000 peeps were like which state? And then I was like 'Victoria, Collingwood' and then they connected me to the firebrigade.

I hadn't started thinking yet, I wasn't panicked or anything I felt like I sounded calm but it occured to me that standing next to a car that is on fire is a dumb idea so I started backing away as I talked to the fire brigade peeps and tripped over my own bike and dropped the phone and that ended my first call to 000 ever.

My second call to 000 took place across the street and I had started to think. Some locals had come out one with a bucket of water and I got different street names off them. Got through to the firebrigade and gave them the details, they asked me if the car posed a threat to any buildings whether it was LPG or petrol, diesal etc. I asked them if they wanted the licence plate and they were like NO WHAT FUEL? and that was the first time we actually established that it wasn't my car. Anyway ... they told me the fire trucks are on the way.

Now these are the things going through my mind still:

1. Should I have called 000 first because opening the car door in hindsight gave oxygen to the fire. The answer: Hindsight is useless I did what I did. Plus until I saw the orange flames I really didn't think it was on fire, I REALLY thought it was full of exhaust fumes. Like it seems to me that if you call 000 they could have said things like 'don't open the car door' and shit that plainly didn't occur to me. But it sounds stupid but I didn't know I was dealing with a fire until I opened the door. I thought all the exhaust fumes would spill out and I'd have to resuccitate a fat old dude.

2. If there had been people trapped inside would I have let them die? This question occurs to me, and I have no answer for it.

So I was standing across the street with two women that lived in a terrace across the road and one of them with the bucket actually wandered up and threw some water on which just made the windows shatter. So I wasn't the only person naive when it comes to fire and shit. But It was one of those things as the car roof burnt off and the engine caught fire where I couldn't look and couldn't look away because I didn't want to know but I had to know whether there were people inside.

Something blew up and burned off in a massive jet of fire about 6 meters into the sky and you tell yourself that if there were people inside with that much smoke they would have been dead already. At least mercifully unconscious.

The fire trucks came and parked and looked really casual and their truck blocked our view and by now all the local residents were clustered around watching. I gave my statement to the officer and admitted I was stupid in hindsight opening the door and giving the fire all that oxygen and apologised. He was really nice and said it was a good idea to check if anybody was inside.

And that's as far as I'll say describing the incident.

I do just want to say though. You have to stop. Somebody always stops and somebody always checks and it was disturbing to just be on autopilot. I now know anybody in a situation with fire, explosions whatever just doesn't have the luxury of thinking. White smoke black smoke? I don't know shit about smoke anyway, I call it white smoke, but I thought it was exhaust, not smoke. In hindsight, if the engine wasn't running it wasn't going to be exhaust. But I can't remember hearing anything as in I wasn't listening I was just doing stuff.

But there were heaps of people some who arrived seconds after I did, and others after I'd called the fire brigade who just took photos on their phones and others who fetched pro-arse cameras. But the point is somebody stops, and it didn't have to be me it could have been anyone and takes control, in as far as they moronically can of the situation and calls for help. If nobody did, the human race would have died out a long long time ago.

I think I'm proud of myself, but I'm not sure if I am who I want to be just yet. Hopefully I'll never get tested again.

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