The concussive force from the blast had tossed me to the ground. Where my car used to be was now just a burning wreck.
My briefcase was just to my left. The fedora that was atop my head was now on the ground behind me. The glasses upon my face were askew. My eyes were wide with awe and wonder. Despite the intense cold of the winter night, the heat from the flames was causing me to begin to sweat under all my layers of winter clothing. This would be difficult to explain.
Then again, maybe not.
I am an adjunct professor for a local university. I love the job. I truly do. I have been teaching (on average) one class a year for almost 14 years. This semester I am teaching two. Both are in the afternoon/evening. Both have my day ending kinda late. One of those classes lets me head home around 7:00 at night. And, since it’s winter, it’s very dark outside when I leave the classroom. Oh well. I enjoy it. The campus is pretty quiet by that time. The dark sky is contrasted by the tall lamps attempting to illuminate the walkways and buildings of the school.
On a Tuesday—two weeks past, I had to park in a parking lot a little farther away from my classroom. It wasn’t a problem as it was just across the street from the parking lot that I normally park in. So, no worries. This other lot is much larger and is usually filled with student cars. The lot I regularly use is intended for faculty and staff, however, it is a first-come-first-serve situation and, I was not first.
Fortunately, I found a spot nearby, in the other lot, and parked. I collected my briefcase from the trunk, locked the car, and began my slightly longer walk to class. With winter about town, I had on my trenchcoat, fedora, and gloves. They all help keep me warm and dry in rain and snow. It’s what I wear. The children at the middle school where I also teach, tell me that I look like a spy (I turn the collar of my trenchcoat up to keep the breeze off my neck—and it helps me look like a spy).
Class ended and I entered the dark and chilly night. The lamps across campus seemed more like small spotlights on that night. Their illuminations felt more limited in the chilly winter air. As I walked, it became abundantly clear that I was the only one about. Everyone else had already gone inside for the night. Who could blame them? I knew I looked forward to nearing my car, using the remote starter, and pre-warming my car for the drive home. It was decidedly cold.
My footfalls were amplified by the cool of the night. I could feel the shadows edge closer as I neared the end of the rampway that allowed on-campus traffic. I was closing in on the street where I would cross to the other parking lot. As I drew nearer I could see my car, all alone, resting under a solitary lamp. The soft illumination that was provided almost gave my car a fuzzy-haze look—as if my eyesight were blurred by something (it’s called getting older). All the other cars that were there just three hours earlier were gone. All of them.
I had crossed the street. I was on the edge of the lot. I reached into my pocket, pulled out the keyfob, pressed the buttons, my car chirped, the engine turned over, then, my car exploded. The shockwave knocked me flat onto my back.
As I sat up, I became aware of a few things: My briefcase was nearby, it had been knocked out of my left hand. My official Indiana Jones fedora had been knocked off my head and was laying a few feet behind me. My trenchcoat had been blown open, and I lay there as though I were a fish and had just been filleted. And my car… There it sat, under the lamp, engulfed in flames. Oh boy…
“How could this have happened? Who would have done this?” were the first two thoughts that came into my recently rattled head. Now, over the years I have done some crazy things, and some stupid things, but nothing (that I could think of) that would make someone want to kill me via car bomb. Then, the third thought came into my mind, “Boy, am I glad I used the remote starter to start my car. Otherwise, I would have been killed.”
Having been a teenage superhero, Batman, a Marine, and worked in many an interesting profession, I have had a decent amount of adventures. And yet… And yet, somehow my brain makes new ones. Constantly. There are times when I feel like a Walter Mitty, myself. A little Mittyesque—if you will.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1939) is a short story by James Thurber, which was first published in The New Yorker on March 18 in 1939. I was first introduced to it in 1986, in Mrs. Halverson’s 6th-grade classroom. This story has had a few publications attached to it, as well as two motion picture films, along with a couple of radio programs, and a theater production. It is a wonderful tale of a man who dreams his escapes from reality in a series of fantastical adventures. It is easy to relate to for those of us with vivid imaginations. I also believe it is easy to relate to for those who wish they had done more with their lives.
At any rate, a couple of weeks ago I had a Mitty-Moment. As I descended a set of stairs—in the shadowy dark—toward my parking lot of choice, and pressed the button on my keyfob to start my car, my mind blew it up. It blew up the car. Like in a spy movie. Then, to make it more movie/fantastical-like, I moved it to the other lot where two days before it had been all alone—under one of those tall streetlamps. It was instantly more dramatic. Then, that led me to think about how practical remote starters for cars are. And, if you’re a spy (or something like that), to avoid car bombs that go off when you start your car, you should have a remote start. Just get near, press your button, and stand by to not get blown to smithereens. It was a perfect idea. Brilliant, even. Yeah, I’m smart.
All that said, after writing about it, and thinking about it—this story and why it happened, just might poke holes in the reality-factor of all the other stories that I have already told—including the ones I have yet to tell… Especially the ones I have yet to tell! Oh boy… I realize that this might put a cloud of suspicion over everything I have already done. So, I guess this is where I say (and hope you believe me): The other stuff that has happened to me really did happen to me, and the stuff I haven’t written about yet, also really did happen to me. So, yeah.
Just the same, I think that from now on I’m only going to use my remote starter to start my car—just to be safe.