>I was going to write on a different topic today, but it’s not ready (or maybe I’m not ready for the fire). Anyway, I just didn’t know what to write until this morning. A writer’s imagination is a wonderful thing. It can create worlds that might never have been created. Most writers are also excellent observers. We see things that others miss; little details that go off in our heads.
Pros and Cons
Now there are advantages and disadvantages to having a good imagination and being observant. The advantages are these two talents help us write. They throw passion and realism into our writing. On the other hand, it’s easy to let our imaginations run wild and think someone’s following us, or maybe that innocent person walking down the street is a serial killer, simply because they don’t look like they belong in one’s neighborhood. Okay, so maybe I’m out on the branch by myself with this one.
Take this morning for example. I was running late as usual, but today I was MUCH later than usual. So late that I expected to see the middle-school bus coming toward me down the main street I use in the neighborhood. No bus, cool, don’t have to stop and wait until kids climb on board. And I don’t have to turn down my Pavarotti music blaring out of my open windows (saving gas instead or running the AC).
As I drive toward the stop sign at one of the intersections on the bus route, my writer’s observation skills kick in. I notice a bluish-green, four-door sedan with the car door on the driver side open. It was parked on the side of the road directly across from the school bus stop. From a distance, I wasn’t really sure if someone was in the car, but as I came to a stop a man stepped out of the car.
Now my first reaction was, should I ask if he’s okay car-wise and offer to call for a tow truck? But something about the man just didn’t look right. It didn’t help that he avoided looking at me as he got out of the car. He was of average height, dark blonde hair, almost greasy-looking, wearing a washed out blue T-shirt with faded gold lettering on it. I don’t know about others, but sometimes my body goes on alert, and I know to stay away from people. This guy did that for me, and I didn’t stop to chat. Instead, I made my turn, and as I drive away I look back expecting him to open the hood of his car, but he’s just fiddling with the windshield wipers. It doesn’t take me long to get out of the subdivision and get to the first light, when I hit a mental wall. Where were the kids? Two middle-schoolers always stand at that corner.
As a writer, observation’s role in the process of developing great characters and story lines is important, but our imagination is what makes all that take off. But when you’re dealing with real-life situations having an imagination isn’t necessarily a good thing. In fact, you can sometimes make a fool of yourself. No wait; forget sometimes, I do that all the time. Where was I, oh right, I’m at the stoplight trying to tell myself, it’s just your imagination. The guy was just some innocent neighbor you don’t know or haven’t seen before. You’re over-reacting, Monica. Just let it go. But the mom in me is going, if it were Baby or Oldest someone didn’t see at their “business as usual” bus stop, wouldn’t you want someone to make sure they were okay?
Act Or Don’t Act
Okay, hands down that’s a yes. So I go around to the back entrance of the subdivision. In doing so, I pass the school bus. I manage to get her attention and ask if she’s picked up the kids. No, she hasn’t, so now that next writer’s tool kicks in. The What IF question. I immediately think, Oh God, What IF the worst has happened. I tell the driver to alert the school to the possibility of something being wrong, and I tell her I’m heading back to check and see if the car is there and/or the kids have shown up late. I race down the street, but no car and no kids. My heart just wants to break. I don’t even know these kids or their parents, but if something has happened to them….
I wheel around and race after the bus to let her know there might be a problem, I see two neighbors and stop to quickly alert them as to what might be going on and ask that they keep an eye out. Our community tends to be like Stepford, but there are times (like today) when having nosy neighbors helps. When I can’t find the bus, I don’t know what to do. I know I’ve got a great imagination, and I know how much of a fool I’ll look if my imagination is just running wild, but still….If it were Baby and Oldest…Right off to the police station I go that’s one block past the elementary school.
The entire block and a half, I’m talking out loud. It’s just your imagination, Monica. You don’t have to stop. Nothing’s wrong. You’re gonna look like a fool. You know it’s nothing. Do you really want to look like a fool to the police and anyone else? But what if something IS wrong, Monica? Guilt will tear you apart if you don’t do something. What about that family those two drugged up guys tied up in their basement and slit their throats. The family whose neighbor dropped off one of the daughters after a sleepover while the criminals were getting ready to slit the husband’s throat. What if you become that woman and don’t notice something is wrong. You’ll be riddle with guilt. Can you live with something like that if something is wrong? Or can you live with being a fool?
I go in and tell the officer on duty what happened. I gave a complete description of the guy and his car then asked the officer to contact me when he found the kids were fine. So I head off to work after calling my boss and leaving a voice mail where I tell him I’m leaving the police station now, and I’ll explained later, but that I’m okay. (Poor Bob. LOL)
In the meantime, I notice my ankle is hurting like crazy and I realize I must have twisted it when I raced back to my car the minute the bus driver said she didn’t have the kids. So not only am I feeling like a fool, I’m hurting too. No good deed goes unpunished. *sigh*
I get settled in at work, and the cell phone rings. It’s the police. The two kids are safely ensconced in school, and there’s nothing to worry about. My first reaction is stark relief. The next reaction–I’m such a fool. I’m sure the police think I’m this hysterical woman who’s going to be one of those citizens who calls for the least little thing.
Then I realize two kids are safe. They were safe all along, but I didn’t know that. And even though I acted the fool (overreacting), I was just making sure they were safe. Because “What If” they hadn’t been safe? My actions might have made the difference between just a story to tell here and their safety. Yeah, maybe my imagination, my observation skills and my What If questions ran amok today, but they might actually make a difference sometime in the future. And even if that never happens, it’s not a bad thing to be vigilant and concerned about others. If my writing skills can play a part in helping someone stay safe, and the price I pay is looking foolish, then so be it.
So yeah, I’ll be the writer fool any day. I just hope someone would do the same thing for my kids too.