“No matter how good a person you are, you are evil in someone’s story.”
— Unattributed quote circulating the internet
Consider the following narratives:
Part 1: Looking North
It was a lovely evening, and time for the family walk on East Beach, Tlell. One child played by the ocean, the other hid in the driftwood with her friend, following us like the superheroes they were pretending to be. It was idyllic, and we were all struck by the insane beauty of the place we call home.
Though it is damp now, it was still so warm then — hot temperatures continued longer than any of us expected. We were certainly enjoying it, but the threat of fire had reached extreme, and we were all a little miffed we couldn’t gather around a campfire.
I looked up the beach, and for a moment thought I saw smoke. I checked with my husband — it was miles up the beach, so hard to see. At first we thought I was imagining things, and then I saw a small flickering.
My thoughts went like this: I don’t know who it is or how responsible they might be with fire. Regardless, we weren’t allowed to have fires. We should let this person know, but they are miles down the beach well past where we planned to walk. And what if by the time we get there, the fire is out of control? From a distanced it looks awfully close to the driftwood.
So I Googled “Tlell Fire Department” on my phone (Yes, I admit, I didn’t have the right number programmed — I do now).
Side story: it was this weird emergency hotline for Port Clements, but whomever I was talking to wasn’t in Port Clements, because when I said I was looking for the Tlell number, she had no idea what I was talking about and kept asking me to say the name again, and spell it. Then she “looked it up,” put me on hold, and there was this continual message in English and Spanish saying, “You are on hold with 911. Please do not hang up.” Spanish?
Then she’s on the line (I could still hear background noise from wherever she is) and the phone rings, but she got the Ranch Feeds number and so the phone message comes on with their opening hours… I just yell into the phone “Don’t worry! I’ll find the number!” and called my brother-in-law.
Back to the story.
As I talked on the phone, looking north, the fire seemed to grow. I felt good that I called the fire department and I enjoyed watching them all spring to action. They get money for the call, and our community was safe from fire. I posted an update on Facebook so that no one who heard the sirens would panic.
A job well done! Ah, but I have to admit – other thoughts were going through my head, many along the lines of “what eff’n idiot misses all the signs and starts a campfire during an extreme fire ban?”
Part 2: Looking South
It was a lovely evening, and time to cook the fish I had just caught. I adore Tlell, her beaches, her people and community. I have a long connection to this place and so enjoy the peace and solitude it offers. When you’re on the beach here, you feel like you have all the space in the world.
Suddenly I notice loud sirens coming from the south. I heard there was a fire ban, but it’s rained a bit since then. My fire is well below the high tide line, and ringed carefully with rocks. This couldn’t be for me, could it?
As the caravan of trucks and fire vehicles heads towards me, I realize it is me. With a great deal of sadness, I come to realize that my little campfire dinner is going to cost me $1,150.
I wonder what ridiculous hyper-vigilant fire freak called this one in. Later I notice on Facebook it was Janet. She’ll probably write about me in her column, painting herself the hero.
End narratives! Same situation, very different perspectives. In truth, Part 2 is total conjecture. I do know who it was, but I’m fully making up how they felt about the situation. I’m not going to name them, as I did with the other person in my previous column. Though my intent was not to shame, only to warn, many may take it that way. It’s all about your perspective.
Let me know your perspective at firstname.lastname@example.org.