I believe there are two types of people in this world:  people who do stupid things and people who do stupid things but don’t admit to them.  I fall in the former category.   Paragons of perfection may not wish to acknowledge it, but stuff happens. Admittedly, stuff happens to some of us more than others…but it happens to all of us.  Anyone who says otherwise is lying or boring.  Doing something stupid doesn’t mean you’re stupid it means you’re human.

One of the more bone-headed things I’ve done occurred when I was a cub reporter for The Middletown Journal. Early one summer morning the newsroom radio scanner crackled to life with word of a house fire. Turned out all the veteran reporters who would have been assigned this were working other stories. So this plum assignment fell into my lap. I was only 17-years-old and I was excited (in a journalistic type way, not that someone was losing all their worldly possessions). I sped to the scene about 5 miles from where the newspaper office was located.  As I got closer I could see billows of black belching smoke rolling skyward. Orange sherbert-colored flames arched into a crisp blue sky.  Several firetrucks were already on the scene dousing the vinyl-sided ranch house with water.

CAPTION: a copy of my old press pass from my newspaper reporting days.

I screeched my car to a halt, grabbed my news notebook and pen, and scrambled towards the scene.  I spent about 20 minutes interviewing the supervisor on duty and talking to neighbors. Then the home’s owner arrived.  He promptly started spilling the contents of his breakfast all over the front  lawn.  Some friends who had arrived first compassionately hugged him and walked him to a lawn chair where he sat and watched his life spiral into the sky on a staircase of smoke.  As an aside, that was always a very wrenching part of news coverage for me: having to witness a tragedy but not being able to really reach out as a human to comfort someone.  The reporter’s job is just to grab the facts.  At 17 I was probably taking that a little too much to heart, I would learn later that there is room for some basic compassion and consideration.  I went through my notes, conferred with the newspaper photographer on the scene and then glanced at my watch.  Deadline for the afternoon paper was about an hour away, I’d easily have time to drive back, type a story and submit it in time.

“Hey, bud, your car’s been on awhile…”  the photographer observed.

Holy-moly, he was right.  In my excitement to get there and get out, I had left my car running and “Ol’ Ned” as I had affectionately named it (a maroon-colored 1983 Oldmobile) had this nasty habit of overheating when idling.  Okay, no smoke yet, no big deal, I’ll just go turn it off.  But a chill rattled me as my hand grasped the handle and found my car was locked.  I had been so eager to get to the scene that I remembered one step (always lock my car when I get out), but neglected the basic first (turn car off and take out keys)

My choices were narrowing.   Do nothing and risk having Ol’ Ned go up in smoke (there was a fire department already on scene, at least that was something) or take more drastic action.  Seeing that deadline was now only 45 minutes away I chose the latter.

“Ahem…sir?”  I said to the fire captain.

“You, again?   Can’t you see we’ve got our hands full?” the fire captain said, motioning to the still blazing building.

“Yes, but you’ll have them even more full if we don’t do something about my car NOW,” I summoned the courage to say.  “I need you to break out one of my car windows.”

“you, what???”  the captain asked incredulously.

“just a small one in back….” I said sheepishly.

“Well, this is a first…” he paused.

So the fire captain pulled someone off the blaze they were fighting to go prevent another one.  The fireman gleefully broke my window (ha….can’t believe this bud, you’ll have some explaining to do when you get back, he guffawed)  I jumped into my car and made it to the newsroom with little time to spare and quickly pounded out my story on the newsroom’s vintage mid-80s computer keyboard. (and had a photographer not been there to witness this I probably never would have uttered a word of the incident)

That’s my stupid story confession.  Anyone have anything stupid to confess or am I alone here? (and don’t worry, I have more recent stuff…if this proves to be a cathartic confessional, we’ll do this again).

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