Have you ever wondered how you would react in the face of extreme danger? Whenever that thought crossed my mind I would give a little chuckle and dismiss it outright, confident I would perform admirably in any sort of life-or-death situation. I figured the ol’ endorphins would kick in and I’d act in a manner that was brave, strong, and determined. I’d be the guy to dash into a burning building and rescue a baby, or lift a car off somebody trapped beneath it. I would not only laugh in the face of danger, I would scoff at it, call it names, and have my way with it.
Boy, was I wrong.
One day last week, I was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking a cup of coffee before work. The house was quiet: the kids were with their mother, and Tara was in Ely finishing up some business with her new renters. Suddenly, there was a commotion at the front door, and by commotion I mean somebody was trying to open the front door!
Several months ago, I read a blog post from Mikalee Byerman in which she recounted the tale of a marauding band of intruders who attempted to break into her house in broad daylight while she was inside. So I was keenly aware that these incidents do sometimes happen. My heart began stampeding in my chest, and just like that…
I sprang into inaction.
Seriously. I just sat there, my butt planted firmly on the dining room chair while trembling like a coward, apparently content to let whatever harm was coming befall me.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I thought of all the things I should be doing. Like grabbing a baseball bat or a knife or the cat (whose claws are plenty sharp) and greeting the intruder at the door. Or dialing 9-1-1. Or running out the back door to safety (which may not have been the bravest of acts, but at least it would have gotten me out of danger’s way). But did I do any of those things? Nope. I just sat there immobile, a proverbial deer in the headlights. At any second Tony Danza was going to come crashing through the door, insisting I say hello to his little friend before showering me with bullets.
Wait. That was Tony Montana. Tony Danza did Angela’s laundry on “Who’s The Boss.”
Well, whatever. I still figured I was as good as gone. I braced myself as the door swung open, my spoonful of Rice Krispies still raised in the air halfway between the cereal bowl and my mouth (and dammit, they had lost their snap, crackle and pop by now).
“Goodbye, cruel world,” I muttered.
The door swung open, and in walked…a teenager. With a backpack slung over his shoulder. Not just any old teenager, either. One I knew very well.
“Hi,” Rusty said.
“Wh…wh…umm, hello,” I said, quickly regaining my composure. “What are you doing here? And by the way, thanks for not killing me.”
“Nothing. You just gave your dad quite the fright. I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry about that. The hot water at mom’s house isn’t working. I need to take a shower before school.”
I felt pretty foolish at that point. And truth be told, extremely disappointed in myself. Sure, this was just a smelly kid looking for a bar of soap instead of an armed robber with murder on his mind, but I didn’t know that at the time. I can’t believe that, in the face of danger, I became paralyzed. When it comes to fight or flight, I’m neither. I’m fright. Oh, the shame of it all. This is just further evidence that if I were Batman, Gotham would burn to the ground.
And yet, at the first sign of an ant, I’m bolting across the room to get away from it. Go figure. I’m going to have to work on my reaction skills, I suppose.
Have you ever been in a dangerous situation? How did you react?
- Tony Danza was Tupac’s prison pen pal (salon.com)