Today, I woke up thinking yesterday was all a dream, a bad dream with some very nice parts.
On Saturday, April 5th, I was scheduled to attend Literary Orange, a fund raiser for the Orange County Library System. It’s a huge annual all-day event featuring authors from every imaginable genre and it was held at the Hyatt just down the road from Disneyland.
At 8 am I found myself on Harbor Blvd., just a couple of blocks north of my destination when I smelled something burning. I opened my window only to realize it was ME burning. People around me were yelling for me to get out of the car, it was on FIRE. Yes, FIRE!
I didn’t have to stop the car, it died on its own and, fortunately, I was already in the right-hand lane. I jumped out with my cell phone and started dialing 9-1-1. My call didn’t go through, but others were already dialing it on their phones. Two men took off and returned ASAP with fire extinguishers. There were some flames coming from under the hood and burning debris falling to the ground underneath. Then I remembered I’d left my purse behind. I dashed back to the car and grabbed my purse, jacket and portable GPS (Hey, the bag was a Dooney & Burke red leather tote and the GPS a gift!) Just as I got back on the curb, the car flames escalated. The two men with the fire extinguishers, me and the lookie-loos all high-tailed OUT OF THERE. The lookie-loos (mostly tourists heading for the Happiest Place on Earth) were snapping photos with camera phones and cameras. Hey, I thought, I have my camera in my purse! I then proceeded to take lots of photos. See, it’s a good thing I went back for my bag.
About then, the Anaheim Police arrived and cordoned off the entire southbound side of Harbor Blvd. (sorry folks!) Right behind them arrived the Anaheim Fire Dept., who doused the flames and put my Ford Focus out of its misery, while Captain Rick Cheatham took down all my information and wrote up his report. During all this excitement I also managed to call my friend and manager, Diana James, who was also on her way to Literary Orange.
With the fire out, the firemen helped me grab everything I needed to rescue from my trunk and back seat. We were in front of a Doubletree Hotel restaurant and they graciously allowed me to store it all inside while I waited for Diana. They even gave me coffee. The finale involved a tow truck and the exchange of business cards and my calling my insurance company and Jill Patterson of Literary Orange to tell her what had happened and, yes, don’t worry, I’ll be there in time for my panel. After all, I was just 2 blocks away and the SHOW MUST GO ON!
The fire started at 8 am. At 10:10 am, I was seated in a conference room at the Hyatt (still smelling faintly of smoke) with writer pals Earlene Fowler, Denise Hamilton and Patricia Smiley, talking about writing mysteries.
In spite of yesterday’s disaster, I woke up this morning thinking about the good things that happened yesterday. Most importantly, I’m fine and no one else was involved. It was just a car, albeit a car just a couple of payments from being paid off, but still just a car. And I’m loved. My friends rallied around me and gave me comfort, helped me get home and settled, called to check up on me. The conference organizers and attendees were so concerned and fabulous. Even the people who watched the fire were amazing, offering whatever assistance they could, asking me if I needed a ride home, a place to wait. Absolute strangers stopped to make sure I was okay. And, of course, the police and firemen were the heroes of the day, especially the firemen (And they’re cute, too! What is it about firemen?).
I know most of you who were there will never see this, but THANKS. You all contributed in ways, big and small, to make what could have been a disastrous day, a not so bad day. A day I’ll never forget, and not because of the loss of my car.