It seems fitting that it was in the closing days of 2003 that my neighbor's truck should spontaneously burst into flame.
We were having a birthday party for the 1-year-old child of some friends and had just begun an Asian feast when the birthday girl's father came back into the house from a mission to his car and made the announcement. Panic then ensued.
As I watched the metal bonfire that had been a full-sized Chevy or GMC pickup truck, fully expecting the flames to spread to every house in the neighborhood, I realized that we would soon pass this year away and perhaps we're getting to the end just in time.
By the time this goes to print there may be a terrorist attack somewhere in the country, death tolls are topping the news from Iran, California and Utah and I may have consumed beef contaminated with mad cow disease.
2003 has not been the best of years. It hasn't been the worst, either, but what it has been was fast.
I mean lickety-split kind of fast, like where on Earth did that year go to?
I remember, distinctly, the beginning of the year, the hotel party we attended on a free pass I'd drawn during the Christmas party raffle. Beyond that I'd rather not retrace all the specifics, not all the tragedies both personal and remote nor all the triumphs.
Personally, I'm more impressed with the speed issue. Time is, indeed, fleeting.
The better half of the neighbor couple, quaking and crying from the excitement, told me that her husband had run a diagnostic on the truck earlier in the day and replaced some fluids. It was not occupied or running at the time the fire started.
They were in the living room and heard a "whoosh."
The fire didn't spread to the house, though it melted the vinyl siding on one side of the front. Other neighbors to whom I'd never spoken gathered to watch the firefighters do their work, as indeed the fire itself seemed to have drawn people from all over, doubling the traffic on my quiet suburban street.
This will be the first time my wife will get to witness my family's New Year's Eve tradition of burning the Christmas tree at midnight. Always a risky business, the tree burning originated with my maternal grandfather, I believe.
That's maternal as in "on my mother's side of the family," not maternal as in "like a mother or motherly."
Anyway, for me it's been all my life and that's the longest time span imaginable. Did you know that Christmas trees burn with either a green or blue flame? Most people who know that had to lose their homes to fire in order to gain the knowledge, but not our family.
So as we burn away our unpleasant memories of 2003 and sacrifice a tree for our happiness in the coming year, let's try to slow things down a bit. Appreciate the passing moments a little more.
Let's keep the fire at bay.
Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.