The Venus of Laplace
At any rate, since I have a few moments, I felt I ought to share yet another strange moment from my journey across the country last summer.
I was driving through Louisiana and had stopped at a very small town to get gas. The town, though tiny, was actually kind of busy, because it was right off the interstate and I pulled in at noon, so there were actually cars backed up in about four different directions, not including the turn-off at the gas station, which was poorly placed. (I had to take a left at the light, and then cross in front of the perpendicular traffic because as soon as I turned I saw that a standard left didn’t lead to the gas station I needed. So my turn was not a 90 degree angle, but a little more scrunched and probably illegal.)
Anyway, while I was paying for my gas inside, I heard a squeal and a crunching bang, and when I came out to look, there was a car accident right in the gas station parking lot. A big shiny new SUV (boo! hiss!) had turned too fast or too impatiently or something—it was a crappy intersection—and had smashed into a tiny old Gremlin containing two fat Hispanic-looking women. The older woman, who looked about seventy, was the driver, and she sat in the front seat with a large piece of glass in her neck and blood pouring down the front of her dress. She was alive, and clearly breathing, but she obviously needed to get to a hospital. The other woman—her daughter, around fifty—was outside the car, running around, clearly frantic. The SUV, I’m sorry to say, was being driven by a late-twenties/early-thirties young man in the carefully-pressed plaid-and-visor of a yuppie on vacation. But that’s not the point—although it’s funny how these cliches mount up when you don’t expect them to. The point is that in a few minutes the LaPlace Volunteer Fire Department showed up to help. That’s how small this town was—the nearest big Fire Department was a volunteer unit in LaPlace (pop. 26,000), one county over. (Though I must say that, for a volunteer department, they seemed to know what they were doing and had great equipment.)
You know that moment in any movie where some crisis happens in some rural area, the police car speeds to the scene, stops . . . and out steps Charlize Theron! And you think, “What the hell is Charlize Theron doing here? No one that good looking lives in a town this small. Suddenly this movie seems implausible.” Well, as soon as the ambulance drove up, out walked this leggy redhead of such stunning competence and togetherness that I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t take any pictures of the accident—that would have felt ghoulish—but I snapped a few surreptitious photos of Improbably Sexy Redheaded Nurse, and this is the best one.
I realize she may not seem all that stunning after my build-up, but trust me: after driving through small towns, seeing one morbidly obese, ragged, toothless gal after another, this woman was like a walking miracle. And of course, I’m a big fan of smart, competent redheads with determined-looking chins. Enjoy.