Conversations For Transformation:
Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard
Conversations For Transformation
Essays By Laurence Platt
Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard
The Girl And The Fig, Sonoma, California, USA
August 27, 2013
It's not something that
all that often in California - at least, not when I'm around. I'm
sitting with a friend at a table in a courtyard of a nice restaurant
enjoying a fine dinner and great conversation when suddenly there's a
massive explosion - one massive explosion actually comprising three
blasts one after the other.
My thoughts automatically go into slo-mo. It seems to take a
while to register it's actually
- but it's really only a split second. The thought "Terrorist attack?"
is the first to cross my mind. Time has slowed down, and I do what can
best be described as the classic double take. It's a "What was
that? ..." moment which is anything but ordinary, anything
business as usual.
Fortunately for us patrons, the explosion isn't inside the restaurant.
Rather it's outside in the street alongside the courtyard where we're
As for anyone out in the street ... my
turns decidedly un-pretty.
With each of the three distinct component thumps, smoke
immediately fills the air, thickening with each successive blast. A
huge orange fireball lights up the side of the building and the night
with each blast. With the first and second blast, the lights of the
restaurant and all lights in the buildings and streets around it,
flicker and fade, then come on again. With the third blast, they go off
entirely and stay off. The courtyard is now filled with smoke and
eerily lit by the votive candles on each table. All conversation has
ceased. The sudden silence, too, is eerie. Seven seconds has passed
since the first of the three blasts. It seems like an eternity. Then
the first screams start.
There's no damage within the courtyard, neither to property nor to
persons - I've looked around, and of that I'm certain. The screams are
and shock, and are somewhat automatic - understandably so. My own
inclination and that of my dinner friend, once we realize there's no
damage to property or persons, is to go back to our meal. But it's not
to be. The
gives way to panic, and soon people are rushing out, pushing into each
other, shoving tables and chairs aside in a rush to leave the courtyard
through a side gate and into the street.
Most of the momentary smoke dissipates. The place now has a soft (shall
I say romantic?) glow from all the candles without any
electric light. There's really no need to go anywhere. What eventually
gets me standing up and slowly walking out to the street (my initial
"What was that? ..." has become "Just a moment ...") is
only my curiosity and my inquisitiveness for what actually
out there, and my concern for any people who were closer to the
Out in the street,
immediately becomes clear. A crew from the local electricity company
are servicing an underground electricity substation. It's that which
exploded. There's its open hole in the ground on the street corner, the
two huge hundred pound steel plate covers of which have been blown
about fifteen yards away. Fortunately no one was walking over the
substation pit or driving by when it exploded. It's now clear there are
no injuries to anyone outside either. And aside from the exploded
substation itself, amazingly there's no property damage at all. As for
what caused the thing to explode? Who knows. I see a lot of water in
the vicinity of the substation pit on the sidewalk. No, it's not from
the fire department. They haven't arrived yet. I summize some of it got
into the pit, causing short circuiting and then the explosion - but
that's just speculation and conjecture on my part.
People are milling around in the street, most of them talking
nervously, frightenedly. All the surrounding shops and restaurants have
emptied. Except for the orange glow of the rapidly receding flames in
the blown open substation pit, the place is in total darkness lit only
by the glow of hundreds of luminous cell phone screens. The electricity
company crew are replacing the blown off pit covers - no doubt they
also have bigger things to attend to now as well.
Having seen all there is to see, we walk back through the side door
into the courtyard. We sit down at our table and continue our meal.
It's actually quite nice - intimate, really. We're the only ones here
now. Pretty soon a waitress emerges from the darkness and says to us
"Please leave. You have to leave.". "Do we have to?" I
ask. "It's fine here. The fire's out. The electricity company guys are
taking care of things. Must we?". "Yes" she says, "we have orders to
evacuate everyone.". I offer to settle our bill before we leave,
realizing that all the other patrons have left without paying. "Just
go!" she says, smiling appreciatively.
Back out in the street, people are still in shock. Some of them
continue to whimper audibly. "It's alright, it's ... O ... K!
..." I think to them - but I don't say it out loud.
The next morning I call the restaurant. "Hello" I say when a woman
answers, "I'd like to pay my bill.". "I'm sorry Sir, we're not open
yet" she says. "No, I'd like to pay my bill from last night. I don't
want you to think I'd walk away without paying - explosion or no
explosion.". She's silent for a pregnant moment. Then she says
quizzically, unbelievingly "You're calling to pay your bill from last
night?". "That's right" I say, "let me know when you're ready to take
my credit card number.". I give her all the credit card details she
needs, tell her what I had from the menu, and specify a tip to add for
the waitress. The line is quiet for a while. Then she says "Thank You
Laurence. I really appreciate this.". "I'm just paying my bill" I say,
"that's what people do when they eat at a restaurant.". "Yes" she says,
"but you're the only one who's called in to pay.". "Well" I say
"hopefully I'll not be the only one but just the first one.".
I don't know how many people called in after I called to pay. Aside
from my friend who also called in later to pay her share, I wouldn't
know if anyone else called in. Hopefully many if not all
of them did. But if there are still some people who haven't yet called
in to settle up, there's no excuse.