By-stander:(n) a person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part

Most people know what an oxymoron is. It’s a statement or collection of words that seem to contradict one another–case in point, jumbo shrimp.

That being said, I will tell you the little known oxymorons is the pairing of the two words “innocent by-stander.”

Although I admit meteorites do fall from the sky and hit people in the head, most of the time there’s a warning and anopportunity before a conclusion.

The warning can be subtle. Sometimes you need to tune your ears to Mother Nature in order to heed the precaution. Even though we consider people who focus on warnings to be paranoid, they rarely find themselves categorized as “innocent by-standers.”

After the warning, there’s usually some sort of opportunity:

  • A chance to say something.
  • A door to do something.
  • A way of escape–a few seconds where thinking can be clarified.

Shortly after that opportunity comes a conclusion. It is random and always certain. It doesn’t care about our status–it just follows through on the warning.

An example:

Driving in Seattle, Washington one summer, I was returning from a recording session when I looked ahead–almost a quarter of a mile–and saw a back-up of traffic. But worse, smoke was beginning to rise in small puffs, letting me know that collisions were going on between cars.

I had a very brief opportunity to avoid being part of a huge freeway pile-up. My brakes were not going to be useful–the person behind would just plow into me.

So as I saw the chain reaction developing in front of me, I moved onto the berm and traveled on it for about a mile, as cars continued to pummel one another in the calamity.

It was very close, but I was able to get in front of the origin of the collision. There was no traffic and I was on my way.

Do I think I’m a genius? No.

Have I always been so observant? No.

But when I haven’t, the problems have piled up on me.