Coffee with Uncle Reggie: Burning Down the House
与曾叔叔喝咖啡闲聊 : 烧毁家园
(孙珺 翻译)

It is amazing how many times in life we have a narrow escape from tragedy, but we often easily forget.

人惊奇的是,我们总是轻易忘记在我们身上有多少次险 些发生悲剧。

As a teenager, I had a fascination with fire. I had a trick where I soaked cotton balls in alcohol, lit them, and then threw them up in the air as fireballs without burning myself. (Reader, beware. Don’t attempt this at home!) The premise was that the flame burned only upwards and not downwards, or at least that was the theory. In one of my antics at home, throwing a bunch of flaming cotton balls into the air, I missed catching them and they fell to the floor, instantaneously morphing into more than 20 small balls of fire that raced on the wooden floor in different directions, including towards my father’s medical clinic attached to our home. Needless to say, Dad was not at all amused. Burning down the house and clinic was not an endearing idea.

我青少年时对火十分著迷。我有一个不会伤害自己的小把 戏,就是把很多棉球蘸上酒精,然后点燃它们扔向空中,就如 同扔出很多个火球一样。(读者要注意:请勿在家中模仿。) 当时的我知道这个小把戏能成功的原理是火焰只会向上烧,而不会向下烧。有一次,我在家中玩这个小把戏的时候,我没有 接任几个燃烧著的小棉球,于是这些落在木地板上的小棉球瞬间变成20多个小火球并向不同方向乱窜,包括窜向父亲那所 与房子相连的诊所。父亲理所应当地不觉得这是件好笑的事情。 烧掉房子跟诊所并不是ー个好主意。

As a young fellow in medical research, I remember thinking of a bright idea to flush out my pipettes in the lab. There were few fancy machines then, so I thought I could design one. I used running water to create a vacuum effect, sucking up water through the pipettes and therefore rinsing them continuously without the need for manual action—that is, by me. Leaving this contraption for longer and longer periods without mishap, I became bolder, so I decided to let it run overnight to really clean the pipettes.

我记得当我还是个年轻的医学研究员时,我有一个洗试管 的好主意。当时的实验室里几乎没有什么豪华的设备,所以我 以为我可以设计ー个。我用流动的水制造了一个吸力的效果,不需要用人手操作就能把水吸出来让试管被反覆洗刷ーー重点 是不用我去操作。任由这个神奇的装置长时间运行而没有发生 事故后,我变得大胆起来,我决定让这个机器通宵运作,把试 管彻底洗净。

To my horror the next morning, the lab had flooded. Plus, the water had soaked down to the floor below, dripping onto the grant that was being written by the director of the institution. I dared not show up for weeks after that. Flooding your research institution at least is not fatal, though I suspect it could alter one’s research career.

让我震惊的是第二天早上整个实验室都淹了。再加上水渗 透了地板,滴到了楼下研究所主管所写的专案拨款建议上。之 后的几周我都不敢在研究所出现。虽然把研究所给淹了不致危害人命,但是我认为这能影响ー个人的研究生涯。

One day we were driving from Cincinnati to a retreat in New York. One of my young relatives was in charge of the driving. I was sitting in the danger seat in the front. However, I fell asleep. I woke up as I saw the car flying through the air and off the expressway. I could see my life flashing before me, and I surmised that this was how it would end. I muttered a prayer like “Lord, I’m coming home.”

有一天,我们从辛辛那提驾车前往纽约参加退修会。我ー 个年轻的亲戚负责开车,我就坐在司机旁的座位。但是,我睡 著了。醒来的时候我看到车子在半空中飞出了高速公路。我能看到我的一生闪现在我眼前,然后我猜这就是我人生的终结了。 我模模糊糊地祷告,貌似说著:“主啊,我要来天家啦。”

My V-shaped car

To my total surprise, the car landed in a side ditch below the expressway, turned 180 degrees from the original direction. Somehow we landed next to a fence, and the police had to come by and drag us out of the ditch, all unharmed—miraculous, I thought. Some special angel was working overtime.


Not too long ago, I was driving from my home to the hospital one morning. A minute later and just up the street from where we lived, there was a turn in the road. My trusty black bag was lodged between the two seats in the front. Somehow, at the turn, I sensed the bag was slipping backwards. Instinctively I grabbed the black bag, and I guess I took my eyes off the street for a split second, right at the turn; or possibly I stepped on the gas pedal by accident.

不久前的一个早上,我开车从家里出发到医院。只一分鐘车程,就到了我们住的街上的ー个转弯口。我经常带著的那个黑色包包被放在前座两个座位之间。不知怎的,在拐弯的时候 我发觉那个包包在向后滑。我马上抓住了那个包包,我猜在拐弯的时候我有一刹那没有注意到路面的情况 ; 还是我可能意外地踩了油门?

Suddenly, without any warning, I smashed into a very solid telephone pole. It felt like hitting solid rock. I could feel the sudden thud at the front of my car, which was spliced into a V shape.

突然,在我完全没有警觉的情况下,我撞向ー根非常结实 的电话线杆。这感觉就像是撞上了一块硬石头。我能感觉到从 车头传来轰的一下撞击声,然后车头被撞成了 V字型。

The automatic air bag exploded from the impact-triggered chemical reaction, and chemicals shot over my neck. My body strap instantly tightened and burned into my neck and chest. Intense smoke filled inside the car, and I quickly climbed out, assuming a fire or explosion would be coming at any second.

自动气囊因为撞击弹出并触发了化学反应,那些化学物质 溅向我的脖子。我的安全带迅速拉紧并且磨损了我的脖子和胸 ロ。车子内立刻充满烟雾,我怕车子会随时起火或者爆炸,所 以马上爬出车外。

Chemical and safety strap marks

Nothing much more happened, however, than the abrasions, but I was in a daze. The policeman arrived and sized me up. He was not in a good humor and even gave me a ticket for running into a telephone pole. Hmmm. At least I was alive.

除了擦伤之外并无大碍,但是我觉得晕乎乎的。接著警员 就到了,并且上下打量著我。他心情不是太好,甚至给我开了ー张撞电话线杆的罚单。唔,至少我还活著。

There are close encounters in life that we easily forget and move on from, but “what if …” comes to mind. Yes, indeed, what if? And what happens next if “what if” does happen? Have we thought carefully about what might be next? Hmmm.

人生中有些经历是我们很容易就忘记,就迈过去的,但是 脑海中会浮现 “如果……又如何” 的想法。对,就是如果。如 果真的出现了 “如果”,那又会发生什么事呢?我们可有认真 地想过接下来会发生什么事?唔……