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I always regret awkward social interactions. I can't help but obsess for days over what I should have done. This last one could have been particularly bad, had I not chosen to avert disaster at the last moment.
I was going for my daily run through the neighborhood when I noticed three kids playing mostly unattended - a babysitter stood thirty feet ahead of me talking on her phone, her attention elsewhere. One boy seemed to be about eight. A slightly younger girl threw a ball to him, caught it, then threw it to a much younger boy.
He failed to catch the ball, and it bounced past him, somehow managing to fall into the slats of an old air conditioning unit out back of the nearest house. The unit was quiet, and the fan was offline, but it was a hot day out, and I slowed my run out of concern.
The younger boy ran up to the unit, climbed on top, and reached his arm down inside.
"Hey!" I shouted at the boy. "That's dangerous! That fan could turn on at any time!"
Yeah, that's what I should have done, in retrospect. The kids would have screamed and run, thinking I was a dangerous stranger, but the boy would have pulled his arm out from the machine.
"Um, are you supposed to be watching those kids?" I asked the babysitter as I passed her.
Yeah, that's what I should have done. She would have rolled her eyes and told me to mind my own business, but she would have made him get down from there.
I stopped in place and lowered my sunglasses, looking in the boy's direction. The babysitter would have noticed, and only momentarily thought I was some sort of creep staring at the kids, but then she would have quickly seen the danger herself and ran over to him.
Yeah, that's what I should have done.
In the end, I chose to say nothing. I don't ever talk to people I don't know. I can't risk the embarrassment; I can't risk the endless replays I run in my head, worrying about what I should have done, over and over and over...
As their myriad horrified screams grew louder than the suddenly surging fan - as little red dots from the cloud of blood mist dotted my sunglasses - I sighed with relief. That could have been so awkward…