I was late for class, which as the instructor, is frowned upon. I was following a big, slow, truck, watching for a break in the traffic so I could get around. It gave me time to think about that big yellow thing the truck was carrying, and wonder just what the heck it was.

I guessed some kind of fuel tank, or a water tank, or just some kind of shipping container carrying some top secret materials to some top secret location where it would be used for some top secret project. I know, that’s how my mind works.

Finally, I got the chance to get around the truck. As I passed it, I saw the little plaque fastened to the back of the yellow container. The plaque said, “Mine Rescue Chamber”. I almost drove off the road.

I’m sure the truck driver wondered what was wrong with the guy in the pickup truck who started to pass him, then swerved a bit, and then just kept driving alongside for a while before finally pulling on around. I spent that time trying to breathe.

I looked at the chamber, which was probably 30 feet long and maybe 5 feet tall. My mind reminded me that I once read something saying that coal mines in Illinois could be over 300 feet deep, so I was thinking how lucky I was to see that box here, because the odds were extremely small anyone would ever get me to go down 350 feet to see the box once it was in place. And I thought about, even if I did somehow get down there and something went wrong, how long I would stand outside the door and argue with myself about going inside that little box that was too small to even stand up in. I thought about those miners in Chili were rescued after spending 69 days underground. I thought about the soccer players in Thailand being rescued after being in that cave for 9 days. I wondered who might end up having to use that yellow box that was now sitting on that truck, and how long they would have to use it. All I knew for sure was that I would not be one of them. But, what if? That’s when I couldn’t breathe.

I calmed down and assured myself that I had no plans of going 350 feet underground, or of walking, crawling, and swimming in to the bowels of some cave somewhere. That almost helped. But then my mind wondered if a big yellow box like could be buried in the ground and be used as a storm shelter. Maybe buried someplace like in my back yard. “But, what if…?”, my mind said. I immediately pictured myself standing in the yard like Dorothy, watching that humongous tornado racing across the field in my direction, and me standing by the door arguing with myself about getting inside that little yellow box. It’s not even big enough to stand-up in. And sure, it might protect you from the tornado. But what if a big tree branch fell on the door and we couldn’t open it and we were stuck in there and everyone was so busy cleaning up their own stuff they all forgot we were in there and we ended up…. See, that’s what “What if…?” does for you.

It gives you some really great story ideas!

How about you? What if? Would you get in that box?

PS: I got to class in time, but I was out of breath.