Now, a range of thoughts flash through my mind. Black smoke is bad. Aside from indicating there's no new Pope, outside of the Vatican it indicates a petroleum product burning, like plastic or rubber ... as in a car or a plane or something. (Houses tend to burn white -- wood and fabric -- until it gets to the furniture and stuff, and fires being extinguished put out white smoke, from the water.) So my first thought is this is something bad ... and newsworthy.
Then I remember that sometimes heat plants and diesel generators (petroleum still) often put out black clouds when first fired up, sort of like that big black cloud from the tractor trailer when it first accelerates. So I hesitate.
But then I decide to say something. "What the hell is that?!" I say, still looking at the cloud in the side mirror. The reporter, seated next to me, answers with a tone of surprised disdain. "An Escalade," he says, naming the car passing us. I realize he can't tell I'm looking in the mirror.
"No, behind us." He sees the cloud. "Turn around," he says, and we do. An RV was burning on 81. Traffic had just begun to stack up; we skipped around it on the shoulder. Good footage.
Welcome to my world...