A few days ago I stopped at a gas station. As I was pumping, I noticed a vole scurrying across the parking lot. The lot was covered with a thin layer of that dry compacted, dirty snow that you get when it’s been cold enough that the snow never melted or turned ice. The vole would zip along for about six feet, and then try to burrow under a clump of snow, only to hit pavement so it would zip another few feet and try again. It had come from behind the gas station where there is a field, and it was headed in the direction of a very busy road. This vole was in for trouble and I’d better do something about it. I was half way through pumping so I finished filling my tank and then turned to see what I could do for the creature.
By the time I’d spotted it again, it was about twenty feet from the road. I headed not towards the vole, but at an angle that would cut it off from the road so I could shoo it back to the field. But it must have know that I was trying to prevent it from moving towards its intended direction because it immediately headed for the road at a modified angle calculated precisely to avoid me.
Within seconds the vole was in the middle of the road. The first semi missed it by five feet. The next one flattened it.
I don’t know if the vole would have gone on to the road had I not tried to save it, probably it would have. But I do know that if I had stopped pumping gas right when I realized that this vole was in for trouble, that I would have had a much better chance of saving it.
I hate pumping gas. Every time I do it, I feel like I’m that vole flinging myself and my fellow humans as fast as possible right toward those tractor-trailer truck wheels. The vole’s consciousness doesn’t even include roads and trucks, but unlike the vole, I know about peak-oil, and global warming. I can see the truck coming. But why didn’t I stop pumping for that vole? Why don’t I stop pumping for all us? How conscious can I become?