“Well, I’m turning in now” means so much less than “Well, I’m turning myself in now.” I just read about a man who turned himself in to the police because he was responsible for accidentally starting a brush fire that ultimately burned down several houses. He had disposed of fireplace ashes that were still hot.
We’ve all, probably, done something careless at one time or another and then felt awful about it. I recently drove at night with only daytime running lights on, so my rear lights weren’t lit. It was only when someone on the busy, fast highway loudly and repeatedly honked their horn at me that I realized something was amiss. Gulp. Idiot. Could have caused an accident.
When I figured out what I had done, the effect was not just psychological. There was an actual physical effect that tightened all the muscles in my chest and made me want to curl up into a ball. This was made worse when a complete stranger on an online discussion board pointed out to me, quite unnecessarily I thought, that it was my responsibility to make sure the car is safe. He said: “A driver needs to be responsible for proper operation of a car. Learn to turn on the lights.” Well, duh! After that I was grinding my teeth while curling up into a ball. That inner cringing and the self-flagellation lasted several days and was only ameliorated when I discovered that this mistake is not an unusual occurrence with a car like mine. It helps knowing you are not alone, but I’m still feeling bad about it.
If you are alone in your carelessness, though—like when having started a brush fire—then that feeling of inner torment must be unbearable. I hope that by turning himself in to the police that man was able to start to forgive himself, but I’ve got my doubts.
I read about his story just as I was going to bed, and I wondered why we say we are “turning in” when we do that. Going to bed is a way of turning off all the issues and tensions of the day. Turning yourself in to the police, on the other hand, is likely to bring on weeks of sleepless nights.