Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hot Car Vigilante Heroes

In the summer of 2013, I went to a large, high-end local grocery store with my boys. They were 10 and almost 7. I think that matters. It was a good muggy day: over 90 degrees outside, a dew point around 70, and bright sunshine.  The store is a total rip-off, but we only needed about four ingredients and everything else was far enough away to justify this indulgence.

On our way in, we heard some distressed yipping in the parking lot, and traced it to a dog inside a luxury SUV. The windows were cracked about an inch. In that sunshine, even with the windows down a bit, I knew that the car was turning into a crockpot. The poor dog didn't have long.

Now, my kids love animals. But moreover, I had already been sharing via email and Facebook a pretty smartass-y recommendation for what to do in just this situation. The stakes were high: there was a helpless dog in need of rescue, my credibility was on the line, and I had an opportunity to set a great example for my kids.  

So, I told them that the dog’s life was in danger. “Do you guys want to save this dog?"

Yes, of course they did.  

I laid out the plan for them. 
 "First we check to see if we can just open the doors."
We tried. No dice. 

“Well, I guess we’ll have to break the windows.”
Almost in unison: “What do you mean?”  They apparently didn’t know what saving the dog would entail.

"Help me find a rock or something." I was committed. But the kids were already scared.

"Isn't it illegal to break someone's window?"

It probably is, but I was trying to explain that this was the morally superior thing to do anyway.  And sometimes you just need to break the law in the name of justice.

"Are you going to get arrested?"

I then stopped to imagine the scene: me, sweaty and frazzled, probably with a deranged look on my face, smashing a luxury car window with a brick in an upscale grocery store parking lot while a scared dog barked. 

Yes, I probably would get arrested. I did not feel I could back down though.

But the thought at least convinced me to slow down. I checked to see if I could open the rear hatch.  It opened!   

And of course, it also tripped the car alarm. 

The dog totally freaked out at the combination of a stranger exposing it to the world, and also the horrendous alarm, which, incidentally, sounded like a pack of electronic wolves.

The dog started howling and tried to jump out of the way-back, into the parking lot. So I had to catch it, and then push it back into the car.

So there I was, holding the dog captive in the back of an SUV I had opened illegally, while the alarm blared, the dog barked, and while curiosity blossomed among others in the parking lot.

My kids were not okay with any of this. “Papa?!? What are you doing?”   

“I’m letting the car ventilate.  This dog needs cooler air!” I am positive I sounded like a lunatic. 

"But the dog almost ran away, and now the alarm is going off and you’re going to get arrested.”

"Silly kids," I thought. "They think that alarms actually work." 

They thought that the sound of the alarm triggered an automatic 911 call, and that soon, multiple police cars were going to come skidding into the parking lot and that we were all going get shot down. I found out this is exactly what they thought as I was restraining the dog with one hand, and they explained to me, frantically, that indeed, the police were going to come and shoot us all.

It seemed I had lost control of the situation.  My youngest son, who has fallen from unimaginable heights and landed on his face without shedding a tear, was now crying so hysterically that no sound was coming out and his entire body was in motion.

Clearly I was traumatizing my kids, and my plan to wait until the owners returned was not going to work.  So, I secured the dog to one of the seats, and left the rear door about half-way open to keep the car from getting too hot. 

The alarm was still going off and the dog was still barking like mad. 

I told the kids to get back into our car. “But aren't we supposed to go into the store to get groceries?" 

"Nah," I told them. "I don’t think we need to."

"Is the dog going to live?" 

"Oh yes, of course."

"Are we going to get arrested?"

"Not if we get in the car and leave now!"

So we did. Our work was done, vigilante-heroism perfectly executed.

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