Sunday, October 25, 2015

Locked In

*Here's the deal with this post... 
I wrote it a long time ago 
(Like... a year and a half ago), 
and somehow it never got posted. 
Turns out my Post List needs a deep cleaning every once in a while, too. 
Anyway, it's a great story, and rather timeless. 
Disclaimer over.

I know.  It's hard to know what you're looking at above, so let me help you out.  It's a picture of a police car in a small, Miami parking garage (my small, Miami parking garage) taken through the seats of a mini-van (my mini-van) with its lights on Full. Stinkin'. Blast (I know cop lights don't actually have different levels of 'blast', but it seems more dramatic to say Full Blast, and they were terribly annoying and so warrant such dramatic phrasing), that had come in response to someone dialing 911 (I dialed 911) because their infant was locked in the car (it was Timothy).

Brian wanted me to write this story months ago (since it happened months ago), but I had just changed the title of my blog to Harvest Beauty, you see, and I was set on recording only those things that I found beautiful.  Or at least good.  And this whole experience of Timothy getting locked in the car just made me angry and frustrated and kind of made me cry.  So, I refused to type it out.  But... time has done it's magical thing and removed me from the situation so, there it is.  Beauty!  I see it now.  It really can be seen as a beautiful, remarkable, and tender tale, we just have to get through the angry stuff, too.

First of all, let me mention that this whole Locking The Infant In The Car thing has happened before.  I, personally, was not directly responsible for either instance, let's be clear - but no need to point fingers at my other children... like Miles.  Or Carson.  Ahem.  Also, okay.  IguessIshouldn'tleavemykeysinthecarwhenIstepoutforasecond.

Anyway, this Time Before that I'm talking about, toddler Miles happened to lock himself in the car when we were living in North Carolina and after a quick call to the police, the officer came up the road with his lights flashing and siren blipping and jumped out of his car with his handy slim-jim. The whole thing was taken care of (relatively) quickly and (almost) painlessly and I learned that in cases where there is a child in the car, the police will break into the car free of charge.

So I didn't panic this Present Time when infant Timothy was locked in the car because, experience.  But then I did panic because I realized that I was in a parking garage this time, and that my phone was in the locked car along with the garage gate opener (which is relevant to this story because, although you can get out of the garage without the garage gate opener, you cannot get back in to the garage without the garage gate opener (so, you see, I didn't dare leave the garage to look for a phone because I would then be locked outside, away from the baby, you know)).  I circled around the car a couple of times and muttered to myself 'Um. I don't actually know what to do...' before I turned the corner of the garage and found the good news that it was garbage day! (which is relevant to this story because on garbage day the garage gates stay open for the whole morning) and there were a couple of men pushing the building's giant garbage cans through the gates and up a small hill.  I ran to them.

"Excuse me! Hi, do you speak English?" I asked one of the men.  Always a good first question to ask in Miami.
"No..." but then he pointed to his partner and so I directed my question to him.
"Hi.  Do you speak English?"  He nodded, but said, "Si," so I knew right away that his English was going to be limited (it was).  I explained my situation as best I could and ended up just using my hand as a phone and repeating the phrase "Phone?  Can I use your phone?  Please?"


I dialed 911 (because, who has the police number memorized?) and within 1 minute a police car came barreling up the street, lights and siren blaring.

One good thing about Miami: there is always a policeman close by.

He pulled into the parking garage behind my van and, thankfully, turned his sirens off but, unthankfully, left the red and blue lights on to bounce along the walls and low ceiling as a sort of sickening strobe.  The young officer stepped out of his vehicle and assessed the situation.  He pulled on all of the handles (tried that), and watched Timothy (who was not happy) for 5-10 seconds.  I was patiently waiting for him to grab his slim-jim and get this whole process over with.

"Well, ma'am," he concluded, "the only option I have here is to break a window."

Shocked silence came from my face and then, "What?!"  Clearly I had made a bad decision in calling 911.

"The doors are all locked, and this is an infant situation," he informed me.  Well, I hadn't realized...

"Surely there must be another option," I said.  "Do you not have a slim-jim or something else that can help you unlock a car door?"

"No ma'am," he replied.

"Well, how about I call a locksmith instead, then," I decided.

"That is not in the child's best interest, ma'am.  Even if I called in a speed order to the nearest locksmith, it would take him over half an hour to get here because of traffic."  Curse Miami.  "I have called in reinforcements, so another police officer should be here in a minute."  Reinforcements?  For a child locked in a mini-van in a covered parking garage?

"Does he have a slim-jim?" I asked.

"No," he replied.  Well then how in the world is he going to help? I wanted to ask.  But, respect, so I didn't.  The reinforcing officer pulled into the garage (leaving his own swirling lights on to add to the ambiance) and came to assess the situation.  He pulled on all the door handles (tried that) and watched Timothy (who was still not happy) for 5-10 seconds.  He was slightly older than the first officer, but both were younger than me (when did I get so old?!).

The younger officer briefed the older one 'infant has been in the car for approximately 5 minutes, so I'm going to break the window.'  'Alright,' the older officer said, 'but when you do, break this one here, furthest from the baby.'

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," I interjected.  "I do NOT want to break this window."  By this time, we had attracted the attention of a couple of the maintenance guys who worked in our building.  None spoke English (of course), but they figured out the situation pretty quickly and communicated to us that they knew someone who had a slim-jim.  The phones came out, the calls were made, and we waited for their friend across the street to come.

"Ma'am," the young officer said, "the infant has been in the car for 10 minutes now.  I am going to have to break this window."

"Just wait a minute," I replied.  "Let's see if these guys can help us another way."

"Well, but this is an infant situation, ma'am---"

"I know," I interrupted with a little snark in my voice, "the infant's name is Timothy, and I'm pretty sure I care about Timothy's well-being even more than you do.  Give us a minute."  In a rather ironic gesture, the officer put his hands up by his ears, raised his eyebrows, and backed away.  I wasn't sure how long I could keep him from shattering that window... which, while solving one problem, would create a whole slew of other problems.  To make matters worse, Timothy was unhappy.  And I kept seeing a little red halo of curls sticking out from behind various support pillars - Miles was scared. 

In no time, we had a team of four maintenance men working together on one side of the van to pop the lock, and two police officers pacing impatiently behind it - rather too excited about the prospect of breaking a window, in my opinion.

The maintenance men did not, in fact, end up having a slim-jim, but they had a whole bunch of crude, hand-made tools that looked promising.  After a few minutes, however, it became glaringly clear that the tools were not. working.  Not even coming close.  I started to lose hope that we would get out of this situation without a broken window and felt my shoulders sag.

"Carson," I called across the garage, "come here, bud."  He trotted over and I took him behind the other side of the van, stared into his eyes and slowly whispered some instructions.  "Will you please go find McKenzie and Miles and take them behind the elevators over there, kneel down, and say a prayer that we can get Timothy out of this car without breaking the window?"

I was caught in Carson's eyes for a moment... such a deep, rich blue... I watched them light up with a quiet excitement, a small smile played on his lips, and he started softly bouncing up on his toes as he whispered slowly back, "we already did."  His soft words washed over me and I fought the wall of hot tears that threatened to spill out.

"You did?" I said with a warm, proud smile.  He nodded vigorously and a little giggle escaped his throat when he saw the emotion in my face. "Thank. You." I impressed, and wrapped him in a giant hug.  We try to teach about the power of prayer and the love and mercy of God, but mostly we wonder if anything we say is getting through.  But my kids thought to pray before I did.  Later I felt a little chastised (in a helpful way), but in the moment I was just. so. touched and proud of them.

"Ma'am?" Great.  Here we go again.  "The infant has been in the car for 20 minutes now.  Is the reason you don't want to break the window because of the cost of the replacement?"

"Well," I thought.  Not really.  It's mostly because of the pain-in-the-butt process I will have to go through to get the window replaced.  I homeschool four children and, I don't know if you've noticed, but getting anything done in Miami is an insanely complicated process.  It would take me a full day, my husband is not around to help, so I would have to keep four children entertained, by myself, in the crowds and abrasiveness of Miami, in the process.  Frankly, it sounds like a nightmare.  And, I know you're concerned about Timothy's stress level at the current moment, but I assure you that 15 minutes after we get him out of the car, he will be calm and fast asleep in his crib, and when he wakes up he will have no lasting effects from this.  Trust me that his stress from crying in the car for 20 minutes is nothing compared to the stress he'll go through if he is dragged around for an entire day, missing both of his naps, and being wrestled to the bone because he can't get down on the dirty mechanics shop floor since he can't walk yet. But I couldn't say all of that because the thoughts weren't actually coherent words, so I just said, "yes... and just the hassle of getting it done," which was the wrong thing to say because the look he gave me was clearly a look of 'you would put 'hassle' above the well-being of your child?'

"But Ma'am," he said raising his eyebrows judgmentally, "the infant---" he pointed though the windows of the car.

"Don't," I interrupted with a finger in his face.  "Don't you say that I'm a bad mother." Okay, so I was getting a little heated.  Maybe it was the blaring lights.

"I didn't say that," he defended.

"But you were thinking it.  I can read your eyes.  I am Timothy's mother, yes, and I am concerned for him and am watching him very closely, but I am also McKenzie's mother and Carson's mother and Miles's mother, and I have to act in the best interest of the entire family.  Trust me that breaking that window is not in our best interest yet.  If Timothy starts looking bad, then circumstances will change but, aside from being upset, he looks fine right now."  Hooray for words that come out right!  But then I could tell I had overstepped my line and that I had played my last card.  He was getting irritated with me and I decided it was now in my best interest to be cooperative - respecting the officers and handcuffs and all....  I had made my position clear.

Meanwhile, the maintenance guys had not given up.  They were trying all sorts of things to get that door open!  They had hangers and large plastic thing-a-ma-jigs and chisels and towels and wire cutters and wrenches... they were pulling out all the stops and I was so entirely grateful for their willingness to drop everything else they had been doing to help my family.  It was just that... they weren't really even getting very close. 

"Alright, Ma'am," the officer said.  He used his 'officer voice' this time which made a slight chill run up my spine (which I'm sure was the intended effect), "It has been 25 minutes.  In 5 minutes, I am going to break this window."

"Okay," I cooperated.

Carson stood by with his fingernails in his mouth and McKenzie stood next to Hiding Miles trying to soothe him.

"Please, Heavenly Father," I whispered for the hundredth time.  The maintenance men were turning frantic.  They hummed about and threw tools and bent wire with renewed vigor.

"2 minutes."

Timothy was screaming, I was almost in tears, the maintenance men were scrambling.

"1 minute."

The lights were blaring.

"30 seconds."

I'm totally not even joking.  The officer was literally staring at his watch and counting down the seconds for us.

"10 seconds. 9... 8... 7..."

It was like the ending to an intense basketball game.  The clock was ticking, the team down by 1 has the ball.  The maintenance man in charge of the wire at this point knew he had one last shot.  He pulled up at the lock with a force that rubbed a gorge into the door frame and just as the officer said,

"2 seconds,"

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!  The lights of the mini-van started flashing with the officers' lights and the noise of the horn blasted in our eardrums.  The anti-theft system!  They had popped the lock!  The kids, the four maintenance men, and I jumped in the air with a triumphant yell while the two officers dropped their shoulders.  You guys.  It sounds like a movie scene but I am not. even. joking.  They dropped their shoulders in disappointment!

There were hugs for the maintenance men and handshakes for the officers, and then I had to stick around for a minute longer while Fire and Rescue came to 'assess the infant'.  Timothy stopped crying almost immediately after I picked him up, and his oxygenation levels were perfect. 

So.  Lessons.

#1 - DO NOT CALL THE POLICE if your infant is locked in the car in Miami.  I guess Miami cops are used to high-intensity situations, so they might blow it totally out of proportion. 

#2 - It was the prayer and the faith of my children.  I believe it.  I watched those maintenance men struggle and stumble and fumble with that lock for 20 full minutes and, trust me, it wasn't ever very close to popping.  So, what are the odds that the latch would take and the lock would pop at the very. last. second?  I think the last second trick was Heavenly Father's way of letting us know that his hand was in this one.  If He had helped the lock pop early on it would have been easy to just dismiss it as a good, rigged tool.  But it wasn't.  They were clumsy, rigged tools and they just weren't working.  I think we would have figured it out eventually, but time was out.  And herein lies the beauty.  How lucky we are to know that there is a God who cares about our situations.  Who watches out for us and who hears and answers our prayers.  How lucky I am for the faith of my children, because honestly, mine was lacking.  I had resigned myself to a broken window - but those kids held on to their faith that God would help.

And He did.

And, just as predicted, Timothy was calm and napping 15 minutes later and doesn't remember a thing.


  1. Ok...what I want to know is--did the police know you were taking a picture?? ;)

    1. No! They were so put out, that I just carefully pulled my phone out and snapped a sneaky shot as they drove away. :)

    2. They just wouldn't understand that some of us need photographic evidence of most of the events of our lives. Just like those airport people were all upset when I tried to snap a picture of my girls getting (very late) on the airplane last spring... ;)

  2. I love your writing Lindsey. You are so insightful and delightfully funny. God does bless us! I know it.

    1. You just made my day. Thanks, Karlene. :)

  3. A year and a half late or not, I'm glad you posted this. I don't think I ever heard this full story. Love those kids.

  4. Oh, wow, what a story! How stressful for you! I can't believe the police were visibly disappointed that they couldn't break the window! Maybe they were just feeling useless since they weren't able to be the ones to rescue "the infant"?