The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

How Not To Act During a Tragedy

I have this friend, who told me this story. It’s a pretty good story, so I want to tell you it, but I think it’s one she’s not particularly proud of, so I’m not going to disclose her real identity here. It’s not that she’s a bad person, but occasionally she makes bad choices and I think it’s important that we all remember it’s not nice to judge. So for the purpose of this story, we’re going to call my friend: Tallulah.

Last Wednesday night Tallulah got a call from her friend, who told Tallulah a plane had crashed in the mountains near her and wanted to know if Tallulah could see anything from her house. Tallulah explained she doesn’t have direct mountain views from her house because there are too many other houses around. When she got off the phone, Tallulah had the following conversation with her husband:

Tallulah – Hey, I just heard there was a plane crash in the mountains near here. Maybe we should get in the car and drive up to the front of the subdivision where you can see all of the mountains around and see if we can see anything.

Tallulah’s Husband – I don’t know… everyone’s in PJs already. I was just going to lie on the couch and watch TV…

Tallulah – Oh come on, let’s go. You never want to do anything until I talk you into it. Can we skip the part where I talk you into it and just get in the car really quick? It will take like three minutes, total.

Tallulah’s Husband (seeing the logic in her words) – Oh fine.

So Tallulah and her husband and their three boys all piled into the GOV their blue minivan in jammies and headed toward the front of the subdivision. Her husband didn’t have his wallet and Tallulah had half a glass of wine in her hand.

OK, so let me just pause the story here to tell you that when Tallulah was telling me this, I said to her, “TALLULAH! You brought a glass of wine in the car?! What were you thinking? Not only is that illegal, but it’s also highly dangerous. What if your husband turned a corner a little too fast and the wine flew out of your glass and directly into his mouth and he totally got drunk while he was driving? And what kind of example are you setting for your children?! They could totally be thinking it’s ok to drink wine while riding in the car! Which is not OK and super illegal!”

And Tallulah said, “I know, I know. It was a bad decision, but I was right in the middle of a glass of lovely Pinot Grigio and I hate putting half a glass of wine back in the fridge. It sort of takes on the taste of milk and old leftovers. It’s like baking soda like that. It absorbs fridge odors. And we were only going like ¾ of a mile, to the front of the subdivision where you can see the mountains, so I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.”

I shook my head disapprovingly at Tallulah, but I can almost see her logic. Old leftovers and lovely wine do not mix.

Anyway, Tallulah’s husband pulled their minivan up to the front of the subdivision and the whole family peered in the inky blackness to the northeast of them and saw nothing. There didn’t seem to be anything remotely resembling any kind of a plane crash going on in the mountains near their house.

At this point Tallulah was ready to throw in the towel and head home to watch The Middle and finish her wine, but her husband was now invested in this little adventure. She’d gotten him off the couch and he wanted some kind of payoff. And, well, this whole thing had been Tallulah’s idea, so she didn’t really have room to argue when her husband turned out on to the main road and headed down another mile toward the mountains.

At the next intersection, Tallulah’s husband turned north on a winding, unlit, two lane road that headed up into the wilderness. They still couldn’t see anything plane-crash-like at all and now Tallulah was starting to get nervous. She wasn’t really a fan of winding roads in the day and she really didn’t like them any much at all in the dark. Plus it had started to dawn on her that what they were doing (chasing a potential tragedy to see if they could catch a glimpse) was pretty icky and if anything was a bad example for her children, it was definitely this. When her friend had called asking about the plane crash, Tallulah hadn’t really stopped to think about the fact that any kind of a plane crash probably meant people had died, but that fact was starting to sink in.

Unfortunately, at that point Tallulah and her husband were on a tiny, pitch black road with several cars behind them, so there wasn’t really an easy or safe way to turn around and go back for a few more miles.

Finally they came to a four-way stop that allowed Tallulah’s husband to turn right and pull off to the side so any cars could pass and then he could make a U-turn and head back home.

As they sat there with the van in park, hazard lights on so no one hit them, until it was safe to turn around, a sheriff’s car with his lights on pulled up behind them and the sheriff got out.

In the 7 to 10 seconds it took for the sheriff to amble up to the driver’s window, Tallulah and her husband locked eyes in terror and mentally recounted the issues they were now facing:

1.    Tallulah’s glass of wine, now tucked down in the dark between her feet
2.    Tallulah’s husband’s total lack of a driver’s license
3.    Expired insurance card in the glove compartment, which Tallulah only knew for sure was expired because her husband had been ticketed for it while speeding in the last two weeks
4.    Driving around looking for evidence of a horrible and likely tragic accident
5.    Oh and just for kicks, two of their three sons were shirtless (they probably wouldn’t get arrested or fined for this one, but it still added to the picture of a hillybilly family and was fairly humiliating)

The sheriff walked up to the side of the minivan, stared Tallulah’s husband in the eye, then peered inside first at Tallulah and then the mostly shirtless children, and finally, after several painfully long seconds said, “Did you hit a horse?”

Tallulah and her husband looked at each other again, this time with a bit of giddy relief because, of all of the things they’d done that night, hitting a horse definitely wasn’t one of them.

“Um, no, sir. We didn’t hit a horse,” Tallulah’s husband told the man and tried not to giggle at the ridiculousness of the situation. The sheriff stepped away from the van and examined the front grill.

“No, I guess you didn’t. There was a report someone hit a horse. Was supposed to be right around here. I thought it was you,” the sheriff explained and got back in his car and drove away in search of people who were probably even worse human beings than Tallulah and her husband.

Tallulah and her husband took shaky deep breaths, vowed never again to repeat their crimes (against the law AND good taste) and carefully drove home. They never ended up seeing anything. No plane crash and not even a horse who’d been hit by a car.

Tallulah feels guilty about it the whole experience even today. I mean, I assume. Because I’m not her, so I wouldn’t actually know, is what I’m saying.

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