FIVE YEARS OLD and I KNEW not to take rides from strangers. I was a smart kid. Yes… I was!
My brother was six and ready to jump in the car with anybody. Stupid boy!
My Aunt Trish was a few years older than us and would walk about 10 blocks after school daily to our school to get my brother and I and then we’d all walk home together. Halfway in between her school and ours in a straight shot down one street was the Winnemucca Police Station. This is the scene of my story today.
Trish was on time everyday, like clockwork. Never missed a beat. Never missed a day of picking us up… well… except one.
We waited and waited, and no Trish! Toby and I got worried because we weren’t old enough to walk the long trek home, alone. All the other elementary kids got picked up or hopped on their buses, but Toby and I sat there on the front steps of the Grammar School, waiting for Trish. The sidewalks became quiet and empty. Toby and I became scared. We knew the direction of Trish’s school, The Winnemucca Jr. High, but we’d never actually been there. We thought, and we pondered. It didn’t take very long for a five- and six-year-old to decide that maybe we should go try to find Trish. Maybe she needed help! Sounded reasonable. So off we went down the several blocks that seemed enormous to five- and six-year-old feet.
As we walked we approached several police cars. Then we noticed several more. We got excited! We must have been near the police station where Uncle Joey was spending his free time! So, in we went, on the hunt for Uncle Joey! Little did we know there were a few obstacles in our way of seeing him.
First off, we didn’t know Uncle Joey’s last name. Second, we didn’t have any identification proving who we were. And third, we weren’t even sure why he was in jail! But confident as I was, I walked up to the enormous police station counter and asked to see my Uncle Joey!
Sooo… which department was he working in…?
Umm… he doesn’t work here, he’s just here!
Sooo… they asked… what is his last name? How long has he been here? How old is he? Why was he in jail?
And so we answered… We don’t know!
We weren’t very helpful with all this trivial information!
Sooo, since they couldn’t figure out who Uncle Joey was, nor did they know who or where Aunt Trish was they tried to, instead, talk us into a ride home.
So… a ride home from the cops? Sounded safe! We kind of knew where we lived. We agreed to it! We felt better and more relaxed about Trish not picking us up. Until the man without a uniform walked out and said, “Let’s go.”
Umm… but you’re not a cop!
And so it was on! These men were determined to prove to us that this man they were trying to send us home with was a police officer out of uniform. Toby was 100% convinced and ready to go. I was not a girl who was easily fooled! That man did not have a uniform on, so he couldn’t have been a cop! It was that simple!
Sooo, what if we offer you some crayons and coloring books?
Well, ok. My brother was easily bought. So there he stood with the coloring books and crayons. There I stood with my arms folded. I was not going with that man!
Sooo … what if we give you this watermelon?
Well, ok. But I am still not going with that man! He can’t be a cop without a uniform. I don’t care if he has a badge and a holster with a gun in it, he’s not a cop!
Sooo … what if we give you this apple pie?
Well, ok. But I’m just going to stand here with it until I get to talk to my Uncle Joey!
Sooo … what if we give you these reading books about McGruff?
Well, ok, but I’m still not going with that man! The phrase “off-duty cop” means nothing to me, I’m five!!
These men were running out of things to give us! Pencils, pens, notepads, we made out like bandits! But I was not leaving with someone unless they had a uniform on! Even my brother was standing over there with these men begging me to go!
Finally, after much frustration, one of the cops went to the back where the prisoners were and shouted out, “Do any of you guys have a little niece and nephew about yay high?”
Uncle Joey lifted his hand to his forehead, shaking his head in embarrassment, “Uh… yeah… I do!”
Sooo … if Uncle Joey tells you it’s ok to trust this man and let him take you home will you go?
Of course I will! That’s whom we wanted to see all along! So, Joey confirms it for us, and off we go, out of the station with our pie, coloring books, crayons, markers, pens, books, watermelon, and everything else they gave us, towards the marked police c… wait a second, this isn’t a cop car!! Cops don’t drive rusty old brown station wagons! You guys are trying to fool me!
I am not getting in that car! You guys lied to me; you said he was a cop! This isn’t a cop car!
And so it was back on! Several cops, one without a uniform, and my brother were all begging me to get in the car! They promised it was ok, it was safe, and this guy was really going to take us home.
But I wasn’t getting in THAT car! No Way! He’s not wearing a uniform and he doesn’t drive a police car! My brother was IN the car, begging me to get in! The cops were trying their hardest to coax me into the car. Finally, another uniformed cop offered to ride with us, in that un-police car. So, I was in! Nervous still, but incredibly happy once we got home and could show Mom and Grandma what we got at the police station!
That out-of-uniform “off-duty” cop gave kudos to my mom for teaching me to never take rides from strangers!