There was a little pushback from a story in the 11 September 2016 issue — or, really, about its tag. Here’s the story:
Ever Feel Like You’ve Forgotten Something?
Washington State Ferries deal with items left behind by passengers all the time, but things are getting worse. “They get on the boat with the people they commute with every day,” says director of marine operations Greg Faust, and “They walk off with them and forget they have a vehicle.” Over the last few years, seven cars and 35 bicycles have been left on ferries. The biggest problem with the forgotten vehicles is that it could mean a passenger has gone overboard. “They can literally set off an air search,” said Ian Sterling of Washington State Ferries. “The Coast Guard will launch their assets. We’ll go out and look for this person.” And that search can be costly: “on average around $10,000 for this type of response,” said Cmdr. Brain Meier of the U.S. Coast Guard. (MS/KOMO Seattle) …Probably the same sort of people who “forget” their baby in the car.
True Contributor Mike Straw wrote the story, but he submitted a slightly different tagline: …You’d be less likely to forget your car if you just left your baby in there. Considering the “dead children” aspect of the idea, I thought that was a bit too flippant, and edited the tag to what ran.
(Note: the story was included only in the Premium edition, so all the feedback came from Premium subscribers.)
A few readers thought the tag was “insensitive” to those who have lost children by accidentally leaving them in a hot car.
Rather than run any such letter, I’m instead going to run this one, from Bob in Washington:
I have a confession to make. I did this thing. As a newly minted parent and a known absent minded idiot, I still hadn’t caught up to my responsibilities yet. Fortunately it was at night, I just stopped for a bite to eat, and she slept through the whole thing. Nevertheless, it was a big wake-up to me. Never did it again. However, I did learn why this happens occasionally. And to have some compassion to folx who has that brain fart when their responsibilities haven’t quite caught up to their life.
In my defense, I became a single parent when she was in second grade, and she graduated with three honor cords from high school and Cum Laude from her university. Just goes to show. Even I can learn.
It took guts for Bob to admit making such a huge mistake, and I told him a few readers were giving me grief over it, and did he want to expand on his story any? Because, I said, it’s not just “idiots” who can forget their children, it’s pretty much anyone.
“To me,” he replied within minutes, “the takeaway is this: Too many people think that you ARE. You ARE an idiot. You ARE an obliviot. You ARE a horrible person. Because you did something awful. You ARE. However, you aren’t. See, you don’t get to pick and choose what challenges you need to face. It’s not in your hands. Take what you’ve been ‘given’ (Sorry; atheist scare quotes) and do your best. If it isn’t good enough? Learn. I was fortunate. My daughter slept through the whole thing. And I got off scot free. Other folx weren’t so fortunate. I’m fortunate. I know that. I take that and advocate for the other folx who aren’t. To let them understand how it is to be a new, oblivious parent. For some of us it takes a while. I’m hoping I NEVER get a wake-up like I did on that day.”
He hasn’t because Bob did wake up. He learned. Maybe he’s “lucky” that his daughter wasn’t harmed, but he still listened to the lesson. Maybe someone else can also learn from his story, and their kid won’t have to pay. That’s a wonderful thing.
So Am I Sorry for the Tag? Not at all: if it’ll wake someone up, save a child, and prevent a family from having to deal with tragedy for the rest of their lives, it’s absolutely worth shaking up someone who wasn’t paying attention. And Bob’s comment drove it home. When I told Bob that, he replied that yes, “I’m lucky. I hope that new parents have a heads-up that ‘Hey. You have a kid. She’s in the back of your f’ing car.’ I’d call that a win.”
And, if they’re really lucky, their kid will grow up to graduate with three honor cords from high school, and Cum Laude from their university.