August 14, 2014

The Heat Is On

I live in the High Desert of Southern California. At 1:00 pm today, we hit a high temperature of 95 degrees. Keep this in mind as you read this story:

For several years now, I’ve entertained a fantasy about renting office space for my business. That is, a real office, outside of my home. Seeing as we live in a town that’s clearly overbuilt with acres and acres of empty commercial space (some of it ten years old or more and never occupied) and still building, I’ve convinced myself that I will eventually find a bargain.

Today, as I headed home from several errands, I decided to check in at one of my favorite properties. Is it still available? Affirmative; six thousand square feet of immaculate bare concrete floor, and a sign in the window, FOR LEASE. I’d be happy with a mere one-sixth of it, for my world headquarters. Sigh. Someday. I endure this ritual several times a year, at this and three other locations nearby.

But this time was different. As I returned to my car, I heard the faint cry of a baby. I followed the sound to a vehicle three spaces away from mine; it was one of those giant SUVs, with no mom or dad in sight. (Did I mention it was 95 degrees?) Looking inside, I observed said infant strapped securely into his car seat, with his sister (?) who couldn’t have been older than two. No car seat in sight, for sis. What should I do?

At the medical clinic next door, a security guard stood outside. I walked over to report my observation. At that very moment, Mom emerged to return to the kids in the car. OK, crisis over. And then…

She disappeared back into the clinic, as quickly as she appeared. (Did I mention it was 95 degrees?)

It’s on. Gotta say something. With Mom clearly looking in my direction, I whispered to the guard: “Hey, there’s a crying baby in that car.”

“I know. Happens all the time.”

“Really? Even with a uniformed guard watching?”

At last Mom emerged from the clinic, cast an evil eye in our direction, and drove off. Without a proper seat for the two year-old.

“I call the police often, and they arrest the parents. Doesn’t seem to make a difference.”

I had no idea.

I finally introduced myself to the guard. His name is José. We talked for a while, about the many abuses he has seen in his two years on this job. Like the man who left his daughter behind in the waiting room, as he left to buy lunch. (José made sure the police were there to greet Dad on his return.)

According to NBC News, an average of 36 children die alone in hot cars in the U.S. each year. Is it really too much to ask, to watch your own children?

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