My first run-in with the police occurred along a deserted stretch of road in Southern Arizona. I was young, on foot, and in the company of an acquaintance who had convinced me that this scheme of hers couldn’t fail. The patrol car pulled up beside us, lights flashing, a formidable officer behind the wheel who seemed larger than life itself.
Did I mention that I was six years old?
As mentioned in this post I was very easily influenced as a child. So when Nicole told me that we should walk home from school instead of taking the bus like we always did (and, clearly, were supposed to do) I timidly agreed. I mean, this was Nicole.
Yes, even in kindergarten, there was a social hierarchy that would haunt me until high school when I matured enough to realize that social cliques were b.s.
Our original plan of dawdling in the classroom was abandoned when I pointed out that our teacher would know that we were going to miss the bus. Our backup plan was to hide out in the girls’ room until the buses left but there were sixth graders in there. Social hierarchy, remember? So we settled for cramming ourselves in a pointy bush outside of the main building where we could see the busses but not be seen.
So the busses left. Now what? I had no clue how to get home but Nicole was confident and ready for the trip. I mean seriously, the girl had two packages of Saltines that she’d saved from lunch to sustain us on our quest. She chose the direction and we darted off campus like two wild desert cats. Well, one wild desert cat and one wounded gazelle. I’ve never been what you could call “athletic”.
Back when I went to school we had AM and PM kindergarten. I was in the AM class, which started at like 7:30 and let out at 11:30. At this point it was about noon.
We walked through the neighborhood that the school was in but neither of us lived there (hence the reason we should have been on that bus). All I could remember was that the bus usually crossed over a canal before it got to our neighborhood. Eventually we did spy a canal and Nicole declared triumphantly that we were almost home.
Here we ran into two problems. One we were aware of and one we weren’t. The one we weren’t aware of was that there are quite a few canals in the metro Phoenix area. This one wasn’t ours.
The problem we were aware of was that there was no way of crossing the canal that we could see. Thank goodness Nicole had the sense NOT to suggest that we try to swim across it. I’d like to think that I would have told her no but the story to this point doesn’t suggest that, does it?
So again Nicole picked what she insisted was the right direction and we set off along the canal, looking for the bridge which was always, “right down there, honest!”.
Around a half hour or so later I kept randomly hearing a strange noise. Seeing nothing around us (and by this I mean nothing. We had left civilization quite some time ago. We were in the middle of nowhere with just empty fields around.) I turned to Nicole. “Do you hear that noise?”
Nicole looked at me and I froze in place. Nicole…Nicole was crying! The noise I’d been hearing had been her sniffling.
We were indeed lost. Even if we’d wanted to we couldn’t find our way back to school. All we could see was farmland, not even any houses.
It was at this point in my life that I learned something about myself that stands true even today. When faced with a crisis I have an awesome ability to think with a level head and not panic. I looked critically in each direction and concluded that we should keep going the way we had been heading. It was bound to lead to somewhere.
Hey, I was six years old; logic wasn’t really my thing. Still isn’t come to think of it.
On and on we walked, going further and further into nowhere. Nicole pulled out her Saltines and ate both packages without offering me any. I could feel my resentment for Nicole and her dumb ideas growing with every weary step.
Finally we came to a crossing that would take us over the canal. At this point we both knew that this was NOT the right way but we concluded that we’d gotten nowhere by following the water so why not try following a road?
This turned out to work in our favor. A few miles later we both jumped as a car skidded to a stop next to us. It was a white police cruiser, it’s lights flashing. The officer asked over the loudspeaker if we were Nicole and Chrissy. We nodded, scared and speechless.
He got out and ushered us into the back of the patrol car, bulletproof glass, black iron bars, and all. The clock on the dash read 4:30pm. It was at this point, knowing that I wasn’t going to die alone in the desert with that know it all jerk Nicole, that I began sniffling myself.
The officer drove me home first and my grandmother was both severely pissed off and incredibly relieved to see me alive. She sat me down at our outdated kitchen table and ranted and raved about “What the hell were you thinking?” “You could have been kidnapped!” “I thought you were lying in a gutter somewhere!” “What do you have to say for yourself?!”
I thought about that last question for a full minute before responding.
She blinked and I could see her lower lip begin to tremble. Before I could worry that she’d start crying too she broke into a full-on laugh and hugged me hard. I guess the relief outweighed the worry. She went into the kitchen and made me some ramen noodles. She put them on the table and gave me another hug and a warning.
“If you EVER do anything like that again I’m beating your butt.”