I never thought kidnapping could be an accident except when a parent is foolish enough to leave a child alone in a car while she or he dashes inside a house or store for just a moment--- until I got caught up in an unexpected child snatching venture. It happened ten years ago, but a recent invitation to be a guest speaker brought back the memory.
It was a different speaking experience for me. I'm often invited to speak to book clubs, at firesides, and to other book oriented groups, but Tuesday night I spoke at a Spanish Book Club. I don't speak more than a handful of Spanish words and I wasn't sure how much English the club members understood, but I accepted the invitation and there I was. The group was super friendly and their smiles made up for language gaps. And I had a lot of fun.
Why was I invited and why did I accept? The sweet lady who invited me worked with me a few years ago when I worked for the Salt Lake City Library. Occasionally we didn't understand everything the other said, but we had an almost immediate bonding between us. (Her English is much better than my Spanish.) I love that lady! No way could I tell her no. Seeing her again reminded me of an awkward, downright scary experience we shared.
I have Asthma and she has some severe allergies. One day while I was eating my lunch in the library lunchroom, she burst into the room, gasping for breath, and unable to speak other than in frantic gestures. I realized she was having a severe allergic reaction to something, so I grabbed my purse and gave her an allergy antidote I always carry. She was in serious trouble and I knew she needed medical help. I was also aware her two young children were in the library and couldn't be left unattended.
Dashing upstairs I informed the manager I was taking my assistant to an emergency room, grabbed her children and raced back downstairs where I proceeded to load all three into my car for a mad dash to a nearby Instacare. I pulled into the emergency loading and unloading area and told her daughter, Betsy, "Stay with your Mom while I park the car and tell them I'll be right in. "I'll keep Alfredo with me." She looked at me blankly for a moment, then said, "He isn't Alfredo," just before she slammed the car door and followed her mother who was being helped inside the emergency room.
Horrified, I actually looked at the little boy sitting meekly in the backseat. He wasn't Alfredo! I'd grabbed a child I'd never even seen before, but who was about the same size as my friend's five-year-old son and who had been sitting at one of the tables beside her daughter, Betsy.
Unsure what to do, I took his hand and he accompanied me into the emergency room where I filled out some papers and called my friend's husband. My friend was almost unconscious by this time and things were pretty chaotic for awhile. I hoped the boy wouldn't be missed before I could get him back to the library. I'm not sure he understood anything I said to him, but he seemed to know Betsy and stayed close to her, so I concentrated on my friend until a doctor took over.
It all ended well. My friend's husband arrived. Betsy informed me that though the boy wasn't her little brother she was tending him for a neighbor, and her Dad said he would see that he got home safely. Her brother was safe at a friend's house and hadn't even been in the library that day. And yes, my friend, was okay too. I was shaking as I drove back to the library and thought it was a miracle I didn't have a heart attack! An extreme allergy attack is scary enough, but I couldn't believe I'd actually kidnapped a child!
The Spanish Book Club