Saturday, January 17, 2009

11:35 pm and the Sheriff's office calls

Saturday night I was waiting for Sarah and Stephen to get home from a local restaurant where they had gone with some friends after worship practice.

The phone rings. At 11:35 pm that terrifies me. I check the caller ID and hope it's not about my children or parents. I don't recognize the number, but I pick up.

"This is the +++County Sheriff's Department. " says a concerned woman on the line.
My heart races. My throat tightens.
"Is there a Zoanna at this number?"
She asks if I own a certain vehicle and I say,
"Yes. Have my kids been in an accident?!!"
"No, ma'am, everything's fine. Were they just at {a local restaurant}?"
I think of the intersection there. Someone we know was in a serious accident at that same spot last month.
"Officers are there now. They didn't pay their tab."

I am trying to process. My mind is reeling. You're kidding. They're hyper-responsible. They wouldn't not pay. Cops are called when a 20-buck tab isn't paid? Really?!!

"Really?! That's hard to believe. Maybe they got confused as to which one of them was gonna pay, and neither one did. That's bizarre. Let me call my son, he's probably not the one driving right now."

The sheriff's dept asks if they can call him directly and have him call me after they've spoken. I agree.
Still confused and nervous, but relieved and sure everything's going to work out, I wake Paul up to tell him. He asks a few pertinent questions and waits for more info.

A conversation with Stephen assures me he paid and so did all his friends and Sarah. When I called, he and Sarah had just stopped at Walgreen's on the way home.

The cops call Stephen while Sarah is in the store. Stephen has a pseudo-panic attack, rushes into the store, grabs Sarah at the register and says, kinda loud and shaky-voiced, "Come on! We gotta go. The sheriff's office just called and they want to see us back there!"

(Can you just imagine what the cashier and general public in line are thinking? Their minds must read like headlines: Clean-Cut County Kids Busted for Shrifting Restaurant out of Half-Price Appetizers." )

They head back to the restaurant . The cop is "no-nonsense," according to Sarah. (That's good. I'm not fond of the nonsense type.) The manager is with him. Receipts prove it wasn't them. The tab in question was a bar tab, not a food tab anyway. The waitress apologizes. They can go.

They arrive home later and give play-by-play. Sarah says that while their group was leaving,
a guy had barged through him and left in a hurry. She thought he was rude, but that was it; she wasn't suspicious of him.

But someone who had walked out at approximately the same time as they had, left without paying. My kids' waitress had already gone home for the night before they left, so the waitress who cleaned up wasn't privy to the fact that they had squared up.

Tag numbers were collected. Our van's was among them. Car owners were questioned. I got dragged into the investigation via phone.

Older brother Ben is bothered that Sarah and Stephen would "put up with that stuff" (false accusation), drive "all the way back" (10 minutes) when the waitress could have figured out that they had been in the restaurant part, not the bar, yada yada, and that driving back there at midnight was actually dangerous. (Sarah says, "Ben, you have to cooperate. You don't tell a cop, 'Look.') I remind him that Jesus was falsely accused and didn't open his mouth but went all the way to his death for his accusers. Ben asks me if I live my whole life thinking that way and I say, "I should."

Paul agrees everyone did the right thing except the restaurant manager. He is upset that the manager didn't apologize . I remember my own dad getting upset when I was falsely accused and had to deal with a cop. It was one of the few times I saw my dad visibly angry. Paul reacts the same way when his kids are involved. He believes we should contact corporate headquarters and express our dismay over the lack of courtesy from management.

"We should at least get a gift card out of it," Paul says, and goes back to bed.

I agree.


Anonymous said...

absolutely your kids should be compensated not only for the inconvenience, but also the rude accusation. I was tempted to anger just reading it via blog post. you have such sweet kids....grrrrrrr!

Anonymous said...

This afternoon was a dear friend and my third time to meet for a "Grief Care Video" session. Almost a year ago my friend got a call from the sheriff (No, it was a knock on the door) and was informed that her 18 yr. old daughter had been in a car accident and was dead. I am so sorry about the downer, but when I first began reading, I was afraid to read on- but as I did, I was so relieved to find out it was not serious, then I was flabbergasted about the mix up and kind of "ticked off" for you, but then again I was and am so relieved that it was a misunderstanding (a strange one) and that everyone is okay. I hate when the phone rings late at night. My mind races with fearful possibilities. Oh, your kids will have some stories to tell! And yes, you should get a nice gift card out of it!

Anonymous said...

That's crazy!!

Vicki said...

Zo, I love your connection to Jesus. I believe that is the response the Lord wants us to have. He wasn't compensated for His false accusation. He said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

I have been falsely accused before too. It is hard. But I tried to focus on what an honor it was to suffer with Christ.

I have never even met you or your kids but I knowing them through your writings I knew they didn't walk out without paying... I can't imagine what it must have been like to get that call.

So glad everything was fine in the end. (And I agree with Sarah... it is better to cooperate or else you just look like you are guilty.)

Briana Almengor said...

We're so aware of our rights, aren't we? Your kids are to be commended for their respect of authority and their Christ-like response to the restaurant/waitress. I might still ask for a gift card, though, just b/c I'm always looking for a free dinner. :)

Anonymous said...

I've since written a complaint letter to Applebee's Corporate (like Mrs. Briana said, trying to get a free dinner out of it ;)).

Bethany said...

That is a hilarious story. What fun now...I know it wasn't in the moment