Our society is hyper-alert to some kinds of danger (while being virtually asleep to some greater dangers), a fact we were reminded of today along with a reminder that such hyper-vigilance can have negative effects.
Our family went out running various errands in two separate vehicles and met at a store to pick a few things up before going home. At the end of our shopping trip I went to get the kids in the cars while Laura finished checking out. Because we had come from different places the cars were parked almost 50 feet apart. I got half the kids in one car and then helped the other half get in the other van. I then walked back to the car to drive it to a parking stall closer to the van. In the 20 seconds that it took me to do that there was a middle aged man in street clothes and a retirement aged woman who was associated with the store (as evidenced by her clothing) hovering around the van. They had already been there long enough for the man to identify himself to my 10-year old in the second car as a police officer. When they saw me approach they asked if it was my van and then told me that they were making sure that the vehicle was not unattended. Laura arrived just as they walked away.
If I had been gone for a minute or two their actions would have made perfect sense to me but as I was gone for less than half a minute and never further than 50 feet from the vehicle it seemed very presumptuous of them to alarm my daughter by knocking on her window and asking her to open the door. I don’t see how they could have had that interaction with her in 20 seconds without seeing me putting the kids in the car in the first place. Not only did they alarm my daughter but when Laura saw two strangers hovering around the van and learned that one was a police officer that left her concerned that the officer might take it upon himself to look up our address and pass it along to DCFS (he appeared to have taken down our license plate number) to alert them to these potentially negligent parents. Laura informed me afterward that she had heard that same store associate in the store making judgmental comments about another patron so even with little interaction she has shown a pattern of looking down on people.
I understand the dangers of having kids locked inside a car on a hot day (not that it was hot at that time of evening) but it seems to me that if you spot a situation like that the first thing you should do before frightening a young girl would be to observe whether there is any apparent distress in the kids (there wasn’t) and, absent any distress, observe the situation for a minute or two to see if the vehicle is actually unattended before butting in and causing distress where none had existed.