Awakened by the phone ringing at 11:35 p.m., I fumble for the receiver beside my bed. Who would be calling at this time of night?
"Hello," I mumble, my brain barely functioning.
"Mom, I'm not in jail." The voice at the other end belongs to my 21-year-old daughter, Rachel.
"What?" My heart is beginning to race and my imagination is running away with me. It's amazing how quickly those words fully awaken me.
"I'm not actually in jail," my daughter continues. "I'm fine. It's my car."
"What's the matter?" I ask, trying to make sense of what I am hearing.
"My car was impounded. I found out that since it's registered in your name, you have to be the one to get it out." There is a sense of urgency in her voice.
"At this hour of the night?"
I knew earlier in the day that her car had been missing. She assumed it had been towed and was trying to locate it. Now she is calling from the city impoundment lot that closed at midnight, (or so I thought.) It's located in the industrial area of a city of 900,000 people. I'm not at all familiar with that part of the city and I avoid it even in daylight. Travel there alone at night? Certainly not.
I awaken my husband, explaining the situation. Fortunately his concern for our daughter wins out over his anger at being awakened.
After driving down the freeway, we wind our way down the darkened streets in the industrial area of the city. The world is eerily silent except for an occasional passing car.
"I hope some day that she will believe the signs she reads," I say wistfully. "She parked in the half-empty parking lot of an apartment building to visit a friend this morning and ended up staying for three hours. She ignored the sign that said 'unauthorized vehicles will be towed at the owner's expense.'"
A university student, Rachel had a penchant for parking in unauthorized places in the cramped lots at school, and had already collected her share of parking tickets. However, this is her first towing experience.
When we arrive at the impoundment lot, Rachel and her room-mate are waiting for us and are in a good mood. In fact, she gets me laughing too. The woman at the desk stares at us in disbelief. No doubt she had seen a good many confrontations between angry parents and children in similar situations - or has dealt with angry car owners coming to claim their cars. No doubt laughter in her office is an extremely rare thing.
"Why are you laughing?" I ask.
"It was a choice between crying and laughing," Rachel says. "I choose to laugh."
"And why did you wait until 11:30 to pick up your car?" I ask.
She explains that although she had gotten off work at 8 p.m., she had chosen to watch her favorite T.V. program at 10 p.m. as a way to "de-stress" before she and her friend left to pick up her car.
All it takes is my husband's driver's license for identification, and she is free to take her 1991 Chevy Sprint rust bucket home. She still has a hefty fee to pay, but that's now her problem.
As my husband and I drive home, a little short of sleep, I think of other parents who get phone calls in the night from their children - who really are in jail, or from police reporting that their child was in an accident, or worse. I silently breathe a prayer of "thanks" to the Lord that our daughter is safe.
A "jailed" car is trivial in comparison to other things that could have happened. So many things in life are irritating, annoying, and inconvenient at the time, but are of no lasting consequences. I think my daughter's philosophy is a good one. I, too, choose to laugh.
The mother of two adult children, Janet Seever lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She writes for Word Alive magazine, a publication of Wycliffe Canada, and has had articles published previously in magazines and on the Web. Janet lives her life with a strong faith and still can find reasons to laugh. You can read more of her writing at: www.inscribe.org/janetseever