What would you do?
I’ve been pondering that question since a series of five phone calls received several days ago beginning at 5 p.m. Their double ring usually signifies a telemarketer or political survey.
The first call left no voicemail. Caller I.D. showed a man’s name, 250 area code, and 635 prefix.
Google revealed the phone was registered in Terrace. No address.
Three times the number called without leaving a voicemail.
On the fourth call I snatched the phone and barked, “Hello!”
Silence. Dead air. A common situation after answering a telemarketer.
Twenty minutes later a fifth call disturbed my evening. By then it was 10:30 p.m.
I seized the phone, bellowed “Hello!”, and waited for some reaction, but got none for a long spell. Eventually I heard a faint background murmur as from a couple of toddlers who had been warned to ‘hold it down’.
“Hello?” I repeated. Another pause ensued, longer than the first, before a young girl’s voice scarcely above a whisper said, “I have the wrong number”.
Gently I said, “Okay”, and hung up.
The more I replay that exchange the more I regret my actions and inaction. Were the little ones home alone throughout those five plus hours? Where were their parents? Or a sitter? Texting? Watching a hockey game on TV? Busy somewhere else in the home? Entertaining visitors?
In these times, one worries they might have been passed out on drugs or overdosed on fentanyl. What if they had gone to bingo? I’ve heard stories of Moms who left their kids for hours while they dabbed.
Should I have offered to help the child find the correct phone number? She sounded to be five or so years old, too young perhaps to give me a family name for whomever she was trying to call.
What if she had been taught not to speak to strangers and never to give out her address? Although I’m certain RCMP could have traced it.
Should I have asked the RCMP to do a wellness check on her address? I had done something similar one evening last October when an adult friend phoned me late in the evening, crying and distraught.
She had been discharged from hospital that afternoon. Home Care had prepared her supper and readied her for bed but now she found herself unable to make her way to the front door to lock it for the night.
I don’t drive in the dark so she knew I couldn’t get there myself. I phoned the RCMP, explained her situation to the dispatcher, supplied her name, age, phone number, address, and physical limitations and made clear the sort of help she needed. Police were happy to oblige.
Immediately I phoned my friend back to tell her she could expect a visit from the police. As we spoke she reported seeing car lights entering her driveway. Next I heard knocking on her front door and we ended our call. RCMP had arrived within 15 minutes.
But what if RCMP showed up at the kid’s address, her parents were home and they found out she was the reason for their arrival? Might the parents pound the kid like a schnitzel?
Later I checked the family’s Facebook page. It shows five kids under the age of 7, parents keen Canucks fans, lots of friends and relatives to babysit if needed.
Why this tot was seemingly alone with her four young siblings apparently unsupervised for almost six hours and well past their bedtime haunts me.
Knowing I took no steps to ascertain her safety or to offer her help distresses me even more.