There shouldn’t be a need to write this particular column, yet for some insane reason there is, because no matter how many times the message is put out there, people are still leaving their babies and dogs in enclosed cars on hot days. The disturbing part is that despite the intense ‘awareness’ campaign going on, incidents like this are on the rise - it’s almost as though awareness of a very bad idea has given some people the idea to try it out. In fact, they appear to be united in an effort to prove to the rest of us just how stupid ‘stupid’ can get.
“Omigod, did you see that article about the baby who died after being left in a hot car?”
These people don’t just leave the kid or dog, they make sure the car is locked up tight, presumably to ‘protect’ the child or dog from a potential kidnapper. Their fear is legitimate in one sense, because there is a kidnapper - the heat - waiting by the car, and ready to snatch away the helpless trapped inside. The heat is a far bigger danger than some wildly-imagined bad-ass human.
And the odd thing is, when babies or dogs die as a result, there are rarely charges. Often, the guilty person, mewling that they ‘didn’t mean to do it’ and is ‘super sorry and sad’, even gains sympathy from the public and media, at which point the crime is cited as a ‘mistake’ that ‘could happen to anybody’.
I get that people feel the pain. We think how we would feel if we made such a horrific ‘mistake’, but should leaving your child to roast like Sunday dinner really be labelled a ‘mistake’? It is a ‘mistake’ akin to the bar patron who makes the ‘mistake’ of driving drunk and ‘accidentally’ flattening a pedestrian. Do these people deserve sympathy or do they deserve jail-time for criminal negligence?
The question is academic, of course, because the person will get off lightly in this halcyon world of sweet no-accountability. If someone leaves his dog in a closed car for several hours only to find a crispy critter when he gets back to the car, is it his fault? Or just a mistake? By the mantra of no-accountability, it is a mistake. He just has to say, “Sorrrry, oh man, I ain’t gonna do that no more”, forgive himself, then go get another dog. In no-accountability land, the thing you’re not supposed to do is feel guilty - no matter what you’ve done - because that would be ‘counterproductive’.
What of the parent who simply ‘forgets’ their kid? The media tells us, ‘this could happen to anybody’. Really? How do you forget your kid? No, seriously. You load up the little bugger when you get in the car. You arrive at your destination. You remember your purse or briefcase. But you forget the kid?
Nobody suggests the obvious, that you get yourself a brain. Instead there are suggestions to help cope with the obvious challenge of remembering what’s in the back seat. For example, there’s the ‘shoe’ method, in which you put one of your shoes in the back seat with the kid so that when you get out of the car, you are ‘reminded’ when your bare foot hits the ground (hopefully on a rusty nail). Now, I’m guessing that the person who can’t even remember they have a kid in the back is probably not going to remember to put a shoe back there at journey’s onset. It’s just a guess, but I’m guessing I’m right.
Instead, you could just take a look-see at your family member decals stuck on your back car window. Are all the people accounted for? Let’s see now; Daddy is at work, the dog died last week when it was left in the hot car . . . oh wait, what about little Johnny. “Where’s little Johnny???? OMG he’s been kidnapped! Oh! Oh! Oh wait, that’s Johnny in the back seat where I put him when I got in the car today.”
See? Wasn’t that easy?
However, I have a better way to help the clueless. Let them find out what it is like for a dog or kid to sit in a hot car, waiting in a pool of sweat and misery for someone to come for them. I decided to do a test run. It was about 25 degrees outside, and I sat in the car in the direct sun for 20 minutes with windows closed, engine off (ie no air-conditioning). The first five minutes were okay, after which it grew increasingly uncomfortable. After 10 minutes, I really wanted to open a window or door, it was hard to breathe, hard to focus, sweat was pouring down. What stopped me from copping out was an image of the kids and dogs who don’t get that option to simply open a window or door. After another 10 minutes, though, I had to spring myself out of my self-imposed oven.
I thought of those trapped kids or dogs helplessly waiting for their trusted protector to come for them. The fear they felt, the dizziness, rapid heart beat, hallucinations, eventual shutting down of internal organs (how does that feel?). I guess by the end, a victim’s thoughts would be too foggy to focus on much, and the pain would be too great, but I can bet you this: Their last thought would be a vague memory of their protector who didn’t come back in time. And as they lay there dying, they’d never get a chance to see how ‘sad’ the fool felt when he or she finally returned to the car and carcass.
I recommend to anybody who leaves their kid or dog in a closed car in summer: Try it yourself for 15 minutes before you let your kid or dog do it. Better yet, go for an hour. Please.