I lost Ninja today.
It was like this: we were trekking across Valencia to get to his appointment with the orthodontist. The bike route is 6.2 kilometers, a little less than 4 miles. For a mom and a twelve-year-old it’s a long ride, usually windy–it always seems like we fight headwinds on the way there, and sometimes the wind shifts while we’re inside, and we get to battle on the way home, too. But today we seemed to be making reasonable time. In fact, Ninja was speeding right along and was about 100 meters ahead of me at times.*
At about the 90% point, our route comes to a T. The orthodontist’s office lies off to the right with a couple of turns, probably six more blocks. Half a block to the left is the grocery store with the great bakery where we usually stop for provisions before the long ride home. I had lost sight of Ninja about 150 meters before the T, but at other times I have told him to wait at just that point, so I assumed he’d be there. He wasn’t.
The details of how he came to get lost† are nearly as tedious as all the back-and-forth riding that followed, so I’ll say only that we probably narrowly missed one another soon after he was lost, and while I was looking along one possible route he must have slipped past me to try to retrace the path and find me.
During the course of the next 40 minutes I had plenty of time to wonder how it was that we had not developed a robust plan for what we would do if our twelve-year-old ever got lost in Valencia. Had we given him a map of the area to carry? No. Had we drilled him on common-sense cautions, like, “don’t wander off the path” (shades of Red Riding Hood)? We had not. Did he actually know this year’s new address? Not as such. Never mind that we hadn’t sent him off by himself–it turns out we can be riding together someplace and still manage to get separated.
After checking the routes to both possible destinations again, I decided to turn around and head back, thinking that any moment I would come upon him waiting for me. As I approached what amounts to the Heartbreak Hill of the ride (a steep incline to an overpass that crosses many train tracks) I could see near the top a cluster of people in safety vests next to something large and white on the ground. To the mother of a lost child, it could have been several police officers and a body bag. I realized, though, that if he’d been in an accident there would have been an ambulance, not a body bag. It turned out to be a work crew digging up the pavement of the bike lane and putting it into one of those large sacks of construction debris.
I was about 4 blocks from home when I finally spotted him. He had ridden past the turn to get to our apartment, circled the nearby mall, but couldn’t remember how to get home from there, so was not sure what to do next.
What a relief! And what a surprise that after all that, he was up for retracing our steps and taking our chances that the orthodontist could fit us in an hour past our appointed time. He could, and he did. And then we stocked up on tasty things at the grocery store. By the time we finally made it home, Ninja had ridden about 25 kilometers and I had clocked 26 or 27. We may be a little sore tomorrow.
And we’ll continue with the map work we began this afternoon once my leg muscles stopped trembling. And we’ll take him out several blocks away and then follow a little behind him to see if he can find his way home. And we’ll quiz him some more on what his new address is. And he will be tired of hearing me say, “if you get separated from me, stay near the path, and stay put–I’ll come find you.”
Do you have a plan in place for what you’ll do if you get separated from kids, or even other adults?◊ It’s not as if there has to be some large-scale crisis or a natural disaster. You might just be out riding your bikes to the orthodontist. It could happen.
*Last year Ninja had trouble keeping up with me; this year it’s the other way around. He is stronger this year, and this early in the season I’m a bit out of shape, but it’s not just lung and leg capacity–catching or missing some of the many traffic lights tend to add to the problem.
†You’re probably wondering why he didn’t just text me, or why I didn’t just text him. He’s wondering why he still doesn’t have a cell phone, but that’s a story for another post.
◊Again, your answer may be, “uh, cell phone!” Just assume somebody’s battery dies. It’s still a good idea to have some sort of a plan. It can’t hurt.
[Images: google maps, pinterest, plrtitan.com]