"It's like taking a nap on that little rug when you were in kindergarten."

Beach Patrol – Assistant Lifeguard On-Duty

Sitting from our beach blanket vantage point, we looked out at the clear blue sky and green-tinged ocean spewing rhythmic, whitewater waves.

It was just another day at the beach.

MLB with Kindle in hand.
Roughing it on the beach.

***

What it looked like to the south and north, from where we were sitting:

Oceanside Beach, looking south to Pier

Looking to the south.
Oceanside Beach.

Oceanside Beach, looking north

Looking north.
Oceanside Beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As our skin soaked up ray after UV ray of sunscreen-blocked sunshine, and the sea breeze provided just the right amount of cooling, a sudden disturbance in the force jolted me back to reality.

“I think that little girl might be lost,”
I said to my wife.

“What girl?”

There was a child in a striped tank top running down the beach, at full kid-speed. By herself.

She was almost a quarter mile down the beach – see picture above looking north – when I lost sight of her. Small children don’t often run along the shore, especially alone.

Just moments later, I could see her tiny figure coming back into focus. This time, toward us. She appeared to be disoriented. Was she running FROM someone, or struggling to find her way back to her family?

Girl running, beach, lost

This could have been her.
But it wasn’t.

As she came closer, it became obvious that she was very confused. She didn’t know which direction to go.

Fortunately, I had just seen an episode of “Lifeguard”
on The Weather Channel.

I know, you’re picturing me in my Hasselhoff shorts, with the deep tan and buff-build. Yep, that’s me, exactly. This is how I looked:

Hasselhoff, Baywatch, Beach

Or maybe closer to this, without my wetsuit on; minus David’s muscle and great tan:

MJ, wetsuit, beach

Dammit, why can’t I have that orange thing the Hoff’s holding?

***

Anyway, I approached “confused child.”

After all, the show Lifeguard had taught me three important things:

1) Lost kids on the beach usually run in the opposite direction of where they should be going.

2) They go towards the sun (north on the west coast of the U.S.).

3) For some reason, they DON’T seek help from the lifeguards stationed every 200 feet or so.

This poor kid was 3 for 3.

***

I asked her if she was lost. She said she was, and that she was looking for her mom.

At this point, I motioned for MLB (my wife) to get involved in order to put the child at ease.

MLB took her to the lifeguard tower, so the guard could radio the other towers to let them know that he had the lost kid.

Here’s what we found out:

* Her name was Jackie.
* She was only four years old.
* Her mom had scolded, her. Not sure if Jackie had retaliated by running away, or if that was just coincidence. Let’s just call it coincidence. :)
* Mom was wearing a blue swimsuit and her dad was there also.

***

As the tower alerted the other towers, I went in search of “blue-suited momma.”

After walking about a hundred feet to the south I saw two women coming my way with worried, pensive faces.

“Are you looking for someone?”

“YES!! My daughter – she had on a striped tank-top.”

I explained to her that we found her, and that MLB had taken her to the lifeguard tower.

Lifeguard tower, beach, lost girl

Lifeguard tower, close up.

The relief filled her ashen face  as quickly as the mercury jumps on a thermometer stuck into a hot pot roast. *blatant simile*

She reunited with her little Jackie at the lifeguard tower. All was right with the world again. Television, The Weather Channel, and “Lifeguard,” in particular, had saved the day.

Maybe next time, they’ll give me that orange thing to carry around!

***

Have you ever lost your child in a crowded place?

Have you ever helped someone find a child? 

Comments

  1. I would want you helping me over The Hoff any day — he just creeps me out. And that orange thing — what exactly is it, anyhow?

    I’m so glad you were there to save the day, WBFF. Jackie is one lucky little girl…

    I’ve never lost a child in public. But I will admit to using one of those horrible “leash” type devices only once, in Disneyland during a parade when my precocious son was 2. I have simply had too many experiences in which I had to help reunite screaming children with frantic mommies, post-parade, to do anything but…

    And I think it’s officially two times I’ve had to do that. But that’s two too many.

    • It’s a flotation device to pull the rescued person back in, and create some distance so they don’t pull the rescuer in the water.

      Can’t believe you never lost a child in public. See, that leash comes in handy. I don’t have a problem with that for kids that have a tendency to wander off.

      So you can’t hang with the Hoff, huh? You’re probably a closet Baywatch fan, aren’t you, M?

  2. Jennifer says:

    I’d been trying clothes on in a Kmart type shop, and was ready to leave so called my son. About 4 yrs old. No answer, so I look in the obvious places, toys, tv’s etc. I was just getting to panic stations, and returned to the change rooms to ask them if they’d seen him, when he walked out – he was sitting in the next cubicle but decided to ‘hide’ from me and not say anything…. to say I was not happy is an understatement. this is one kid who has no fear of just wandering away. Granted, the town was not huge and the people knew me, but there are still strange people out there.

    • That would freak me out if one of the kids would have been there, but not said anything. I would not have been happy, either. Thank goodness you didn’t leave, thinking he walked somewhere else. Hope he’s grown out of that, now.

  3. My mom used to take me shopping and ALWAYS wandered away from me. I’d start looking at something, and I would turn around, and she’d be two sections away, her eyes taken with the stack of dresses in her hand. I wandered around, usually in tears by the time I found her.

    It was her fault. Not mine. No. Not. Mine.

    You would’ve been my hero.

    • Hmm, you sure it was mom wandering away, or little Andra wandering from mom?

      Either way, that’s really scary for a small child. Especially for children who are even the least bit shy. That can be horrifying. So glad you never really got lost.

  4. I had to wait for a locksmith at a grocery store because, brilliant chick I am, I locked my keys in. We waited so long my son needed a bathroom so I reluctantly allowed my daughter to take him. They were about 7 and 9. They went in. They didn’t come out. They still didn’t come out. I was heading into the store as the locksmith pulled up so I pointed to my car and ran to where the bathroom was then up and down every aisle. Then ran back to my car and a lovely cashier had brought them out. They got turned around inside and couldn’t find the exit. I have not left their sides since. Well, now I have. They’re 18 and 20 and that would just annoy the crap out of them.

    • Wow, a follow up to being locked out – having the kids get lost. Now that’s a bad day.
      Thankfully, the cashier helped them out. There are some very scary people out there, today. We always think it can’t happen, but obviously it does happen where kids are picked up by very bad characters.

      Glad my kids are past those ages where this can happen. I’m sure you are as well.

  5. Judy Berman says:

    We were shopping at J.C. Penney’s and I suddenly realized that my youngest – Jenn – was missing. She was 3 or 4. I was frantic. Very scary.
    Her older sister, Danielle, helped me look. Then we heard an announcement that a lost blonde, blue-eyed little girl was upstairs in the office. (Someone must have taken her there.)
    Yep, that was our Jenn. She was upstairs and we were reunited. After that, she never wandered off.

    • That’s scary, Judy! You would hope it keeps them from wandering when they get lost and go through the trauma. Doesn’t always work for every kid though. Glad you found your daughter.

  6. So nice of you. Great intuition. Doesn’t it feel good. I thought I lost my daughter recently at a park. She went to the bathroom with her friend. I was just about losing my mind when she turned up.

  7. The Hoff scares me and that orange thing just makes him scarier…he’s so weird. Ugh, my sister lost her son at Macy’s. She was trying on bras and he crawled out of the dressing room. By the time she covered up he was gone. They actually “locked down” the store and found him an eternity later, in the manager’s office eating candy from a candy dish and coloring without a care in the world. I will never forget my sister’s voice when she called panicking and Blue Momma will never forget those dynamic duo beach goers, who noticed her daughter was in trouble and were kind enough to help! Humanity Rocks once again!

    • It feels good to be able to help a child out, in a scary situation.

      Your poor sister. Locking the store down is pretty serious stuff. Glad they found him. Funny, he probably had no idea how scared his mom was, that whole time. He will understand when he has his own children, for sure.

  8. MJ, you have it way over Hasselhoff in many areas. First off, you are not married to Elizabeth Hasselhoff. Secondly, you do not have to live down the fact that you once drove a car that was smarter than you are. Thirdly, well, you are not married to Elizabeth Hasselhoff.

    What more needs to be said?

  9. I don’t have kids so I don’t have a scary story to tell there. Never lost a niece or nephew in my care either! The ONLY time I was lost where I was panicked was at a dance hall in some little town near Lincoln where I went with about 4 friends. Naturally, I had imbibed in a few drinks and was hitting the dance floor with a fervor. Now remember, this is the 80′s – hair bands and rock and roll music – I’m bustin a move, flinging my head up and… my eyeglasses fly up and into the crowd… gawd knows where!! I tell my dance partner I lost my eyeglasses. He takes off when he realizes I’m serious about finding the glasses and not interested in continuing the dance. I ask a few people near me but no one sees them. I’m blind as a bat without them. I search for my friends but can’t make out a face at all! Then I decide I need to find our table… but, it’s a large dance hall, and I can’t remember just where we were sitting. Finally, I go to the restroom and hang out just outside, hoping one of my friends will find me. It seemed an eternity but finally one of my friends came along. I got my glasses back not long after that. Someone found them and brought them to the bar. That whole time I thought a lot about my friends. They were the kind of girls I could trust. They were good people. But I wondered at the time if they would really miss me and look for me, or if they’d think I just took off? It was a scary thought. I didn’t know a soul to call in Lincoln… and of course we didn’t have cell phones back then!

    • Your situation may have been scarier than when a child gets lost. Frequently, they aren’t even scared when they wander off. As an adult, you were completely cognizant of your dilemma. Especially without any way to communicate with anyone for help. I can’t believe your dance partner just bailed on you like that. I would have helped you find the glasses, no doubt about it. Good thing your friends stayed and helped you. I’ve heard of circumstances where friends have abandoned their friends and unknowingly left them in a predicament. Glad it turned out okay for you, Lori. Do you wear contacts now, or still wear glasses?

  10. Wow. You are a true samaritan. Better than the Hoff, I say! And this coming from someone who just recently discovered that the Hoff is from my very own state. So for me to say that is huge. It’s like dissing my own family! Then again, if you met my family you would probably understand. I think I might be getting a bit off topic again. Oops.

    Oh, and nice abs. Might wanna try breathing, though. It can’t be healthy to suck in your stomach quite that much!

    • You’re from Maryland? I’m sure your family is no crazier than anyone else’s. Right??

      Yeah, you’re right, he’s holding that gut in pretty tight, isn’t he? I’m afraid I know exactly how that feels, since I have one-pack abs, myself. hehe

  11. I got custody of my boy and girl when in their early teens. Lost them ? I would have paid a kidnapper anything. To keep them.

  12. Another vote for you over the Hoff! Well done MJ.

    My son was like the energizer bunny…he just never stopped running around. When he was around two, I was holding his hand and he broke free and managed to zip down several aisles and I quickly lost track of him. Picture me running through Walmart yelling “CHRISTIAN!!!” I had this vision of him running straight out the doors and getting hit by a car in the parking lot. After that trip I made sure to always put him inside the cart and not let him walk beside me.

    • If they keep squirming, strapping them down is the only logical step to keep them from getting lost, right?? Isn’t that the real reason for seat belts? :)

      It’s terrifying wondering where your kid might be when you’re in a crowded store, full of people you know nothing about. The parking lot is even worse. As bad as people drive in parking lots, you never know about a kid darting out into traffic. I still see this a lot where kids wander away from parents and just miss getting hit by cars.

  13. Careful, MJ, or pretty soon you’re going to be eating cheeseburgers in a closet. (In all seriousness, you rock!)

    I have felt like I’ve lost myself…does that count?

    • Losing yourself does, in fact, count. I’ve done that many times, myself.

      I’ve eaten cheeseburgers in paradise, but never in a closet. *sorry Jimmy Buffett*

  14. Good on you for remembering all those tips from ‘Lifeguard’ et al, MJ! Who were we calling an idiot box, hah?

    Well done, you and Cate, for returning poor little Jackie to the right folk without causing the little tyke to panic further.

    >Her mom had scolded, her. Not sure if Jackie had retaliated by running away
    - Hmm. I was 12. Big Sis was 18. She had returned from far off uni after a long year. Isabella had rigged up a chorizo and egg Sammie for her one (mid) morning . Everyone knows I’m a pig with pork. So greedy, selfish me wanted a portion. Big Sis did not say ‘No’. She looked at me with sad eyes and … did nothing. I walked out of the house with, “I’m going away.” No one batted an eyelid because no one had uttered or heard those words in our home before.

    When I did not return in 10, Big Sis and Mum headed straight to BFF One’s home down our street. There I was, sprawled with BFF One and her kid bro in her room, each of us buried in a book.

    Mum: So this is where you ‘went away’.

    Me: Huh?

    I had forgotten my threat when I stormed out.

    Still a fake today.

    Oh, on more thing.

    >Maybe next time, they’ll give me that orange thing to carry around!
    - Now if you were to hanker for CJ’s floatation devices, I’d get worried. ;-)

    Kate

    • I totally get running away in order to have more pork, Kate. That is so understandable! Pork-lovers unite!! :)

      Funny how we get so emotional as kids (and maybe a bit as adults), and then quickly forget what we were so mad about.

      Hmm, CJ – I had completely forgotten about Pamela’s superb acting skills. Didn’t everyone watch Baywatch purely for the acting?? hehehe

  15. Thank goodness you were both there to help that little girl! I’m glad you don’t look like Hasselhoff–he gives me the creeps. As for losing kids, my oldest son used to think it was great fun to hide in the racks of clothes whenever we were in the mall. Couldn’t take my eyes off him for a second–it made me crazy!

  16. I agree with everyone else. You could rescue me any day over the buff and creepy Mr. Hasslehoff. Good for you for helping out! Lost kids scare me…probably because I’ve lost all three of mine at different times. Both of my daughters (the oldest one was 3 and youngest about 5…obviously two different crowds several years apart), and my son when he was about 4 and just decided it might be fun to hide in a clothing display at the store. And people wonder why I tend to be a little overprotective. Experience that fear a few times and anyone would be. :)

    • Yes, I didn’t get enough sleep…when I lost my daughters, we were at crowded parades.

    • I agree with you completely, Kristy. Overprotective is okay with all the bad things that can happen to kids. Losing them in a parade would be a nightmare. That’s like the worst horror film/assassin movie scenario possible. And such an easy target for kidnapping. So glad you were able to find them.

  17. I enjoyed reading this lol…glad you found the girl. Great way to “save the day” I think my younger sister and i have been lost once…we went to a concert with our parents…or maybe just dad…but i think they found us :).

    • Wow, another terrifying place to lose a child – at a concert. Just you, and thousands of your closest friends jumping and screaming. Your parents were probably panic-stricken looking for you. Right?

  18. Scary stuff, MJ! I’m happy to hear that you and MLB were able to come to the rescue, and what exactly *is* that orange thing??

    A lot of children get lost where I work. So many people come down to the harbour that it’s easy to get separated from your traveling party (whether you’re a kid or an adult). I’ve helped many a child “stay put” with me while we get security to go locate the parents. It’s always a relief when everyone is reunited.

    • The orange think is a flotation device. The lifeguard can toss it out to someone who is drowning to keep distance between them and the victim. And then they can pull them with the attached rope. Check it out on the Weather Channel, tv show called Lifeguard. It’s pretty intense with some of the rescues those guys do.

      I’ll bet you have a LOT of lost people their at the harbour. Can’t imagine how many times a kid wanders off there. Lots of stuff to see and get into, I’m sure. :)

  19. sunshine says:

    If I was the little girl’s parents, I would have been freaking out–and it’s ugly when I freak–oh, and losing her on such a ‘busy’ place with so many people!!
    Oh, and if I see some person running around with an orange bullet looking thing and looking dreadfully ‘he-manish…’ I would scrEAm and FREAK OUT!! sorry.

    • Her mom’s face was totally pale when I caught up to her. She obviously had feared her daughter had drown in the ocean. I’m sure that little girl got a stern talking to from her mom.

  20. my sis was once ‘almost’ kidnapped at a train station in Pakistan and trust me the authorities don’t help you find a child in places like those. Dad’s friend happened to be there and recognized my sis. PHEW! Thank God! I don’t even want to imagine what might’ve happened!

    I am so glad that the little girl found her parents! You are a hero my friend! :)

    • Wow, Ria, that’s crazy. Do you think it was someone involved in human trafficking? That’s very scary! Such a huge issue internationally, right now.

  21. Good for you! In Hebrew you call that good deed a mitzvah!

  22. Mj, it was so nice of you. Well done! For the first time I am realizing something good about television. :)
    Yes me and my friends help a child to find her parents, during a very famous festival. Millions people gather to celebrate that festival and to take blessing from god. And somehow that little girl lost in the crowd. We found her crying in between the crowd and took her with us, to the nearest Police camp. Then after the announcement was made, she found her family. And let me tell you, We did not do this watching something on television. :)

    • Well done, Arindam. So glad you find that little girl instead of someone who may have harmed her. There are too many people who want to exploit children. There should be more people like you, with a big heart for people.

      I can’t remember, do you watch much television? If I remember correctly, you do not.

  23. Fun post. Glad you recognized a damsel in distress. I love a happy ending.

    • I have to say, I love happy endings as well. Whether it’s a book, movie, or in real life. So glad it worked out. Could have been a lot worse for that parent.

  24. Have no children to lose, but I got lost… well wandered away because I was annoyed at adults standing around deliberating what to do rather than getting down to business. Once, I had a lovely time in the British Museum for an hour or so before they found me at the Winged Lion Gates of Babylonia. What’s your problem… I knew where I was. :) I was about 12 years old.
    Oscar

  25. As much as I want to lose my kids sometimes, losing them really is one of my worst nightmares! As I’m sure it is for any parent.
    I found a lost kid in the grocery store recently. It’s funny how you just *know* when kids are lost, even if they don’t have any obvious “I’m lost” mannerisms.

    • I hear you, Lainie. Felt the same way as we were raising our kids, as well.

      You’re so right about “sensing” when a kid is lost. I’ve done this a few times. You can see the kid’s frantic, almost panicked look, can’t you?

  26. Mike, just thinks how many HOURS a week David Hasselhoff had* to spend in a gym (and how many salads he had to eat) to maintain that unreal bod. There’s not a hint of a hot-fudge sundae anywhere on his physique.

    *I say “had” because he can’t stop time any better than you or I could. Let’s see HIM at 60.

    • Yeah, you got that right, John! He’s probably wearing spandex slimmers now to keep it all tucked in when in public. Though he probably can scratch together enough pennies to hire a personal trainer. :)

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