The day started like any other day. Except Elli wasn't in school anymore. She would be going with us to the store in Napa where she would play, do crafts with scraps of fabric, foam and empty boxes, and just hang out.
Don had to make some deliveries in San Francisco so he rented a Budget cargo van. We have a big truck but it's hard to maneuver in the city so Don thought this would be a better idea.
Elli thought the van was pretty cool so she asked if she could tag along with him for the day. I was a little worried because she would have to sit in the front seat, and even though she's nine, she's kind of small. But I gave in because she was so excited to go with him.
They returned to the store around 1:30. Their day had gone without a hitch. Our customer in Larkspur loved their dining chairs, the drapes were installed successfully in San Francisco (they even saw a SF Giants player in the lobby of the building) and the couch frame they picked up was perfect.
Elli hung at the store with Gary and the crew while I followed Don to the Budget rental place to return the van.
The Budget office was crowded. I could see at least five people in the office. Great. This was going to take a while. I told Gary we would only be gone five minutes. And I forgot my phone at the store. No surfing the net for me.
I watched the manager of the Budget office walk out to the parking lot. I thought he was checking mileage on a vehicle or something. But he walked over to a police car that had just pulled in the lot. They chatted briefly and the cop followed him to the office. Then another police car pulled up.
I got a little nervous. I was parked right in front of the door. What if something bad happened? I'm right in the line of fire.
And then Don walked outside, followed by the policeman. They stood right by my car so I could hear the whole conversation.
"Sir, what were you doing here today?" the policeman asked, as a second policeman walked up. His back-up had arrived.
"I rented a van for our business." Don replied.
"What is your business?" the cop asked.
"We own an upholstery business here in Napa. We had some deliveries in San Francisco today." he said.
"Were you at the Arco station with a little girl?" he asked.
Yes. That's my daughter. We had to get gas for the van." Don said nervously.
Our immediate thought was crap, we're in trouble for letting her ride in the front seat. This was her first day of summer vacation and we're in trouble already.
"Where is your daughter now?" they asked.
"She's at our store with Gary." he said.
And then they told us that a woman at the Arco station called 911 because she saw a little asian girl in a van mouthing the words "HELP ME" and the man driving the van was walking around nervously. She thought the girl had been abducted.
HOLY SHIT! Are you kidding me?
We were stunned.
We explained that she was our daughter. And Don wasn't walking nervously. He went running yesterday and hurt his hip. He can barely walk. He's limping because he's sore.
They could see we were decent people and immediately knew this was a misunderstanding. But they still had to check.
They held us at the Budget place until they had another cop go over to our store to confirm that Elli was ok.
We chatted with them while we were waiting for the call. They told us they had already called the Mill Valley police department where we live to get scoop on Don. They didn't have any information because we've never done anything wrong. So they were really worried how they would find the man in the Budget van with the little girl. They took this possible abduction very seriously.
We then told them Elli is adopted from China, which is why she doesn't look like Don. I joked that she was probably begging him for candy or chips from the food mart at Arco and he was ignoring her.
We finally got the call from the other policeman. Everything was ok, of course, and we were allowed to leave. We couldn't wait to hear what Elli had to say.
On the drive back Don told me there was a really odd woman at the gas station that kept staring at Elli. She made her nervous. Don saw the woman and said she looked like she was stoned. We're assuming she is the one that made the call.
We pulled up to the store and Elli came running outside to greet us.
"MOM!!!! A policeman was here. He asked me my name, my address, and who my parents are!" she shouted, full of excitement.
Of course we already knew this.
Elli was playing in the showroom when the cop arrived. He walked in the store and asked if she was Ella. She said "I'm Elli." He then asked if there was an adult there. He didn't see anyone because Gary was in our workroom out of site.
"Gary, there's a police officer here!" she shouted.
"Are they here to arrest me?" Gary shouted back laughing.
He thought the guy was there to look at fabric for a project. Because why would a cop be in the store confirming that Elli is our kid and that she had not been abducted!?
I asked Elli what she was doing in the truck. Why did the woman think she said "help me?"
"I was singing the turd song!" she said laughing. "It goes like this 'Oh you're such a turd, oh yeah you're such a turd, you smell like a turd.....' It was really fun because my voice echo'd in the van. So I sang the whole song and thanked my audience for being so fantastic. Thank you, Thank you very much. See you in Vegas."
We told her and Gary the whole story. She said the woman at the gas station creeped her out. "Mom, she followed me with her eyes the whole time. She was creepy."
And that's how we spent our Friday afternoon.
Elli has a moral for this story: Never sing The Turd song in a Budget van at an Arco station.
Don and I were very impressed with the Napa police department. We hope this was our first, and last, encounter with them.