This Gotcha Day Won’t Soon Be Forgotten
I am a rule follower. On our honeymoon, we stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica. One afternoon, Daniel and I decided to take a little catamaran out into the ocean. The staff at the resort gave Daniel a 5 minute crash course, and we were on our way. Just as we had gotten a few yards away from the shore, the sky turned gray. The guy in charge on the beach started waving his hands and yelling, “Come back, Mon!” Daniel’s back was toward the beach, and I was facing it. I told him that the man was telling us to come back. “It’s ok, we’ll be fine” he said. As the Jamaican man continued to motion us back to shore, I became increasingly anxious and stood up with panic on my face, pointed at Daniel and yelled, “He won’t! I told him to come back but he won’t do it!” To this day, Daniel is still mortified when telling this story.
In general, I try my best to stay positive and motivated. This week, however, I have strongly felt the effects of spiritual warfare. There is a matter at home that I have been thinking about and making drastic plans for the past several months. This week it came to a tipping point, and I had to make the decision that I simply did not have the emotional energy to continue. I have wept to the point of physical exhaustion over it. On Thursday I decided that I HAD to get myself back on track. There is a space in our room here of about 6 feet x 4 feet where I can put my yoga mat. I did a good workout, felt refreshed, and was excited about spending Friday with Jian celebrating her 3 year Gotcha Day.
One of her favorite Chinese treats is chicken feet. We found a restaurant in Downtown Baltimore that serves them and planned to go there for an early dinner and then to see the movie Finding Dory. Because we have already experienced difficulty in the downtown area with parking and our mobility issues, I called ahead and asked the restaurant about parking. They said that there wasn’t a parking lot and that I would just need to park on the street.
We got to the street, and straight across from the restaurant there was a space with a handicapped parking meter available. Usually when we go out, we use the wheelchair because Jian’s legs still get very tired and sore. The curb didn’t allow me to do a wheelchair transfer, so I pointed across to the restaurant and explained to Jian that we were going to take her walker over there. She shut down into a panic, and for the next 20 minutes emphatically told me that she would not walk across that road in front of all those people. Seeing that she wasn’t going to budge, I drove back around the block and saw that a handicapped parking meter on the same side of the street had opened up. I parked, paid the meter for an hour and a half, and we began very slowly walking toward the restaurant.
A man yelled at me in a very unfriendly tone that I was not allowed to park there and that I would be towed if I didn’t move. I asked him (also in a less-than-friendly tone) where I was supposed to park then. He pointed way down on the other side of the street and said there is a lot where you can pay up there. Not understanding, but not in the mood for a fight, I told Jian that I would get her seated in the restaurant and then come back out to move my car. There was a store next to the restaurant, and the lady who owns it saw us walking by slowly and came out to move a big sign out of our way. She ran over to open the door for us. If we had been in the wheelchair, we would not have been able to go in. The door was narrow, and there were a couple of very old steps going inside. The lady said she would be back because she had to find who was driving that silver vehicle that was about to be towed. My face must have said it all because she yelled, “Run!!!” and we both ran out to the car. The tow truck driver saw us and ran and slid under my car and hooked it up as fast as he could. There was also a female police officer standing there who never spoke or made eye contact with me. The lady who was helping us (I later found out that her name is Cookie) started yelling at the driver to unhook my car and was yelling over and over that I was trying to help my little girl into the restaurant. He responded very coldly, “That don’t affect me none.” She stared deep into my eyes and yelled, “Get inside your car! If you’re sitting in the car, he can’t tow it!” So I immediately did that. She said, “I’ll go into the restaurant and bring your daughter back out.” Somehow, I thought that sounded like a logical plan. Jian was terrified and crying, but she came out and got into the car with her walker. I told her to pray to God for help, and she said that she already had.
The female police officer called for another police officer because at this point, multiple fights had already broken out. There were lots of people just hanging out on the street observing, and they took it upon themselves to confront the police officer and the tow truck driver. Two men ran to my car and started trying to unhook it, which escalated the driver’s rage. There was nonstop yelling, shoving, threatening, cursing. People had their phones out videoing the entire thing. It reminded me of footage I had seen on TV in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The second police officer arrived, a small man, and explained that it was a City Ordinance that if a car has already been hooked up to a tow truck then it is not allowed to be unhooked. He said, “You can call your husband to come and get you and go get your vehicle back for a $300 fine plus a parking ticket.” Until this point I had not said a single word to anyone. Through my tears, I told him that we were from out of town having medical treatments for my daughter, that she wanted to celebrate today by eating Chinese food, that I had paid my meter, and that our family really didn’t need another unnecessary $300 fine right now. He said he would call his supervisor.
There were people constantly running up to my window, taking video, yelling instructions to me from across the street, “Don’t you get out of that car, Miss!” It felt like a nightmare. All I could do was close my eyes, not respond and just shake and cry silently. Meanwhile, Jian was in the backseat. She took the phone, called Daniel at work and was trying her best to communicate what was happening. The supervising police officer arrived, asked me what was going on, and I gave him the same story. He said that there was no way that the car would be unhooked and that if I didn’t get out of it, he would forcibly remove me, take me to jail, and take my daughter with him. I asked him if he would put all of this incident into writing for me. He said, “Oh! Yes ma’am! Any time you are taken into jail it WILL be written up and it WILL go on your record.” I said, “No, if I come with you, will you write all of these details up and give me a copy of what has happened because the Americans with Disabilities Act states that if my daughter wants to eat at that restaurant then she has to be given access to get into it.” He paused, took a step closer and asked me to repeat what I had just said. Then he said to wait a minute and walked off. (This girl who was taught to follow rules and never question authority shocked herself!)
About 30 more minutes of this nightmare of everyone fighting each other on the street went by. Cookie called her “Jewish lawyer” who came to my window (I’m not trying to judge anyone, but I can tell you that this man wasn’t a lawyer) and was giving me the laser eyes and yelling “Say yes! Tell the cops that this man is representing you!” Jian was yelling in the backseat that she didn’t want to go to jail. All I did for this entire hour and a half was sit quietly with my eyes closed, crying and praying. Then, just like that, the small police officer came up and said that they were unhooking my car and that I would just need to pay a $50 ticket. Something about it being posted earlier on the street that you couldn’t park there from 4-6pm. He said, “See? If you want to get things done, you just have to call the supervisor.” He didn’t know how true that statement was, because we had certainly been calling on Him.
Even though I physically felt alone, I knew the truth of 2 Kings 6:16-17: Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
I have not ever experienced people who are full of such evil and coldness before. I was equally surprised that this crowd of people on the street took it upon themselves to make such a fuss for us. Cookie even offered to pay my parking ticket (which I couldn’t agree to.) So many applications here. I kept thinking about Isaiah 53: He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth. That Jesus gave His life for this heartless tow truck driver and that I am instructed to pray for this man. I thought about how helpless Daniel must have felt to get that call from Jian. And how it must have tormented the Father to watch his Son dying on that cross. I thought about the gospel itself and how these people on the street would have been the very ones that Jesus would have spent time with. Before we drove off, Cookie ran into her store and brought us 2 cold bottles of water. I thanked her, and Jian decided to confront her about all the “bad words and F words” she had been saying. On a happy note, we found another place to get some mediocre Chinese food and watched our movie. Jian complained the rest of the night about not getting those chicken feet, though.