Coming home from a lunch meeting in Rialto today, I happened to see something interesting.
Westbound on the 91 freeway around Imperial Hwy, I came up to a bus. It was a school bus type, but it was a private bus (i.e. no red flashers, not painted yellow, non-exempt plates, and so on). As I got closer to the bus, I happened to notice that one of the kids was holding up a sign in the rear window. I tried to inch up close to it, but couldn't quite make it out. I was able to read "help" but nothing else. But I had my camera with me so I snapped off a couple of shots including a zoom shot of the kid and the sign he was holding.
When I got home, I hooked up the camera and was able to enlarge the pictures. My jaw nearly dropped when I saw what it sais, which was: "Help. We're being kidnapped".
My stomach sank as I realized that I could've called 911 from my cell phone while on the freeway and had the bus in sight. But as I said, I couldn't read what the kids were saying.
I decided that the best thing I could do would be to go down to the police station and show them what I had.
On the way over, I saw a policeman going the other way. I flagged him down. He pulled over and I turned around and pulled up behind him. Following standard police etiquiette (showing both hands, ask for permission to get out of the car, removing my sunglasses and so on...he did...rightly so have one hand on his gun holster, not knowing who I was or what to expect), we approached each other and I explained to him what I saw, and showed him the pictures. He took down my name and number and such, told me to hold on to the pictures and if they needed them, they would contact me. But he said that as of that time, no Amber aAlerts had been issued, but they would definitely be contacting the registered owner of the vehicle.
So I did what I could. My conscience is clear.
In all probability, the kids were just messing around and joking. But these days, why take any chances? Countless times I've seen kids in buses holding up signs saying a number of things ranging from "Sea World Or Bust", "Class Of 2004 Rules", "Pick your Nose", "Honk Your Horn", and so on. Kids being kids.
As I said, they take stuff like this very seriously these days. It would be just my luck that the kidnapping was real, and someone else jotted down my license plate number as a witness ("there was this guy driving a burgundy Mustang Cobra with a black convertible top taking pictures of the bus") and I get a knock on the door at 2 in the morning from the Highway Patrol and get placed under arrest for "witholding evidence".
So why take any chances?
But holding up a sign like this, even if, ESPECIALLY if it's a joke is just plain sick. It's a reflection of poor parenting and definitely speaks of "crying wolf" that one day, could cost a very real kidnapped kid his or her life.
I hope the police contact the owner of this bus and the parents of the kids involved. Even if you are the next Bozo the Clown and have an endless sense of humor, there are some lines that should never be crossed and could not only get yourself in trouble, but possibly cause someone else great harm.
"Pushing the envelope" by showing the Stripper and Donkey act on Comedy Central is one thing.
Driving down the freeway telling anyone who notices that you are in grave danger, when in fact you are just getting your jollies is quite another.
I hope these kids get a severe tongue lashing, a spanking, and no Cell phone, TV
, or Internet for at least a month.
Assuming, of course that they were joking.
If this was a real kidnapping, I hope that maybe one of you will recognize the plate and/or face of the kid. Or know someone that does.