A Slice of the Pie: Passcode predicament – Lessons learned the (almost) hard way

April 2022 Posted in Opinion / Columnists

Sometimes the best life lessons happen when things take a turn for the worst. That’s what happened last month when I forgot to charge my cell phone before driving my daughter to a gymnastics meet in Hillsboro. 

I initially believed my dying phone was just a minor inconvenience. I turned on the power saving option, minimized its use and downplayed the fact that I’d also forgotten to bring along a charging cord.

That, it turned out, was challenge #1. 

Challenge #2 came when I arrived at the meet to find that the only two charging stations – I was driving an electric car – were occupied (one of them by a hybrid car that was not plugged in, but I digress). 

Thankfully my car had been fully charged before we left and, having done the math beforehand, I knew I  had more than enough juice to get to our next destination, a rental house in Pacific City.

Challenge #3 was the length of the meet, which didn’t end until after 11 p.m. And, when we finally stumbled out of the building, exhausted and starving, nothing was open in that part of the city except a McDonalds. 

“This is your first taste of what sports competitions were like when I was going up,” I told my daughter who viewed the greasy nuggets and fries as the ultimate in unique experiences.

Then we were back on the road headed…in the wrong direction. Challenge #4.

I’m still not certain why I headed for Cannon Beach instead of Pacific City. Maybe it’s because Cannon Beach was the last place I’d taken an Oregon beach vacation. Or maybe – and I would love to hear if this has ever happened to anyone else – it’s because both beaches have rocks named Haystack Rock.  (This is true, you can look it up, because I did the next day, and it makes absolutely no sense to me.) But whatever the reason, I pointed the car a whopping 65 miles in the wrong direction and drove for at least 20 minutes before I realized my mistake.

Now I’m going to stop this narrative to issue a disclaimer. This is in no way meant to be a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of electric cars. At no point between the Hillsboro city limits and Cannon Beach did I pass an open gas station. So, even if I’d been driving a gas-powered car and had underestimated the fuel in my tank, I would not have been any better off. 

Now, the car I was driving aside, when I realized the incredible scope of my error, I instantly felt sick. Not only had I just added hours to our trip but I had handed us a very real problem – I wasn’t sure we would have enough power to make the extended trip and my phone was about to die. 

But wait! My daughter’s new cellphone, the one we had just given her for her birthday the week before, was fully charged inside her backpack. What I failed to remember? It became unusable after 8 p.m. thanks to parental controls and I – with my reptilian brain in full control – could not, for the life of me, remember the passcode. 

Challenge #5. My hands began to shake. 

Then I looked at my daughter, sitting beside me and I realized that right then I had a choice. I could sit on the side of the road and cry, get angry and cuss up a storm or I could turn this whole darned mess into one big teachable moment. 

So, that’s what I did. I told her, “We’re going to call your dad. And I need you to write everything down, because if this phone dies, I’m going to need written instructions.”

“I’ve gone the wrong way and I don’t think the car can make it all the way to Pacific City now,” I told my husband when he, thankfully, answered the phone. “Also, my phone is dying.”

Thankfully he didn’t ask a lot of questions – at least not then – about how on earth I’d gotten us into this particular predicament. Instead, he calmly began researching all the charging stations between us. Turns out there was one in Cannon Beach.

I handed my daughter a pen. 

The next day the whole experience took on almost an other-worldly tint as the two of us rehashed the wild adventure that got us to the rental house well after 3 a.m. And we agreed on the following things:

1) We will always carry a cellphone charger. (I now had one, thanks to my husband, and I placed it in my purse immediately.) 

2) Kids’ cell phones need restrictions but not the kind that render them useless in an emergency. (I am incredibly grateful it didn’t take a true emergency, especially one in which she was without a trusted adult, to teach me this.)

3) Sometimes the best solution is starting again. (There was a moment, after I initially discovered my mistake, when I could have turned back and found a charging station, or even a hotel – in hindsight that was the less risky option.)

4) Calling for help is always OK. (Calling my husband meant swallowing my pride but it was far and away the best choice because not only did it alert someone else to our potentially dangerous situation and our whereabouts but he – not under the influence of adrenaline – was able to think much more clearly and give some solid advice.)

It was a good discussion – from the safety of the beach, after sleep had cleared our heads. And, while I’m pretty sure the experience took a good ten years off my life, when I asked my daughter if she had been scared, the answer she gave was “No, not really. Because I always knew we would be OK.” 

That’s when I realized what the really big lesson had been. 

5) Keep calm and keep going. 

That was a lesson that was especially for me. Because, as a mom, I can fly off the handle, when everything is going wrong and it all feels like a bit too much. But that night, sitting there on the side of the road in the dark, with every mistake sitting like a pile of stones on my chest I decided not to default to “mad mom” or even “sad mom.” Instead, I chose “in control mom,” “you got this mom” and even “I know I can’t do this alone but I know who to call mom.” 

Because that’s who I want my daughter to see me as, and – more importantly – that’s who I want her to be.

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