Emma was miles away from home on one of her first solo adventures with the family sedan. She had driven carefully, parked cautiously and locked the car doors dutifully--just as her parents had instructed her to do. As she walked away from the car she savored the delicious feeling of independence that only a driver's license and a fully fueled vehicle can provide.
But now, as she returned to the car, she experienced the dark side of motorized freedom. For some reason, the car door wouldn't un-lock. She pressed the button on her key ring remote control again. No unlocking sound. No little red light flashing on the control. She pressed it harder, as if sheer force would be enough to overcome whatever mechanical problems were going on with the car (I know, that's a little like talking louder and slower in order to be better understood by someone who doesn't speak English--it makes you feel like you are doing something, when in reality you're not achieving anything but heightened frustration).
Still nothing. No mechanical "click-click" sound. No red light.
She tried to keep her composure, but she had no idea what to do. She'd never had any kind of mechanical failure in all her . . . well . . . hours of driving experience, so there was no personal precedent from which she could draw. So she called her mother.
"Mom," she said, "I've got a little problem here."
Her mother, who was already nervous about sending Emma out alone, skipped right over "minor trauma" and went right straight to full on, Big T "Trauma."
"Emma, are you OK?" she asked anxiously. "Is anyone hurt? Is the car OK?"
"I'm fine, Mom," Emma replied. "I didn't have an accident. The car is just . . . broken."
"Broken?" her mother asked. "Won't it start?"
"I don't know," Emma said. "I can't get in to start it."
Emma explained her predicament. Her mother was relieved . . . and stumped.
"Well, I don't know what to tell you," she said. "Maybe the battery has gone out on the door opener. I guess we could bring the spare keys out to you. Let me ask your Dad."
Emma's Mom called her husband, explained the situation and asked if he had any suggestions about what Emma could do. The father hesitated, then asked: "You're joking, right?"
"No," his wife said. "She's really stuck out there, and she's getting cold standing outside. Should I take the spare key to her?"
To his everlasting credit, Emma's father considered his next words carefully. But you have to know that his gut instinct was to laugh out loud. This was a real-life situation just crying out for a punch line, and he had the perfect opportunity to make his wife and his daughter--his BLOND wife and BLOND daughter, no less--feel pretty . . . well . . . you know . . . blond. This joke could be told and re-told, much to the everlasting embarrassment of . . . well, two of the people he loved most in all the world.
And it was that last thought that prompted him to suppress the laugh and to gently suggest that perhaps his wife should instruct Emma to use the actual key to open the car door.
"Oh . . . DUH! . . . of course!" his wife said, embarrassed and relieved all at once. "Sorry about that, Hon. I should have thought of that!"
"No problem," her husband said.
Which, come to think of it, is exactly right. It COULD have been a problem, if the husband had taken advantage of the opportunity to tease and belittle and humiliate his wife and daughter. But instead he chose to be kind, compassionate and loving--hence, "no problem."
And precious little trauma, either.