Sunday, July 22, 2012

Social Network Tsunami Wipes Out Dream Lake

It was 12:30pm on Friday and I was ready to get out of town. Jennifer and I were headed to a secluded spot in northwest South Carolina. That's the only part of the state with true mountains. Up past Wahalla there are hundreds of acres, with various property owners, mostly wooded sprinkled with 10-15 acre open fields. Several healthy spring-fed creeks filter through and extend for miles.

We were meeting Clint, our 'Dillo Friend, up there to enjoy a weekend of seclusion and swimming in a small lake made from a dam crafted by the current owners on a chunk of this land. The name of their entire property including their exclusive 4-5 acre pond is Dream Lake. Clint and Jennifer have known them intimately for many years. It was the first time I met them.

But first we had to make our way through Atlanta traffic on a Friday afternoon, some of the toughest urban driving in America. I wanted to leave early enough to avoid the mad rush out of the city. I had been in a sales meeting for a day and half. As usual, our sales manager had crammed far more into his agenda than we could possibly cover. As usual, there was no shortage of ideas on how my marketing staff and I could help the sales effort. I'll be busy the next few weeks.

Anyway, it was 12:30pm.  We had started the meeting early at 7am and they started giving out awards. I was sitting next to my boss, the company president. I whispered to him that I was going to leave since things were running late. We were trying to get on the road to Atlanta by 1pm and I still had to finish packing. I had already put in for a half-day of vacation. "Oh, that's right," he replied. I was out of there. Good-bye my fellow wage slaves.

Jennifer and I actually didn't get into Atlanta until 2:30. The traffic was already badly snarled at the intersection of I-285 and I-85, known locally as "spaghetti junction". It was frustrating for awhile but we managed, finally arriving at the uber-Ingles grocery store in Wahalla (great beer and cheese selections) before pulling into the cabin at Dream Lake around 5:30.

Clint and the owners, Marsha and Bob, we're down at the lake swimming. The cabin is situated about a five-ten minute walk from the lake dock. Jennifer and I unloaded and opened up our first beers on ice. We sat on the back porch and let Charlie, our english setter who joined us, get a feel for the place.

We briefly discussed going down to the lake but sitting in the cushy rocker with my beer made me almost inert. The place was sureness. There were towhees nearby, and wrens. There was a nice breeze. The cabin is open to a roughly 12-acre field. I was enjoying the view, sounds, and tranquillity when I heard Clint's voice faintly along the hidden path leading to the dock. Moments latter the three arrived and I shook hands with the owners.

They are both lovely, bright people nearing retirement and totally committed to this getaway place they have created for themselves over almost three decades. This is their space, their pristine Twin Oaks nature experience. So, it is easy for me to connect with Dream Lake, even without seeing the lake. The five of us drank beer and wine and admired a doe running through the open field far away, flickering red with short white striping between the long shadows of the late day sun.  Chicken was on the grill. Life was good.

After a feast featuring the grilled chicken, some of the best sweet cantaloupe I have tasted this year and other assorted wonders, but without dessert, we finished unpacking the car and prepared our bedding in an open screened-in deck over an old root cellar apart from the cabin. Clint introduced me to some Japanese scotch he had brought for the occasion. We were settling into the wonder of Dream Lake at night. With all the cicadas creaking in rhythm. It sounded a lot like our place.

At about 10:20pm my cell phone went off. I was surprised but I had two bars drifting in and out way up here. I answered. It was my daughter.

"Dad there is someone here you need to talk to." I couldn't hear her clearly and these seemed like weird words to me. "What?" My daughter repeated the words. "Ok."  The next voice I heard was a sheriff's officer. He sounded young. "Sir are you aware that your daughter is throwing a pretty big party at your house tonight?"

I stopped. My daughter told me she was having 5-6 girls over to watch movies. She has done this many times in the past without incident. "No sir officer, that was not my understanding."  "Sir are you aware that there is alcohol all over your property?"  I stopped again. Shit. "No sir officer that is happening without my knowledge or permission."

"Sir I need for you to have some adult present here."  "Are there any charges being filed officer?"  "No sir, but if you don't get here I am going to have to take your daughter to jail." Those words hung in the air - take your daughter to jail. This was a new phrase for me. Fortunately, I have not had many personal run-ins with the law in my day.

"Officer I am in South Carolina over 3 hours away."  "Sir well I suggest you get someone over here."  My next thought was immediate. "Ok officer I am going to have my father come over. May I speak with my daughter again please?"  He handed the cell back. I explained what I was going to do and that she was to pack a bag with everything she needed and she was to go home with my dad and stay there until I could come get her tomorrow.

That sucked because we had planned to spend an entire weekend in wonderful Dream Lake-mind. Jennifer was very upset that we couldn't stay and initially tried to talk me out of going. But, I told her that - for reasons I did not understand yet - my daughter was on the verge of going to jail. This unusual circumstance required, in my mind at least, a complete change of plans. But, still it was by now coming up on 11pm and we were in no condition to drive.

My dad finally arrived on the scene and I was able to talk to him over our home phone. At last, I got an accurate assessment of the situation. The officers were a couple of guys not much older than the kids at the party. There were about 40 kids at my house, but only a few had been drinking. No one was apparently full-fledged drunk. My daughter had not been drinking at all.

The sheriff's officers sent all the kids who could drive and pass a breathalyzer test home. Everyone else had to call their patents to come pick them up, a process that took about 45 minutes. Finally, almost 11:30pm my dad called to tell me all was well, the crowd dispersed, my house locked and secured, and my daughter under house arrest.

We left Dream Lake after a late breakfast on Saturday. The drive back was faster, of course, with much less traffic. After helping Jennifer unpack the car, I went to my parents' house and brought my daughter home so that we could hear her side of the story. There had already been several cell phone conversations and texting back and forth between us during the morning.

Naturally, my daughter was upset about what happened. She had gotten a nose bleed first thing Saturday morning from the anxiety she was feeling. While Jennifer and I were both concerned and somewhat frustrated by the course of events, I nevertheless stressed to my daughter that this could have been a lot worse (after all, no one was arrested for anything at the party) and it was not the end of the world. This is how you learn things - hopefully.

My dad's version of events was brief before I brought my daughter home. He said that there were a lot of kids but no one was out of hand and they didn't appear to have been making much noise. The young officer in charge of the scene had treated him respectfully after my dad informed him that he was there to shut the party down and take his grand-daughter home.

"Were you ever young?" my dad half-jokingly queried the officer at one point, the patrolman looked like he was still wet behind the ears my dad told me. "Did you do everything just right and the way your parents wanted you to?" my dad asked. The officer could do nothing more than smile and say "No sir."

My daughter told us that the evening had, indeed, started off as a spend-the-night party with about six girls. But, one of the girls had forgotten some medication and her boyfriend went by her house to pick it up and bring it over. Now, we had laid down only two rules to her before we went to Dream Lake. One, no boys. Two, no booze. So, the first rule was violated right there even though it wasn't a major offense...yet. Admittedly, it must have seemed an ethical "gray area" for the my daughter.

The boyfriend came over with several of his friends, which included my daughter's boyfriend. The gang hung out for awhile before the boys left to go get something to eat. Meanwhile, a couple of the girls left the gathering to go do other things.

During all this changing around, a number of text messages were sent. My daughter had gone silent on Facebook, which was wise. Nevertheless, she suddenly started receiving texts asking if this person or that person could stop by the party. Everybody knew by now that my daughter's parents were not home.

After that several people just showed up without asking at all. As more arrived some were over 21 and had brought beer, vodka, and other drinks violating our rule number two. This was the critical moment. If my daughter had contacted me at this point I could have had my dad go over there and shut the party down without the sheriff's office ever getting involved.

But she made an inexperienced choice. She took the car keys away from the drinkers so they couldn't drive. She called her boyfriend and asked the original gang of boys to return to help control the situation. Although her boyfriend did not drink anything either, a few of his buddies ate gummy worms dipped in vodka. Yeah. I understand that stuff, but still.

Things were spiraling out of control though the party apparently did not get overtly rowdy. More people started texting my daughter, petitioning to come. My daughter told them no, she would rather they didn't. This pissed off some of these other folks, who my daughter does not normally associate with and who are apparently more skilled at partying than anyone who was yet present. One of my daughter's girlfriends received a text from some of them that mysteriously read "You just watch."

By now, half of those present were either drinking something or eating vodka-soaked gummy worms. An interesting variation to be sure. It was at this point that two sheriff patrol cars ventured up my driveway. My daughter feels fairly certain that it was a disgruntled would-be partier that called the cops. I have not yet spoken to my neighbors so, for now, I believe her assessment.

At any rate, it was about this time that all this karmic activity, fueled by youthful exuberance, inexperience, and the power of social networking, caused my cell phone to ring in the dark tranquility of Dream Lake several hours away. I liken it to a gigantic wave of activity I knew nothing about suddenly crashing upon me hundreds of miles away. Of course, I knew no details other than what the young officer was telling me. I had to do the best I could long-distance and with iffy cell reception.

Meanwhile, on my land, a major operation ensued. Those who claimed not to have anything to drink were given breath tests and released to go home. The rest called their parents to come and pick them up. About 11pm there was a tangle of kids and parents up and down my driveway heading away from the scene of the almost-crime back to their homes. Many would have to pick up their cars the next morning.

The officers made the kids pour all the beer out into our yard. The place still smelled of beer when Jennifer and I arrived home yesterday, but a heavy rain that morning had at least lessened the odor. Today I noticed that two fairly large chucks of grass in our front yard are dead, I assume from where all the beer was poured. My dad remained until everyone had left except for my daughter and her boyfriend. He made sure the house was locked up and left the boyfriend to clean up all the beer cans and other assorted trash that was scattered around.

So, yeah, it could have been a lot worse. Had the officers not arrived when they did a lot more alcohol would have been consumed. My daughter chose to take the keys of the drinkers which is understandable at an elementary level. But her scenario violated rule number two and would have led a bunch of drunk guys sleeping in their cars on my property - at best. Precisely the opposite of what I intended.

But, as I said, this was a learning experience for her. She did what she thought best. She even took the time to take all the kitchen knives and hide them in case "someone got crazy."  When she told me that I smiled at the consideration, the attempt at being responsible, in the midst of so many bad choices being made.

So, now my daughter is now grounded. I don't know for how long. If it doesn't pertain to her job or to softball or to school, she will not be a part of it. There will be no gatherings at our house. There will be no meeting others to go out to eat somewhere. It is a just punishment. She did some things wrong but she also did what she thought best, and she did not end up drinking herself. That was one very smart choice on her part. She did stop others from joining the party even though she should have drawn that line much earlier.

Instead of floating around in the cool water of Dream Lake and relaxing with wonderful conversation and music and food, Jennifer and I, both needing to get away due to work related stresses, ended up driving over 7 hours total within less than 24 hours. Our getaway was ruined but it was time to be parents. Frequent calls from our daughter while she was under house arrest at my parents' home indicated a need by her to have us there. So, grumbling, we returned, we listened, we chastised, and we loved.

The three of us ended up re-watching  Batman Begins in preparation for seeing The Dark Knight Rises sometime soon. The Dark Knight is next on our list though it might have to wait to be watched. We cooked hot dogs. Jennifer and I took naps and slept late this morning. If not a needed change of scenery at least it wasn't a stressful weekend after we got a handle on the party madness.

My daughter will probably go with me to see The Dark Knight Rises. We often attend films together. Under present circumstances, however, as I put it to her: "You might as well go with me since that is about the only way you are going to get to go anywhere."  It was not meant harshly. We both smiled about it. But, certainly I know that planning to see the film, just like the Dream Lake getaway, doesn't mean something won't strike out of the blue and cause a change in plans.


Unknown said...

very well handled. There will be other DreamLake opportunities.

Unknown said...

very well handled. there will be other DreamLakes...