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Damsel in Distress:
Father Doesn't Always Know Best, Age 53

Recently retired from the California Department of Education, Andrew Laufer is writing a book about his life including periods as a butcher's helper, food service worker, construction laborer, animal research assistant, seasonal fire fighter, and janitor. In his youth, he hitch-hiked up and down the coast and out to Colorado numerous times providing context for hundreds of short stories.
Papa Laufer’s Stories: Positive Reflections of Life in America is now available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0943ZWT3Z?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860

I led a sheltered life up through the age of 12. Until then, my perspective was what I watched on TV. Back then, programs on TV made it seem like right and wrong were obvious, women were always treated with respect, and the good guys always won.

Those were the good old days for me, and although I have since been exposed to the harsh realities of life, I still tend to see the world through an idyllic lens. I see most people as good and try to be polite and respectful. When people are in trouble, especially when it is a damsel in distress, I will help.

My son, Javier, and I were driving home from his eighth-grade graduation celebration. The lights of the city were behind us and as we drove south through the country on Highway 99 it was so dark we could only see what our headlights illuminated. Suddenly, out of the dark, we spotted a woman near the side of the road frantically waving her arms. We pulled off the freeway and went down the frontage road to help her.

There was no car around, and we were puzzled about how she got there. She was an attractive girl, maybe eighteen years old, wearing a sheer spaghetti strap tank top and shorts. Typical summer wear for youth in Sacramento. She said her date got mad at her and kicked her out of the car. Wow. What a jerk of a boyfriend. She asked to use my phone to call a guy in South Sacramento who could come and pick her up.

Well, apparently the friend she called was also a jerk and wouldn't come to get her. What kind of crowd did this girl hang out with? We couldn't just leave her there, so we decided to take her back to town. I remember Javier standing behind me observing.
I was about to enlist his help to get her over the fence when a California Highway Patrol officer pulled up on his motorcycle. We explained to him what we were doing, and he started asking the woman questions. She became so nervous that she was barely able to respond.

The officer advised her to calm down and take a deep breath so she could answer his question. The poor girl seemed to be terrified and that's when it dawned on me. The damsel in distress was a prostitute. Her "date" was a customer, and her friend in South Sacramento was her pimp. I felt so naïve, especially when I realized that my 13-year-old son had already figured it out.

I was still willing to take her back to town to get her out of trouble, but the cop said he'd already called a car to take care of her. As Javier and I prepared to leave, the officer told the girl to thank the nice man, me, for helping. She said thank you and we were on our way.

Javi has never let me forget that experience and teases me for being so naïve. Clearly, father doesn't always know best.

~ Andrew Laufer




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