The sweetest words — thank you officer

I sincerely believe in the power of words to shape our experiences, especially the two sweetest words, “thank you,” and I say them often.

Today, I want to thank Deputy Christina Ross with the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office for going to extra lengths helping my beloved dad last week when his bicycle was lost. Her kindness, courtesy and dedication shone through the whole process. The smile on her face was a sight to see when she drove up to return the bike and thanked a good Samaritan, Rick Greenly of Quincy, for his invaluable help locating it. As do her fellow officers, Ross really cares about the people of our communities and we appreciate that very much, “Thank you, officer!”

There was another time when I felt exactly this way.

One sunny spring day before I ever owned a smart phone with GPS, I became hopelessly lost driving to Santa Monica — a day not to be confused with that time I got lost navigating from Sacramento to Burbank on a route I thought I knew exceedingly well, despite L.A.’s illogical labyrinth of old freeways.

But I have to say the Santa Monica trip didn’t even come close to that night I decided to NOT use the 405 freeway to get back to UCLA with my angel daughter Tierney in the car, even though it was after 11 p.m., and heaven knows what I was thinking when I stuck to the surface streets and we ended up lost in Compton. Yes, Compton, at nearly midnight.

Of course, nothing could ever compare to that one visit to Florence, Italy, when I did not write down the name of our hotel (note to self, always grab a card with the name of your hotel on it) and Tierney followed me so loyally over all those damn bridges and through all those neighborhoods after we got separated from our group.

To her credit, she initially told me we should go THIS way and I declined because I was so sure we needed to go THAT way — and being the mom, I prevailed. Boy, was I wrong.

It took us five hours to make it back to our room there in beautiful Firenze. Yes, five hours on foot and only then because we went from store to store, gelato stand to pastry shop, and business to business showing our hotel key and trying to find anyone who spoke enough English to help us relocate our lodgings.

The dinner hour came and went. It was getting dark. Eventually, we wandered into a photocopy store and the counter staff could not make heads or tails out of our situation, so they brought a teenager out from their stockroom and he saved us with his English that was WAY better than any of our Italian. Thus we lived to tell the tale and eventually got home to America, as you can see.

So, you can imagine getting lost so close to Santa Monica was not really all that big a deal. I knew it was fairly nearby, just not how nearby.

With that in mind, I pulled over on what I thought was a quiet street, opened my AAA roadmap and said aloud, “Oh darn! Where’s a policeman when you really need one?”

Literally three seconds later, a Beverly Hills Police car pulled up right beside me and rolled down its window.

“Oh officer, there you are!” I exclaimed brightly, completely delighted that I had asked and received, and my daughter curled up trying to make herself invisible in the back seat of our Honda. Her best friend, Caitlin, ducked down and hid.

“Ma’am,” the officer began, politely but firmly. “You can’t just stop right here on this street. You’re in Beverly Hills, and this is not a parking zone.”

“Is that where I am?” I replied, looking around in complete surprise and crumpled the map onto the passenger seat. “Well, I’m so glad you’re here because I’m lost and I need to get to my hotel, the Cal Mar in Santa Monica. Do you know where it is?”

“Mommmmmmm …” Tierney said and I reassured her there was nothing to worry about, this very nice officer was going to help us.

The policeman started to point and give me directions for a series of right and left turns and I did my best to follow in my head. But there was obviously something in my expression because within a few seconds, he simply stopped and said, “Follow me.”

So I did, and that wonderful first responder guided us all the way to our beach hotel and watched me wave, calling out my heartiest “Thank you, officer!” as I pulled up to the curb. He touched his hat and u-turned away back to his city.

To this day, if I get lost, all Tierney has to say is, “Remember Florence!” and I immediately surrender all navigation choices to her.

That BHPD officer probably had other far more important things on his schedule that day. Even now, I appreciate the blessing that he took the time to kindly help a visitor who was lost.

And this brings me to the real point of it all. Everywhere around us in Plumas County, we are served by caring, compassionate first responders from many local agencies and they have heavy, serious duties and responsibilities. You read about them in our Sheriff’s Blotter column. Some are funny, some aren’t.

For all the times they save someone, rescue someone, protect someone and just plain talk to us about a concern we may have, I want to say “thank you” to each and every one of them.

Ladies and gentlemen of law enforcement, fire protection, emergency services, paramedical teams and more — you do many, many good things for us in these mountain communities and I know you don’t always hear those “thank yous” that you deserve.

So please accept this giant thanks on behalf of all of us who know you and appreciate the tough work you do, the kind work you do, the thoughtful services you provide.

When we need you, there you are. And we are grateful. Thank you.