Saturday, April 4, 2020

That Crazy COVID-19 Car Caper

It was gone!

My car was not in the parking garage where I left it.

I am currently living in an apartment complex with underground parking for all tenants. That feature costs an extra $40 a month. At that price, it is a luxury I can do without.

Across the street from the apartment is a free public parking tower. Our landlord negotiated with the city to allow tenants too cheap (or as I like to say it, too financially wise) to pay the $40 to park in the underground lot.

The city agreed. They requested these wise stewards of their wealth (okay, cheapskates) park on the third or fourth levels. No problem. I would park in the next county to save $40 a month.

On Thursday, to escape the doldrums of Utah’s stay-at-home directive, I decided to go for an early evening drive to get way from my computer. So, I grabbed my keys, put on my shoes, and walked across the street to the parking garage.

The early evening air was cool, trending towards brisk. But the sky was blue, and the sidewalks and roads were deserted -- a perfect recipe for responsible social distancing. Plus, I considered my car to be an extension of my apartment, so I saw no violation of the statewide directive.  

As usual, I climbed the stairs up to the third level of the parking garage. I clicked the unlock button to listen for the familiar beep from my ever-faithful car. That beep also reminded me where I parked. At my age, coupled with the infrequent use of my car because of COVID-19, I typically forget exactly where I park. So, the friendly beep gives me the assurance my car is nearby.

No beep.

My heart sank a bit as I feared I had left on the lights and drained the battery. A nuisance, yes, but a problem easily resolved.

I pressed the unlock button once again hoping I was simply out of range when I first tried and now my car would respond.

No beep.

So, I walked to the stall where I usually park. There was no car.

No big deal. I don’t have a reserved stall. I may have parked in a different location. I walked around the entire third level. There was no car.

Let me be clear, I am one who prides himself on obeying laws, guidelines, and directives. But, from time to time, I do park on the second level. I typically do this on Friday or Saturday when I know the people employed at the nearby offices are home for the weekend. Because so few people are going to the office these days, I remember telling myself, last time I drove the car, it would be okay to park on the second level. (So much for laws, guidelines, and directives, right.)

My sense of panic lessened as I walked down the stairs to the second level. I was confident my car would respond with its satisfying beep when I pressed the unlock button.

No beep.

As I did on the third level, I walked around that entire parking lot and could not find my car. Now I was nervous. Did someone steal my car?

Before sheer panic set it, I decided to walk up to the fourth level. I have never been up there 
intentionally. But last time drove, I was listening to a podcast about the worst-case scenario of this pandemic. It was possible that I was so invested in the dialog that I accidentally went to parts unknown in the parking garage. So, I climbed the stairs up to the fourth level.

It was like being in a strange new world. I had never seen this level of the parking garage. I felt out of place and looked around to see if someone was watching me, warning me not to step foot in this undiscovered country. I quickly looked around and did not see my car. I clicked the unlock button just in case.

No beep.

Now I was sure my car was stolen. Why else would it not be in the lot? I always parked here. There was no where else to park. But who steals a car from a public parking tower in Provo, Utah? And why my car? It just didn’t make.

As I walked back to my apartment, I kept calm by making a plan.

Step 1: Get my car’s details from the insurance papers in my filing cabinet.
Step 2: Call the Provo Police Department, not 911, to report my stolen car.
Step 3: Call my insurance company to get a rental car as a replacement until my car was located.

(Being in crisis mode does not mean you should proceed without a plan.)

But COVID-19 made this all a bit more confusing.

  • Were car rental places open?  
  • Were they considered an essential service? 
  • How would I get to the rental office to pick up my car? 
  • Were Uber, Lyft, or that pre-historic service called a taxi, considered essential services? 
  • Did I have a file with my car's insurance information?
  • Was the information on that insurance paper accurate?
When I got in my home office, I found my car insurance folder in the filing cabinet. The information on that paper was current. Things were looking up.

I googled the Provo Police Department to get their phone number. Google reported the police department was closed. Do they really close police departments? Aren’t they an essential service? Maybe that was why my car was stolen.

COVID-19 was now to blame for my misfortune.  Crazy virus!

I called anyway to see if Google might be wrong. A woman at dispatch answered. Things were looking up.

I explained I needed to report a stolen car. The dispatch lady asked if I had the vehicle identification number (VIN). I did. It was on the insurance paper. Things were really looking up.

I read her the VIN and she said she would check the database for towed vehicles. I laughed, quite smugly, and explained I parked in a public parking tower so there would be no reason to check the database. She asked details about the tower to see if I may have violated some law, guideline, or directive. I told her I never violate such things. (I failed to mention parking on the second level from time to time so as not to diminish my pretense of perfection.)

Then came the big surprise. She reported my car had been towed for parking in a red zone.

A red zone!

There are no red zones in the public parking garage. Was it possible I got caught parking on level two? No way.

Then it dawned on me what happened.

On Wednesday, I decided to go grocery shopping at 8:00 a.m. I am four months from being categorized as a senior citizen, so I couldn’t go at 7:00 a.m. I figured if I went early, I would have a better chance to purchase items hoarders had stripped from the shelves. (That’s my polite way to say toilet paper without saying toilet paper.)

I had a 90-minute window between teleconferencing meetings at work to get the store, shop, get back to the apartment, and put the perishable items in the refrigerator. This way no one at work would know I went shopping.

The more I think about, the more I see myself violating laws, guidelines, and directives all the time.

My shopping trip was a complete success. They had real toilet paper. I only took one package to fool myself into believing I am socially responsible. But the lines at the check-out counter were slower than normal.

My 90-minute window was slowly closing.

Finally, I purchased all my groceries, ran out to the car, threw in my loot, stored the cart in the proper location, and drove as quickly, yet responsibly, as possible back to my apartment. I had a total of 15 minutes before I had to host a meeting.

Time was running out.

After going shopping, I parked directly in front of my apartment building to facilitate a rapid unloading rather than parking across the street. If you only park for a few minutes, no one cares. But the place I use as my personal unloading zone is --- a red zone.

You can guess what happened next.

I had to make two trips to retrieve all my groceries from the car. After the second trip, I had to put all perishables in the refrigerator. I now had three minutes to start my meeting. I ran to my computer, launched my teleconferencing app, dialed into the meeting, and no one at work was the wiser that I had gone shopping.

Well, this meeting led to that meeting. One sent e-mail became many sent e-mails. One received e-mail multiplied into a hundred responses. My day took over and my car remained parked in the red zone for hours. Eventually the management office called the towing company and they removed my car from the red zone.

As bad as it was to have my car towed, it was far better than having it stolen. The dispatcher provided me the phone number of the towing company. I called them immediately because it was well after 5:00 and I assumed they were closing soon.

By the way, is a towing company really an essential service?

The man at the towing company told me it would cost $241 to get my car. Because they were closed, it would cost me $281 to retrieve my car the next day. I guess I sounded sad when he gave me that news, so he told me if I could be there in 20 minutes, I could pick up my car and not pay the extra money. Things were looking up.

But how would I get to the lot in 20 minutes. They had my car!

I have only lived in this apartment complex for seven months. I really don’t know anyone well enough to ask them for a ride. Plus, we have the COVID-19 crisis. That made asking a stranger for a ride socially irresponsible.

Luckily, my son lives about 15 miles away. It would be hard for him to leave his house, pick me up, and drive to the impound lot within 20 minutes. But that was my only option. So, I called him. He was not home. Now what?

I googled the address of the lot and discovered it was only 15 minutes away by bike. Better yet, the lot was right on my daily bike route. I passed by it every day. Things were looking up.

I called the towing company to explain I would be riding my bike and I would be there in 15 minutes. I put on my biking sweatshirt, my biking gloves, and my ratty old helmet. I found a rubber band to put around my pant leg so it wouldn’t get stuck in the chain. I walked my bike through my apartment, out the front door, and got to the stairwell. Then I noticed I didn’t have my car keys. I couldn’t just leave my bike in the hallway of the apartment, that would be like parking in a red zone.

I walked my bike back into the apartment, got my keys, walked back out of the apartment, locked my door, carried my bike down the stairwell, exited the front door of the apartment, and started my mad dash to the impound lot.

I had 12 minutes.

I rode as fast as I could. I was making great time. I knew I could make it in 10 minutes. That would really impress the guy who towed my car. There was only one problem. I unwisely decided I could find the lot on my own, so I did not use Google Maps. The lot was on a side street and not directly on my bike route. Still, I could read street signs, so I didn’t need GPS to tell me where to go.

I got lost.

After crossing into Springville, I realized I had gone too far. Going too far in a car is no problem. But going too far in a bike costs precious time. I put the address of the lot in Google Maps and followed its instructions to the lot. In total, it took 22 minutes to get there. I was two minutes late.

I knocked on the front door of the impound lot. No one answered.

I tried to open the door. It was locked.

I knocked louder. No one answered.

I walked over to the lot and saw my car sitting there looking sad. I am sure it felt abandoned.

Near the locked gate of the lot was the sign for the business which included the phone number. Last time I called, I used my work phone, so the number was not on my mobile phone’s recent list. I called the number hoping someone would answer. As I waited, I walked back to the front door of the building.

At last, the towing guy answered the phone. I told him I was just a few minutes late and wondered how we could arrange for me to rescue my car. The man said he could see me from his tow truck. I looked to my left, and there, 15 feet away, was the man sitting in his tow truck.

He saw me ride up to the front door.

He saw me knock on the door.

He saw me investigate the impound lot.

He saw me dial him on my phone.

He knew I would be arriving on bike.

Why did he wait for me to call him?

Well, I placed my credit card and driver’s license on the side of his tow truck and moved away six feet.

He verified the car was mine, ran the credit card through his handheld machine, filled out the paperwork, and backed away six feet.

I signed the paperwork and the credit card receipt and backed away six feet.

He unlocked the chain link fence opened the gate.

Then we just stared at each other. I thought he was going to get in my car and drive out off the lot. Then I remembered. He towed the car. I had the keys.

I walked in the lot and pressed the unlock button.

It beeped.

I drove out of the impound lot, loaded the bike in my car, and drove home. This time I parked the car on the third level of the parking tower.

Obviously, COVID-19 is to blame for this crazy car caper.

Monday, November 18, 2013

What of the Ninety and Nine?

As my final blog post, I wanted to include the text of the letter I read in Sacrament meeting. While it is impossible to adequately capture the torrent of emotions that come from being released, I tried to summarize our almost four-years experience into a short one-page letter.

Please understand how very much Sister Heiss and I grew to love each one of you. You are a light in our lives that will never dim. With the power of social media, it will be simple to stay in touch in the short and long term. Please keep us posted on the great things you will accomplish.

We love you all very much.

                                                                            Sunday, November 17,  2013                      
Dear Amy:
It seems odd that I would use my last opportunity to address my ward from this pulpit by reading a letter to you. Odd, because you are not a member of this ward. In fact, we only recently became acquainted as you and Scott participated in my marriage prep discussions.

So, why read a letter to you on this of all Sundays?

Well, in the short time we have known each other, I see in this relationship a microcosm of the miracle of this ward. So though I am writing a letter to you, I am really writing a letter to all ward members --past and present.  

One of the most intimidating aspects of being a Bishop is the amount of trust ward members afforded me without even knowing who I am. I realize it is the office of Bishop that they trust and not so much in me as a person. But the key to working successfully with people is transforming that automatic trust to a more personal trust.

As we met together, I saw your trust in my calling quickly change to a personal trust. It is so strange how that happened but I sincerely appreciated it. You had no need to trust me. I was not your Bishop. Still, you trusted. This miracle happened repeatedly as I worked with my ward members. I feel this personal trust was the direct result of you feeling genuinely loved.

My guess is that throughout your life you did all those things that were expected of you. Because of your goodness, most priesthood and young women leaders worried less about you than they did about others; hence, your needs, which were real, were mostly ignored.

For the most part this probably didn't bother you. But over time, this benign neglect as a result of your good choices left you on the periphery. Leaders will say that they were following Christ’s example and leaving the ninety and nine to seek after the one. I do not agree with that. True, there are times when extra effort must be devoted to those who wander, but what about the ninety and nine?

We learn in Isaiah 53:6 we are all like sheep and we all go astray, everyone to his own way. This verse became the genesis of a grand experiment I performed in the laboratory of this ward. What would happen if all ward members were treated with special attention? What if I assumed that none were of the ninety and nine?

It took time to develop this idea, but through you, I saw that we had truly accomplished this goal. You were able to develop that personal trust in me, because you felt loved. Through small and simple acts of kindness, be it a cheer note, a sincere compliment, a heart to heart conversation, or just a smile, the miracle of this ward was manifest in the love and community we have enjoyed and still enjoy to this day.

As I have often said, we are all in leaky boats on the ocean of mortality. At times we need others to help us stay afloat. Sometimes others need us to keep them afloat. The key to our success in mortality is our ability to love (by helping others bail out their boats) and to be loved (by allowing others to help us bail out our boats).

Thank you, Amy, for allowing us to love you.


Reid Heiss

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

We Can Do Better

We Can Do Better
I am once again deeply concerned about the social media posting that has been so bitter during this current political crisis. I raised this concern over a year ago when we faced a hard-fought election season and challenged ward members not to get caught up in the lack of civility that was so prevalent. I was deeply impressed that ward members heeded this challenge and kept their dialog civil.

I feel it is of no small coincidence that two Apostles (Elder Perry and Elder Anderson) reminded us of the importance of the 12th Article of Faith which reads:

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Focus for a minute in the terms “obeying, honoring, and sustain.” Where, in these admonitions, are we encouraged to be rude, close-minded, or disrespectful?

Now add to this the following words from President Hinckley:

Civility is the root of the word civilization. It carries with it the essence of courtesy, politeness, and consideration of others. How very much of it we have lost in our contemporary society! All of the education and accomplishments in the world will not count for much unless they are accompanied by marks of gentility, of respect for others, of serving as a good Samaritan, of being men and women who look beyond our own selfish interests to the good of others. Our Fading Civility, June 10, 2008.
In light of these two powerful concepts, let me offer some suggestions.

The height of disrespect, which runs counter to President Hinckley’s counsel, comes in name calling of elected officials. I have seen Face Book posts referring to President Obama a liar, slime ball, dictator, and as Satan incarnate. These irresponsible and childish epithets were found on Face Book pages hosted by members of the Church. In my opinion, when we resort to name calling, we dilute our own voices in the conversation and become nothing more than annoying static.

A sure sign of an impotent argument is when the one framing it insists on absolutes. The minute we assume ours is the only true and living opinion, we become close-minded and are no longer contributors to the political arena. There are no absolutes in politics.

When we blur the lines between our religion and our politics we run the risk of assuming that we speak for God or as God as we pontificate our beliefs. God is not American. He is not a member of any party. While our religiosity can shape our politics, it cannot become our politics.

Please remember this; America is a conversation and not a blunt instrument. The Framers of our Constitution clearly understood that this nation would evolve and change in content and complexity. They purposely left us a document and political process that could ebb and flow with those changes. 

The best way to join that conversation is to integrate President Hinckley’s counsel for civility. We all can do better at constantly seeking to obey, honor, and sustain the law.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What is your Balcony


Ward Date Night

To those new in the ward the concept of Ward Date Night may be new. So let me take a minute to explain. 

In reality, Ward Date Night is no different than any other ward activity. We have a committee that plans it. We try to do things that are fun. There is usually food. Most important, it costs you nothing. 

So, if that sounds like a normal ward activity, why do we call it Ward Date Night?

Simple, you all attend this ward activity with a date. 

But how do we do that?

Again, that is simple. The Ward Date Night committee not only plans and executes the activity, they also assign who will be going with whom. Now that may seem like a restriction of your agency. Well, get over it. It is just for an hour or two and there in no pressure to create from this data a lasting relationship. It is just a date, nothing more, nothing less. 

Here is how it works.

1. The Ward Date Night leaders announce when the activity will take place and what we will be doing. 

2. They send around a sign up sheet to get as many of youth sign up as possible. 

3. They personally contact all those who did not sign up to make sure no one was missed.

4. They make sure we have an even number of guys and girls so that each person is actually on a date.

5. They inform the guys who their date will be. 

6. The guys must ask the girls at least three days prior to the activity. 

7. On the day of the activity, the guy picks up the girl and takes her to the activity.

8. When the activity is over, the guy takes the girl home. 

It couldn't be any easier. 

Now, if you are a committed relationship, a commitment you have both agreed upon, you let the Ward Date Night leaders know and they will not assign you a date.

Our first Ward Date Night will be this Saturday. We have reserved the Wlikinson Center bowling ally for just our ward at 10:00 a.m. We have one hour of free bowling. After that hour, we will go upstairs to a room we reserved in the Wlik for some light refreshments. 

I know you are all busy, but this active will take less than two hours on a Saturday. 

Remember, this is a commandment. As it states in D&C 139:1

"Thou shalt all attend Ward Date Night ."

It is hard to argue with scriptures, even those I make up. 

If you are still confused, please see this link from last year to gain greater clarity.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Jesus Wept

image Now I think I better understand the poignancy of these two small words buried deep in John 11.

As you are aware, Jesus wept when he arrived at the home of his dear friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Lazarus had been dead for three days and Mary and Martha had been hit hard by this untimely and even preventable tragedy. Upon seeing the pain this death had caused His friends and perhaps struggling to understand His own emotions, Jesus wept.

But why?

More than anyone, Jesus knew the Plan of Salvation. He knew where Lazarus was. Jesus knew that Lazarus’ pain was over. Lazarus had fought a good fight and finished the race. Christ was aware that death is merely a passage way each of us will take in our journey back to that God who gave us life.

Yet, He wept. Despite all that He knew and despite who He was, Jesus wept.


Biblical scholars all have their insights into this seemingly strange reaction. But having just gone through the death of a dear friend, I think I have an explanation -- at least one that suits my current needs.

I am on firm doctrinal ground when I state that Christ, as a mortal, had to experience the full onslaught of the human experience in order to qualify to be our advocate to the Father. Yes, the preponderance of this suffering could only come through His atoning experience, that much is for sure. But a critical part of His ability to heal our pain and dry our tears comes from what He experienced during His own life.

image I am convinced that Jesus wept because this may have been the first time He experienced death so closely. He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead. He told his apostles this well before they arrived. But the theory of death is always much simpler to understand that the reality of death.

I feel Jesus wept because of His great love for Lazarus. Add to this the deep mourning of  Mary and Martha whom He loved as well. He wept because He grieved the untimely death of a good friend. He wept because the death of a loved one is hard.

image But, there is hope even amidst the pain. For Christ, during this same experience stated the only words that can bring peace to a grieving soul:

I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.

Our family will miss our dear friend Dorothy Gillespie. We will grieve. We will weep. But we have hope that though she is dead, yet shall she live.

I thank each of you for your words of support and prayers during this difficult time.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Trojan Horses

image Growing up, one of my all-time favorite stories from Greek mythology was the tale of the Trojan Horse. As you may recall, Greece was in a lengthy 10 year war with Troy. The Greeks had besieged the city of Troy but the war drug on with no end in sight.

In a bold act of desperation, the Greek army constructed a beautiful wooden horse to offer the people of Troy as a gift of the city’s bravery and tenacity in their ability to hold out against the seemingly overpowering military

After completing the horse, the Greek invaders wheeled it up to the city gate, marched down to the sea,  boarded their ships, and the entire army sailed back home. Or so it seemed. Little did the people of Troy know that hidden within this wonderful “gift” was a number of Greek soldiers.

The people of Troy celebrated their hard fought victory -- a celebration that likely included wine flowing freely late into the night. Unconcerned about an entirely inebriated populous, the people partied until all were in a deep, drunken sleep.

image In the cover of darkness, the men inside the horse crept out and opened all the city gates to the Greek army that had secretly returned. In a matter of minutes, the magnificent city of Troy fell to the invading army – a city that defiantly withstood that same army for years.

While it is disputed if these events ever really happened, story teaches us some important lessons. Throughout our lives we will all face a myriad of personal Trojan Horses. By that I mean we will be tempted to let down our guard to something that seems so innocent only to become easy prey to forces that wish to destroy us. Let me enumerate a few such personal Trojan Horses.

image Honesty is a virtue we all wish to possess but it can be misused. I am convinced that honesty devoid of kindness is nothing more the rudeness hidden inside a Trojan Horse. We must be ever vigilant in how we say things to others because words really do count. James called the tongue “a little member that boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth” (James 3:5).

Sensitivity is a better companion to honesty. We must refrain from using honesty as a weapon. This is especially true with your roommates and friends. To be honest without sensitivity is, in my opinion, a sign of immaturity. It may have worked in High School, but it does not bode well in the adult world.

image Another Trojan Horse is the incessant need to be right. Yes, this is a paradox. We are taught to be right in all that we do. I am not talking about doing right. Rather, I am talking about setting ourselves apart as the fountain of all knowledge. When our opinions or our practices become absolute in our minds, our only course of action is to diminish those who think differently. This is not a Christ-like attribute. Tolerance must replace our desire to prove to the world the we are right.

image Being too casual among others is one of the tricky Trojan Horses. We live a very casual society. But being casual too easily leads to gross and indecent behavior. Conversations about body functions, body parts, and bodily fluids, will initially be funny but do little to bring one closer to Christ. Yes, like a Trojan Horse, such juvenile behavior seems innocent on the outside, but inside the deception of casualness is a festering pool of disrespect and lewdness that we need not entertain.

image A final Trojan Horse I wish to comment on is that of physical intimacy. In a developing relationship, physical intimacy has its place. (Yes, I struggle to say that.) When properly used it can create a bond between a couple and provide clarity in a relationship. However, when used as a form of conquest, meaning such expressions are merely a tool to satisfy a selfish desire or to boast of one’s own powers, you cheapen the experience.

I am convinced that God is not pleased when we become casual with the tender feelings of others. The prophet Jacob warned the Nephites to respect the tender feelings of others. I feel a cavalier attitude toward physical intimacy is nothing more the a Trojan Horse that will lead to hurt and confusion.

These are just a sampling of potential personal Trojan Horses. As always, I am open to a vigorous and lively debate.