I Almost Went To Jail For Grand Theft Auto (Because Sleep Deprivation)

by Mary Katherine
michaeljung / iStock

I was on day five of serious sleep deprivation when I strolled into Starbucks, looking like a hungover zombie.

I ordered a triple venti crackuccino and stalked the counter waiting for my order to be up. When the barista called my name, I swiped that cup of caffeine from her hands so fast and chugged half of it like a frat boy on a wild Saturday night. If you’ve ever done mornings with a toddler and a baby, you understand why this was necessary.

Aaaaaaaaaaah, caffeine.

When that first shot of espresso found its way into my bloodstream, the fog lifted ever so slightly. I was feeling less undead by the minute, so after a few more sips I figured it was time to put on my big girl panties and face the day. No, better than that: I was ready to conquer my day!

Riding a caffeine high, I grabbed my keys and headed to the parking lot.

Get ready, world.

There my minivan sat, in its usual spot. I tugged the door open, mindlessly juggling a purse, my cup, and the half-spilled bevvy I picked up for my hubby. I plopped down in the driver’s seat and placed my drinks in the cup holders. I threw my purse on the floorboard and flipped open the mirror to check for chin hairs. I was bummed to discover an overhead light was out.

Huh. That sucks. Didn’t even know that was possible…

Then I noticed that something smelled funny. I checked the seat behind me to see if I left yesterday’s lunchbox in the sun to rot. This had happened before, but nope. No sign of lunchbox. Also, no sign of the second car seat.

Boy, that’s weird. I could’ve sworn I had two kids this morning. *shrug*

Maybe it was how the sun was streaming through the windows, but I started to wonder if I was seeing things. That leather interior sure looked…black. And mine is tan, right? Yah, definitely tan.

I think.

Maybe I need more coffee. Or maybe I’ve had too much coffee.

Or — UH OH — maybe I’m having a legitimate breakdown.

I was beginning to panic, like one of those characters in a scary movie. You know, the one where strangers sneak into the house and change around little things? They move the coffee pot, switch a light off, and all the while the homeowner is going bonkers like, I swear I left that pot over there…

Yah, that.

Strange smell. Missing car seat. Weird interior.

But, y’all, I got in this car with my keys. Right?! I clicked the button and everything!

I grabbed the key, shoved it in the ignition, and turned it.


I tried again.


And that is when I noticed the wallet-sized picture taped to the dash.

Well, that kid was definitely adorable. And he was definitely my son’s age.

But he was definitely not my son.

There were Mardi Gras beads dangling from the rearview mirror and that is when it hit me that:

Holy crap, I am sitting in a stranger’s car!

I am in their front seat, y’all. With the freaking door closed! I’m using their cup holders.

What do I do?!

The obvious answer would be to get out of the car, and quickly. Of course, that wasn’t an option for me as I had just placed two Starbucks cups in the holders and thrown my purse on the floorboard, spilling half of its contents. I was freaking out, scrambling to put my purse back together, and escape unseen.

Gum, in! Water bottle, in! Tampons, in! Sippy cup, in! Let’s GTFO.

I ducked out of the strange van and hustled across the parking lot, looking back over my shoulder every two steps like act cool, act cool, act cool. I got to the spot where my identical minivan sat without being noticed by a single person.


I balanced my cups on the hood of the van and dug around my purse for the keys and…

Oh my lord!

You guessed it.

By this time, the stranger was getting into her minivan, and I had to run over there and explain — this is the absolute most embarrassing thing ever — but “Hi, I was sitting in your van a minute ago trying to go home, and I left my keys behind.”

This is where it gets good.

Y’all, she laughed, like genuine, hysterical laughter.

She totally saw me sitting in her car and couldn’t decide whether to call the police or give it a minute to see how it played out. And lucky me (I think?), I got out of her car just seconds before she decided I was trying to steal it.

Help me, Jesus, I almost went to jail that day. Sleep deprivation literally almost put me in the slammer.

Instead, I made a new friend, a good-humored mama who happens to have an adorable little boy my son’s age.

And bonus?

She also has excellent taste in minivans.