This actually happened in March of 2005, but I was looking at my old blog and laughing over this story, so I thought I would share it.
We signed up to host a Japanese engineering student for 3 weeks. Y attended college in Tokyo, and came here for about 3 weeks. Each student stays with a volunteer family. We had three other families in our neighborhood who are also hosting students.
The boys arrived Thursday evening, dead on their feet from jetlag. They were expected to be at the college at 8:30 the next morning. We put together a carpool with the families in our neighborhood so we weren't all driving every day. So, it was my turn to pick up the boys after school the first day.
I arrive at the university and get in the car pickup line. I get up to the front, and tell the translator who I am picking up. Three of the four boys hop in, including Y. I ask about the fourth, and they point to another car and say he's riding with them. I told them I was supposed to bring him home. I ended up having a couple of admin types there, and they assured me everything was ok. I was really unsettled about the whole thing, but felt like I had no choice but to leave. Especially since the other car had already left!
I immediately called S, the host mom to the boy. Got voice mail. Told her what had happened, and that it just wasn't sitting well with me. I just knew that S would've called me if there had been a change in plans. Asked her to call me back.
So around 6pm, S calls me, and I can tell two things. 1- She hasn't gotten my voice mail. 2- Her student never made it home.
She and I go into full panic mode and she begins calling the other host families and administrators on the list, trying to figure out where this kid has gone. He finally got back to Sarah's place about 8:30pm.
Long story short, here's what happened: Another host parent, who shall hereafter be referred to as "Kidnapper" had a carpool going with HostFamily3. Kidnapper was supposed to pick up on Tue, Wed, and Thur, and keep the student until 7pm. Since it was FRIDAY (duh!), Hostfamily3 had come, picked up their student and left before Kidnapper arrived. So Kidnapper arrives, gets his student, and thinks KidnapVictim is his other charge ("Since they all look alike" he said). Tells him to get in the car.
They go merrily on their way, not knowing there was a problem til 7pm. When Hostfamily3 doesn't come to pick up their student, things begin to fall into place. By this time, all of the instructors and half of the host families are aware of the situation and are in full blown panic.
Poor kidnapvictim is so upset and traumatized by the whole thing that he begins to cry. Poor kid is probably exhausted due to jet lag, doesn't speak English, and has been in the US less than 24 hours. I felt so bad for him.
I felt so awful for my role in the thing. I don't know what more I could've done, short of flinging myself in front of the other car.
It could be worse though. I could have inadvertently kidnapped one of the students! LOL