Michelle left home last Sunday and headed to Stamford, CT for a week-long BLP (Business Leadership Program) Symposium. She arrived in Atlanta last night since her first rotation will be at the Alpharetta office. Unfortunately, Atlanta didn’t extend its southern hospitality to our little girl and instead almost rendered her homeless.

Our daughter knew that her furniture wouldn’t arrive until next week, and so the plan was to get something from Walmart to sleep on for the first few nights. Yesterday her flight was delayed, which made the Walmart trip more and more unrealistic. Joe and I were tolerably concerned. It was a relief when Michelle informed us that she had met a couple of older BLPs at the airport and one of them could loan her an air mattress. She picked up the mattress from her new friend’s place and was dropped off outside her own apartment building.

In spite of promises that someone would be there to give Michelle the key to her studio, there was nobody at the office. For an hour, she tried in vain to find anyone to help her. It was after 11 pm and she had no choice but to check into a hotel. Michelle’s apartment is in downtown Alpharetta, at the center of a high-end shopping mall surrounded by restaurants and hotels. The first hotel was fully booked and she was advised to try the one nearby. Michelle called her dad when the second one had no vacancy either. I could hear her voice cracking and I myself was on the brink of tears. “It’s almost midnight. How long will my poor girl have to wander the streets with her big suitcase, carry-on bag, the air mattress and other little things? What if she can’t find a place to stay for the night? Oh my God, my baby will be homeless!” The chilling thought made a mother’s heart jump.

Meanwhile Dad was trying to get hold of the building maintenance department. After being on hold for God knows how long, a live voice came on the line. After a brief description of the situation, Joe demanded that the guy call Michelle right away and deliver the key to her. He promised he would. By this time Michelle had found a room and checked in. She was too exhausted to drag herself and her luggage back onto the street. But the sad thing was the maintenance guy didn’t contact her.

Saturday morning the first thing on Michelle’s mind was to get her car which was parked at the parking lot of a towing company (the moving company drove it there). She was told that she needed to show proof of ownership and a payment of $152 in order to drive the car away. Joe and I were on our way to Jane’s bridal shower and couldn’t immediately produce the proof. The situation called for Tiger Mama to show her teeth. I picked up the phone and called the towing company. Within minutes, it was all settled: Michelle would show her ID to pick up her vehicle without additional payment. Getting into the apartment took another couple of hours because the agent wasn’t there and someone who didn’t know much had to step into her shoes (I will call the building management on Monday and let them have a piece of my mind!). As of now, Michelle is residing in a bare room with the very basic necessities to get though the next few days.

Throughout the planning process, we only offered Michelle help or advice when she asked for it. Dad stated after our daughter settled down, he would discuss with her about lesson learned. For one thing, one can’t assume that things will always go smoothly or people will keep their word. If something is important to you, you’ll have to follow up and push it though. For example, Michelle should have made more concrete plans about when, how and from whom to get her apartment key. I responded to my husband: “She is only twenty-two, don’t be too hard on her.”

Alas, welcome to the real world, baby!