One of the reasons I love Asheville so much is that I’ve met wonderful and unique friends. We’re a pretty eclectic bunch, too, representing all age groups and all lifestyles. (These are traits I highly recommend if you’re in friend-searching mode.) And because we’re all so diverse, we like to create interesting, recreational “happenings.” As the Oscars approach this year, (the show airs March 2), I am reminded of one such event that took place last year. One of our friends hosted an Oscar Party, honoring Hollywood’s awards to its supposed best and brightest.

My “best Asheville friend” (known heretofore as BAF), Cynthia, and I decided we’d meet at Greenlife grocery store, pick up snacks for the party and leave one car in the parking lot. Then we would go together, out to the hinterlands of Fairview, where the party was in full swing.

For the next several hours, we whooped it up, hysterically laughing, voting Siskel- and Ebert-style for “Best Actor,” “Best Movie”… whatever. We even cast votes on paper ballots the hostess provided and tallied the results, booing and hissing when we differed with the consensus.

Apparently, during the course of the evening, my cell phone rang twice, but I never heard it. Too much going on. We tend to be a frenzied group.

Anyway, we said our goodnights and proceeded home. Cynthia dropped me off at the parking lot, where I got behind the wheel of my own car, for the last leg of the short trip. Since I was 15 minutes away, I decided to call my husband, suspecting he was probably asleep on the couch. But that was so not the case.

Sign at Greenlife that was posted shortly after the night in question. I have a sneaking suspicion that there is some correlation here.

His voice sounded frantic. “Where are you?” he said.

I replied, “What do you mean, where am I? I’m in my car heading home.”

He added, “Well, I’ve got the police here and I’ve just filed a missing person report.”

I thought he was kidding, until he put an officer on the line. “Ma’am,” said she, “Are you all right?”

I answered, “Yes, of course. What’s the problem?”

Her reply: “Well, when your husband tried to reach you twice, he got worried and called us. He apparently feared you might have gone off-road, ending up in a ditch. We’re in your kitchen right now.”

This thought sank in, as I imagined the patrol car, in the driveway of our condominium complex, dome light pulsating, telling neighbors, “Something’s wrong.”

Mortified, I told them I was on Merrimon Ave. and I’d be right there.

I then called my friend who was in her car, behind me. When I told her what happened, Cynthia said, “Oh, yes, I saw two police cars tailing you (ever since I told her we should become a two-woman detective team, she’s been using SVU lingo) as you left the parking lot. I wondered what was up.”

Now, it wasn’t bad enough my husband called the Weaverville police (we live in Weaverville), but apparently Weaverville police contacted the Buncombe County Sheriff’s office who oversees an eminently larger group. Now, the whole regional force was out looking for me!

I know this because I next got a call from the Buncombe County dispatch officer who asked: “Ma’am, are you all right?”

At this point, I want to say, “No, I’m not all right. My crazy husband panicked and directed police everywhere to find me — all because I somehow missed the magical curfew he created in his head.”

More insane than that, they all responded.

Here’s my takeaway: In any other town or city across America, a person must be missing two whole days before officials do anything. But not in Asheville (and that’s a comforting thought, by itself).

So be forewarned and check in with your husband or significant other if you find yourself out later than expected. Otherwise, you, too, could become the inadvertent suspect vehicle in an OJ/Bronco type chase coursing the normally quiet hills of Asheville with a band of police on your tail.

Fortunately, I wasn’t drinking. Imagine the blowback if police suspected I was tipsy, pulled me over, had me walk that imaginary line and found me wanting.

Surely, I would have been jailed (because, as I’ve shown, these folks don’t mess around). All because my hubby was in protective mode.

Colleen Kelly Mellor came to Asheville seven years ago for a quieter lifestyle, but that didn’t happen. On a mountain road, three years ago, her husband was hit head-on by a 12-year-old girl in a truck. He “died” following surgery (staff shocked him back to life), and they’ve been crawling back ever since. In this column, Mellor opines on life in Western North Carolina as only the “born again” can do. Published in the Wall St. Journal, among others, Mellor adds her senior view of a region often touted as one of America’s “Best Retirement Towns.”

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