Some days I consider myself fairly clever. And then I have days like today.
I walk the dog with military-like regularity and have for many years. After hundreds (thousands?) of walks over the last eighteen years, the names of people living in the many houses we pass by remain largely unknown to me but I often can recite the names of their pets and also notice how they keep their houses. At least the outside of them. Kind of a one-woman Neighborhood Watch.
This morning, when driving the kid to school, I noticed the open garage door of the guy two houses away from us. It remained open when I returned home half an hour later. We’ve been neighbors with this man for more than ten years. He’s meticulous about his house and his cars. Didn’t feel right. Ringing the doorbell and knocking on the door produced nothing. Our newly widower-ed neighbor next to Garage Door Guy wasn’t sitting as usual in his chair by the big picture window. No need to bother him if he slept and there was only an outside chance that he had his neighbor’s contact information anyway. Garage Door Guy would wave to us but he had never started a conversation. We respected that. No judgement – he seemed to simply want peace.
What to do? There had been thefts in this neighborhood before. Many years ago, tweekers stole our car right out of our driveway. Same thing happened few houses just to the south of us a year or two later. Although we consider it a good neighborhood, we didn’t leave our valuables outside. Too tempting to the druggies looking for income. Stupid druggies. I briefly contemplated sneaking into the garage and tripping the garage door from the inside and running out before it closed. Except the packed garage offered no quick egress. Too many ways to get tripped up. Plus, I didn’t want to trigger any alarms, having no interest in winding up in the pokey myself.
Standing in GDG’s driveway for a long while, looking up and down the street, it occurred to me that – if I did nothing and the house was robbed – I could never live with my inaction. I walked home and rang the non-emergency number of the local police. Because I’m THAT person. The nosy, irritating neighbor lady, just a few years away from shaking my fist at whippersnappers, shouting “GET OFF MY LAWN!”
Less than twenty minutes later, a police car parked across the street and down the hill from GDG. I slid my shoes back on and went out to speak with them.
“HEY! ARE YOU HERE ABOUT THE GARAGE?” I yelled to them from across the street.
Their apparent alarm surprised me. Why did they park so far away from the GDG house?
I started to explain my reasoning for calling but the first officer kept interrupting me and pulling me into the nearest driveway. The other officer remained next to his patrol car, speaking into the radio fitted to the shoulder of his uniform.
What the -?
The first guy listened to me patiently, all the while keeping his eyes on the house. Irritating. He asked me if I would be at home for a while, if they needed to speak with me.
“Of course. Anything you need.”
Walking home, I wondered – as I often do when I meet people – what could have annoyed them the most about that conversation? Because they seemed annoyed.
I emptied the dish drainer and tidied up the counter as I watched from the kitchen window. We could see GDG’s driveway if we strained over the counter and against the window glass. Officers One and Two stood in the driveway talking to each other. Two more patrol units showed up. Huh. That’s weird. One extra patrol car drove up the hill and the other drove down to the end of the street.
Wow – there sure are a lot of police around today.
Fifteen minutes later, One and Two climbed into their patrol car and drove away. Steve had just finished with his telephone meeting. He works from home a lot.
Steve might not have called the police. He often wears his glasses rose-colored. He doesn’t like to think bad things are happening. There was that one time I watched a jeep slow down in front our mailbox pedestal and a guy jump out. It was nearly one in the morning.
My “Hey – what are you guys doing?” shout-out prompted the jeep to speed off, leaving the guy on foot to run pell mell out of the neighborhood. I thought they were up to no good. Steve didn’t. Maybe they were just kids goofing around. The good people at 911 agreed with me.
“You WHAT?!” Steve shook his head in disbelief when I filled him in about GDG and the police. He started to laugh when I told him about going out and talking with them.
As he laughed, it finally dawned on me why One and Two seemed so annoyed and cautious, and why there were two other patrol cars: THEY THOUGHT THE HOUSE MIGHT BE ACTIVELY BEING ROBBED.
Yep. I shouted to them, possibly alerting burglars to the police presence. Possibly put myself at risk by hanging out in front of the open garage door.
It turns out the house did not get robbed. Steve thinks they must have searched the house to be certain and then they somehow shut the garage door. So all is well. Someone must have simply forgotten to shut the door when they left for work in the morning.
We laughed at my idiocy for a good part of the dog walk. Steve thought they might have been tempted to taze me to shut me the hell up. I don’t think I could have come off as more hillbilly, except for maybe trying to follow them into the house. Minnie Peal could not have done worse – my head simply lacked a straw hat with a dangling price tag.
Look it up, whippersnappers.
Life has a way of taking us down a notch when we get too full of ourselves. A re-balancing of sorts. Today was that day for me. Today, I was not a clever girl…