Tuesday, July 19, 2005

9-1-1 put me on hold

I'm sure that's actually not uncommon, but it is rather disconcerting to know that, in the event of a true emergency, I might have to wait several minutes on the phone. But why was I calling 9-1-1 in the first place, you ask?

I was sitting in the living room playing in the floor with Luke when I noticed a person walking outside the side window of my house. Now, this in and of itself is not unusual. On that side of the property, our house sits less than 10 feet from the property line, and our neighbors house is equally close. Our yards are separated by a chain link fence. If someone was walking through the gate into his yard, that person would still seem to be rather close to my house. So I walk closer to the window to peek out. Our windows go down to about a foot from the floor, but the house sits a few feet off the ground. I keep all of the blinds raised an additional 2 feet or so for the cats, but with the top parts still closed, so my view was limited. It is also not unusual for our neighbor to have people (usually doing some kind of yard or housework) come by during the day while he is at work. But something about the young man walking around in our neighbor's back yard set off various alarms, though I can't specify what or why.

To clarify a few points before you start wondering. Yes, the young man was black. Yes, DH and I are white. But actually, in this case, a *white* guy dressed similarly wandering around in that guy's back yard would have been even stranger, seeing as our neighbor is black himself. So, I'm trying to convince myself that he's just out of town, and this guy is his nephew or something come to do a house check. But I'm still uncomfortable about this particular person. Well, if there's a vehicle, then it's probably legit. I open the front door and walk along until I can see his driveway; no car. Obviously not a handyman or someone doing the yard. I go back in the house. Maybe he rode a bike that I can't see from my position. Maybe he's just there to water the lawn? He does seem to be fiddling with the spigot, but he's not hooking up a hose or something. With the position of the neighbor's deck in the back, I can't get a clear view of the guy or what he is doing. I do know that he's wearing very wide legged baggy black pants, a black t-shirt, and black sneakers with no laces and the tongues curled over the toes. Surely no one doing any kind of professional services would be dressed that way. And he's spending a lot of time sitting on and fiddling with something on the deck.

I don't sit there and stare. I certainly don't want to draw attention to myself. Maybe he'll be gone in a bit, and I'll just mention it to my neighbor when he gets home. So I check every 5-10 minutes, just to see if he's still there. Yep, he is. This started around 11:15. By 1 PM, I have come to the conclusion that it has to be one of two things: either this kid is staying with him for some reason and is locked out of the house, or this kid is up to something he shouldn't be. As long as he stays in the neighbor's yard and doesn't do anything "stranger" than what he's doing, I will accept the fact that *I* am the one who is being jumpy and just mention it to my neighbor. At 1:15, I don't see him anywhere. Fine by me. I was still just uncomfortable with the fact that he had been there, but the kid didn't break into the neighbor's house (I was probably on higher alert even than normal, given flyers passed out a couple of months ago about a break in near by), and Luke and I are fine, so no big deal.

Then, at 1:45, I see movement out that same window again. The kid is back? I stand up to start walking over to the window to peek out again, but before I leave the living room, I see movement again. Out a different window. The windows on the back of *my* house. This kid is now in MY yard. And I am having none of that. He may have had some legitimate reason for being in my neighbor's yard, but he has absolutely NO business being in my yard, much less that close to my house (he was essentially standing directly beneath my kitchen window, close enough to touch my house, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to see him from where I was in the living room through one of the windows in our breakfast nook). It's not like he was playing with a ball or something that hopped the fence. And he stayed there for a couple of minutes. I know because my eyes never left him while I found the phone (it's cordless; had to dig it out of the blanket on the couch) and dialed 9-1-1.

"DeKalb 9-1-1 is currently experiencing heavy call volume. Please do not hang up. Someone will be with you as soon as possible." Great. I know it's not a life threatening emergency (well, not yet), but there is no direct number for the police anymore. If you need a cop for any reason, you *must* dial 9-1-1. And having someone strange who may or may not have been scoping out my house for future break in while I am home alone with a 9-month-old is just not cool! So I wait. It took 3-4 minutes to get an operator. In this amount of time, the kid has left my yard and returned to my neighbor's. He has also hooked up a hose to the spigot, so I am starting to doubt myself (but why was he just hanging out for the previous 2.5 hours then?).

The operator finally comes on asking for "the address where the emergency is occurring." I give it to her. Apparently, I didn't sound panicked enough for her to then ask me about the problem, so she then proceeds to ask me another series of questions. Residence or business? Apartment or house? Name? Phone number? And at last, we get to "what is the reason for your call?" (I know all this is procedure and that it is necessary information, but I'd really like for you to ask me what the problem is if I consider the situation critical enough that I actually called! I can only assume that if I had been hysterical, she would have asked sooner.) So I tell her that I am home alone with my baby and that there is a man I do not know wandering around my back yard and my neighbor's yard, and that I do not wish to confront him about it by myself. She asks for a description, then asks if I can see him and what is he doing. At that moment, he was again sitting on the neighbor's deck fiddling with something I cannot see. She says that a car has been sent and that she will wait on the line with me until they arrive.

I move to the front door (losing site of the window) to be ready to unlock it (keyed deadbolt), in case I need to speak with the police. She asks me if he is still back there, and when I move back to the window, I can no longer see him. Just then, the police car pulls up in front of my driveway. I hang up with her and watch. I assume one of them will come to the door, but they do not. One goes in the gate on the right of the house, one goes in the gate on the left side of the house, and they enter my back yard. I can pretty much only see them from shoulders to knees, due to the height and position of our windows. They sure didn't take much time back there. Instead, I see them moving in a purposeful fashion (not running, but not meandering) back to their car. They jump in and drive off.

Um, okay. What, you went back there, didn't see anything, and left? That can't be right. And sure enough, less than 5 minutes later, I see movement again out that same side window, but this time it's the two cops. They look around briefly, then leave. I really thought one of them would come talk to me, seeing as I am the one who called it in, but it wasn't something I needed right then. It was now *way* past Luke's naptime, so I take him upstairs and put him down in my bed, and I laid down with him, though I surely didn't sleep. It is now about 2:30. I contemplated calling DH to come home right then, but there really wasn't a reason to do so (besides me still being a little jumpy/nervous, and feeling slightly stupid since apparently the police didn't find anything), especially since he would be leaving work anyway in about an hour. Due to a large thunderstorm, Luke slept less than 30 minutes, waking up to super-loud claps of thunder, with less than a second between flash and bang. (Stay with me, this will be relevant momentarily.) DH comes home, we rehash events, and he assures me that I was right to call, even if it was totally innocent, though it looks like we'll never know. I did decide to mention it to my neighbor, though, "sometime" (without setting an actual time, which was not smart).

Fast forward to about 8:30 PM. The doorbell rings. My first thought is that it's the police, finally come to ask me about the afternoon, but it seems odd to be doing so this late, particularly without calling first. Luke is in the middle of his pre-bed bottle (which DH usually gives him), so he passes Luke and bottle to me and goes to answer the door. It's our neighbor. And I am ready to just slink into the floor. I just *know* he's about to say that we got his nephew or the son of a friend in trouble that afternoon by calling the police. But after the general pleasantries are exchanged, I hear the most astonishing words: "I just wanted to say thank you. I don't know if it was you or your wife who called the police this afternoon, but I appreciate you looking out for me and my home."

Come again? Since I was the one who was actually home when it happened, I got up and went to the door. I actually hadn't spoken to our neighbor before. DH had, and I've waved to him plenty as we passed each other in our cars and things, but he and I had never actually been introduced. (Oops.) He is a large man, about 6'3" and roughly 200 pounds, very fit, and just as nice as he can possibly be (I remember DH commenting on how pleasant he was when they spoke previously). I just couldn't believe he knew, so I asked, "How on earth did you know that I called the police? They didn't even speak with me. I can't imagine that they left you a note or something just for checking your yard?"

And now, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story...." Our neighbor has a tree in his back yard that has a tendency to lose limbs during particularly nasty storms. One had fallen over the weekend, and since he knew there had been a bad storm that afternoon (see, I *told* ya it was important), he wanted to see if any more were down and to go on and pick up the fallen one. But the fallen branch had been moved from it's original position. He thought that odd, but figured it might have happened with the all the wind. So he kept walking around his house, and then he noticed that the paint cans that he keeps under the deck were now sitting on the deck; very odd. But the clincher was seeing the water hose hooked up to the spigot, which he knew without a doubt was now how he had left it.

So he went in and called the police, who then told him that a neighbor (they didn't say which one, but he knows that I'm home all day, so I guess it was obvious) had called in a strange boy who was hanging out in his back yard earlier in the afternoon. Turns out he had jumped the neighbor's fence into the subdivision behind us when the police showed up in my yard, and the police drove around the other side and caught him. The kid was trying to get high off the paint that he kept under the deck. Our neighbor said he didn't know the kid at all, didn't know why he picked that house, or how on earth he knew there was paint back there, so either it was luck, or the kid has been scoping out the houses in the area for some reason or the other. But, he was very grateful for me keeping an eye on things and certainly appreciated me taking action and calling the cops. "And I want you to know that I keep an eye on your house as well. You can be sure I'll be watching more carefully now." That may have been the single best thing we ever could have done for the future security of our house! I know he will certainly be keeping an eye on ours from now on.

Isn't that strange? The longer I live, the more convinced I am that there is such a thing as instinct or intuition, and perhaps we should all listen to it a little more often. Why is it that *this* person tipped off my senses when none of the others have? Why is it that I knew I needed to keep an eye on him and not put Luke down for a nap just yet? I can't explain it, but I'm so happy I did.

Currently feeling: enforceful (not sure that's a real word, but hey, it's *my* blog and I'll make up words if I want)

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