Queen Anne Hill - Seattle, Washington
August 8, 2012
At bedtime, the last person up the stairs is usually me, Mr. Responsible.
I’m the closer.
A combination chief of security, safety officer and night watchman.
Every household has one.
There is a routine:
Cars in the driveway locked down for the night? - check.
Front door, closed and locked? - check.
Kitchen door? - check.
Porch windows and door? - check.
Annoying toilet in the downstairs bathroom that runs all night if you don’t giggle its handle a few times? check.
Lights all switched off? - check.
The house is as locked down as I can make it.
Up the stairs I go.
After showering, I turn the rest of the lights out.
Sweet dreams, sleep loose . . I mutter, as I drift off.
The day, the house, the conscious life - all done for now.
Eight bongs from the marine clock in the fireplace room.
(Note that no mention was made in the routine about setting the built-in electronic security system featuring motion sensors.
I’m the only one who has ever tripped the alarm - three times.
All hell breaks lose when it fires - ceiling sirens, phone calls from the system monitor who demands that I give her codes and information I cannot remember when all hell breaks loose.
And the police came a couple of times.
So I never set the thing.
It’s only good in case of fire, not intruders.)
We’ve never had intruders - as far as I know.
And I’m not very anxious about intruders, anyhow.
There’s little of portable value in my house.
No gold, diamonds, silver plate, art, or stuff that’s hockable.
A thief would be disappointed and go away empty-handed.
It occurs to me that one might take an unprejudiced view of burglars.
There’s an opportunity here.
Imagine leaving a note for an intruder in some prominent place every night - with a little light shining on it.
A note he could read through a window.
1. If you are thinking about breaking and entering, please try the big windows on the west porch. They are not latched, - just stuck - and if you can get them open, that would be appreciated and rewarded.
(Continue reading for details.)
2. There’s little of value in the house, but there are twenty boxes of good stuff in the basement that we don’t really want or need but can’t bring ourselves to give away. Take some of those. Might be worth something. Use the basement door to move it out.
Next time, bring a truck.
3. Speaking of the basement, you will notice a sign that says: “Beware the python.” He’s a family pet - not very large. But sometimes I forget to put him in his cage at night. He won’t attack you, unless you step on him in the dark. That really annoys the snake. If it the snake is loose in the house it likes to sleep on the landing at the top of the 2nd floor stairs.
And the stairs creak - enough to alert the snake.
Don’t come upstairs.
4. The only antique in the house is asleep in bed on the third floor. At 225 pounds he is hardly portable. And worth very little if ransomed. And, like the snake, the antique gets annoyed if disturbed.
Advice: Practice stealth at all times.
5. Please take the stereo in the living room. I’d like to have an excuse to replace it.
6. Reward for your efficiency and silence:
If you’ll attend to these matters, there’s a white envelope in the refrigerator with $100 in it.
Right on top of the peach pie. (Ice cream in the freezer).
Take the money - the bills are unmarked.
Help yourself to the pie and ice cream.
Leave the dishes in the sink.
Don’t slam the door when you leave.
Thanks . . . and good luck.
* * *
But a night-time intruder is unlikely.
We live in a low-crime neighborhood.
A burglar would make a lot of noise trying to break in.
And find creeping around difficult.
Our house was built in 1908, and its wood floors and stairs creak and groan when walked on - sounds we’ve learned to ignore.
They sometimes creak and groan for no reason at all - usually late at night.
Once I did a trial run, pretending I was a burglar creeping through the house in the dark, while my wife listened from the bedroom upstairs.
Even though I tried my best to be stealthy, she knew exactly where I was in the house no matter how softly I tread.
It’s not that I’m inadequate at creeping around - I’m pretty creepy, actually.
But I didn’t want to step on the snake.
Several times there were middle-of-the-night knocks on the door or the doorbell rang, but those sounds have always been in a dream.
I’ve stopped coming down to see who is there, though I did once do down and shout out the window, “Come back tomorrow.”
We know that there are sounds that only dogs can hear.
Did you know there are sounds only heard by a night watchman?
The subtle, seductive, sweet siren call arising from the peach pie in the refrigerator and the vanilla bean ice cream in the freezer.
The invitation floats up the stairs like smoke and into my head:
Come on down, the coast is clear. . .
Sleepy question from my wife: “Are you getting up dear?”
“Yes, I thought I heard an odd noise downstairs, and I think I forgot to close the Dutch door again, and besides, I’m wide awake, so I may be awhile - don’t worry - go back to sleep.”
And she does.
The night watchman arises, smiling.
This drill will take half an hour.
Tour the house, of course, knowing full well that all is secure.
Go to the fridge - get the peach pie and ice cream and milk.
Get bowl and glass and fork.
Make a pie-and-ice-cream pile in the bowl.
Leave a little for an intruder.
Go back upstairs.
Avoid the snake on the landing.
Climb back into bed.
Feeling safe and secure.
“Is everything alright, dear?”