Tuesday, March 20, 2007

911 on Filthy Rich Street

4:55 am.

"911. What's your emergency.?"

"Hi. My name is Namaste. I live at 123 Filthy Rich Street. Yes, I'll spell that for you-- 1-2-3 F-I-L-T-H-Y R-I-C-H. Two words, yes. Um...Can you please send some guys in uniform out here, like, really fast? There is an intruder in my home and he's making a lot of noise."

I'm currently doing a 9-month house-sitting gig in one of the top 5 wealthiest suburbs in the United States, for one of the top 100 richest families in America. (Apparently, there's a club. No kidding. They get together for little sandwiches with no crust made by domestic workers from poor places who aren't treated like human beings.) In exchange for my rent, I take care of a $4 million dollar home, and hang out with an 11 year old Labrador, who thinks that the sun rises and sets on me, only me. The dog and I are very much in love with each other, and I'm threatening to take him with me when I leave. All things considered, it's a great deal on paper. But in actuality, sans boyfriend, I'm a little girl home alone in a very big house.

Moments prior to this, I was awakened to the sounds of crashing and footsteps above my head. Thinking it was the dog (who is not allowed upstairs at night), I came tearing out of my room to scold him for being naughty, but I found him dutifully passed out beside my door. He's sweet as sugar, but damn if he's the worst guard dog in the world. In my state of delirium, I then heard another crash above me. I dragged the dog into my room, locked the bedroom door and proceeded to silently force him into my closet with me while I called 911. As the crashing and erratic sounds continued above me, I curled up in a fetal position in a corner under some blankets and said a little prayer to the Universe that whoever was in the house needed to borrow a few things for his or her obvious drug addiction, but would otherwise leave me alone. I also said a prayer that he or she would disappear into the night with my busted laptop, which would really be a sign that the Universe has heard my cry for technological assistance...

"Ok, ma'am," said the voice on the phone. "How do you know that there is an intruder?"

I guess it's not enough to say that there's someone in my home, I have to qualify it?

"Ummm. Because I sleep on the ground level, and I woke up to noises above my head and I'm continuing to hear banging throughout the house. And I live here alone....and, oh, Jesus, there's another bang!"

"Do you see signs of forced entry?"

"No, I don't. I'm locked in a closet on the ground level. Are you, like, sending someone? Please? I just heard another loud crash."

"Ok, where did the crash come from?"

"Inside the house, right above me. Where the kitchen is. It really sounds like it's someone on drugs. I swear, it sounds like the wall was just smacked into."

"Ok. Just stay where you are and stay on the phone with me. There' s a unit on the way."

This went on for quite a few minutes, the crashing and banging, and me sitting in complete darkness and whispering into the phone so that The Crazy Upstairs wouldn't hear me and think it would be cool to come investigating with one of the kitchen knives in hand. I chatted about the alarm system I didn't ever use and whether the house was secure when I went to bed, which it was. (Why I'm freaked out by the alarm system, but militant about checking all doors and window is beyond me. Isn't an alarm system what the snoring, faithful dog is for? )

At one point the operator told me that I was breathing too heavily into the phone and she couldn't hear me. I didn't realize it, but I had automatically started doing deep yoga breathing to calm my heart rate, like how I learned to do in yoga class when I lose my breath in difficult positions. I could hear my yoga instructor: "Remember to breathe. Breathing calms the mind chatter. You are not your mind. You are not your ego." Oh, and meanwhile, for the record, my trusty, four-legged canine friend settled in next to me on the blankets and returned to dreaming about endless swimming pools, oversized throwing sticks, and, of course, unspayed female dogs. He even started snoring.

"Ok, ma'am. There are 3 officers securing the perimeter of the house right now. They are going to ask you to come to the front door."

"Um. Ok. No. That's not going to work. The front door is on the floor with the banging. How about the back door?"

More banging and crashing came above me. I told the operator that I heard more sounds. The operator said, "Ok, Ma'am. I'll send an officer to the back door. You are really remaining remarkably calm and clear. Just get yourself to that door when he arrives, alright?"

My response: "Yeah, don't worry. I'm calm. I'll freak out later. And if I live through this, I will personally thank Oprah for all of her episodes of "What to do if you have an Intruder in your home."

She laughed, but I was dead serious. Shout-out to my girl, Oprah. Hey, Oprah! Yeah, I was in the closet, girl! Uh-huh. 'Cause I actually thought it about it when I first moved in. What would I do if there is an intruder?, I thought cause of that scary freaking episode you had about women who thought clearly in extreme situations. I would get the dog and hide my ass if I couldn't get out of the house immediately. Yeah, girl. I had a plan. I have a fire escape plan too. And yes, I'm down with making sure the fire system works. I just don't ever set the home alarm. I like to tempt fate. Uh-huh. Yeah. I know. I'm a dumb ass. What?

A few minutes later, there were flashlights waving and heavy footsteps on the deck above my window. Then, suddenly, the 911 operator said, "Ok, ma'am? It looks like you have a raccoon in your kitchen."

"A what?"

"Yes, the officers are saying that they see a raccoon at the sink."

"What? Seriously? Are you serious?"

"Yes, ma'am. You can leave your closet now. I need you to go upstairs to greet the officers at the back sliding glass door so they can help you get it out."

"Um. Ok."

Relieved and still scared out of my bloody mind, I ventured upstairs to find three heavily-armed police officers with assault rifles and flak jackets standing and laughing on the back deck. They looked just about as relieved as I was. Clearly, they weren't in the mood for a 5am gunfight in a 4 million dollar home, either.

"Hi officers," I said as I let them in. "Nice guns."

It took some doing, and a lot of laughing, but the four of us finally managed to extract my wild intruder friend from the house. Apparently, the raccoon got in by way of a chimney on the main floor. There are a few things broken in the kitchen, but nothing precious.

He pilfered through a bag of pistachios I had on the counter, and destroyed a batch of wheat-free baklava I made for a party tomorrow. Unfortunately, however, he didn't steal my computer.


6:30 am.

Dog is still passed out at my feet. Heading back to bed now. Today is the day that I will learn how to use the alarm.


I-66 said...

A raccoon made all that noise? Cheese n' rice. I've had enough to do with raccoons in the last 8 months or so, scaring them off our deck, and almost running over 3 of them at once not far from my house, I don't know what I'd do if one got into the house.

Kathryn Is So Over said...

I was on pins and needles. I'm so glad you are safe!

Anonymous said...

Damn. Funny. I like the Oprah reference.

Namaste said...

Truth is stranger than fiction. A friend of mine told me that I should have immediately left the house. But I still think that my Oprah plan was a better move. Like what if there had been a real person and the person wasn't working alone and acting as a look-out. That would have sucked. And the dog would have gone crazy. I don't know. I'm partial to my locked door and fetal position in the closet. Clearly this is not something that happens every day. Thoughts?

VJ said...

That was my first immediate guess. 2nd story guys are typically way quieter. Raccoons, squirrels, other rodents can make an awful lot of racket & mess. Usually they can be chased away fairly easily. But it sounds pretty cushy on Filthy rich Street N, do they know of any likely decent prospects they can pass on to you so your entire academic career does not have to be bankrolled by the above mentioned Oprah? How did you get hooked into this gig BTW? Just wondering. Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

la rebelde said...

You had me laughing out loud by the end! Don't underestimate the racoons--they can be really vicious! Still, I'm glad it was only a racoon.

Anonymous said...

The closet is not a bad idea, especially if you have a phone. I agree -- going to look and see if it is really a bad person might not be the best idea. Better to look silly and be alive.

VJ said...

South of the Mason Dixon line the drill is always the same. Poppa grabs the most deadly implement almost immediately at hand, the handgun, the shotgun, the bowie knife, the machete ,the baseball bat. In that order. Momma gets paw to go 'get 'em, or failing this Jr., failing that she'll find something heavy she can throw at 'it' or clobber it with. She's suspecting the 'coons again, or that lousy Henson kid from up the block. He's suspecting the commies, attacking Arabs, the cops with a warrant, his angry in-laws, his mean & crazy ex's, the insurance broker he took a quick $100 off of in a card game last night, or the bar gal he was too friendly with while at the game. She'll be successful in scaring off the coon or the kid. He'll likely wind up killing or severely injuring anything that comes in his way. Young sis unexpectedly coming back from a late night date. Young Johnny searching desperately in the dark for his lost pet snake. The neighbor kid playing around in the garage, looking for a lost tool. The family dog, who broke away from his cage in the basement. The family's pet hamster Dribbles, since his cage was left open. Momma who'd gone down to the kitchen for a night cap and who'd fallen asleep on the couch hours ago.

Yeah, then big bangs & crashes, it's the animals. In Alaska or North western Canada, it's the bears too. That's when you might need the gun. Rarely to attack much else. Cheers, 'VJ'