I was working at home today, because Carolina was closed on account of Good Friday. This is weird to me… where I come from, Good Friday isn’t a holiday that closes anything. But that’s another issue entirely. And anyway, I work at home whenever I can. On the other hand, Duke wasn’t closed today so Yvonne was working, and Charlotte was at preschool. Good thing, too, as it turned out.
So I was sitting at the dining room table with my laptop basically all day. At about 4:30 this afternoon, our dog Dewey started barking, which he does whenever there are people walking on the street in front of our house, or a deer in the yard, or whatever. I went to the living room to look out on the front yard and the street to see what the deal was. I saw a car in the driveway of the house next door. That is a little unusual, since the folks who own the house have moved away and not put the house on the market yet (want a house in a nice neighborhood?), but not unprecedented, since they have people come to check on the house periodically. So I didn’t think much of it and went back to my laptop.
A minute later, Dewey starts barking his head off. I go to the living room again and see two guys jogging up my driveway. They disappear under the carport, basically right underneath where I’m standing. There was no car in our driveway at the time, so they probably thought the house was empty.
And here’s where I had my first moment of cognitive dissonance. It’s not unusual for people to walk up our driveway, even though it’s pretty long. The UPS man delivers packages under the carport. The Orkin man walks around our house. Contractors looking for work leave business cards and flyers at the house. But these two guys were not dressed like any of those people. And they were jogging. And wearing hats pulled down low over their foreheads. They were totally obviously up to something shady. But it took a moment for that to sink in.
Anyway, when I saw them disappear under the carport, I go out onto the porch and let the dog out onto the porch. Understand, the porch is on the same level as the roof of the carport, so the dog wasn’t in a position to chase these guys off. But he did bark his head off. He’s a nice dog, but when he barks a lot I suppose he can sound pretty fierce.
A moment later, three guys run out from under the carport, run down the hillside behind our house, run around the house next door where they parked, and back to their car. They then peel out at top speed, backwards, all the way up our street, almost colliding with another car at the intersection. The car, incidentally, was an older American model, dark green but looked kind of dirty, 4-door sedan.
And here’s where I had my second moment of cognitive dissonance. It was pretty clear that this was a situation where I should call 911. But I’ve literally never called 911 before in my life. It’s only for emergencies. You should never call 911 idly. So seriously, it took a moment for it to sink in that this situation was exactly what 911 is for, and I should pick up the phone immediately. Which I did. I probably sounded a bit sheepish on the call, like, “I can’t believe I’m calling 911 about this, but…”
In about 5 minutes, a police car pulls down our street and in front of our house. The officer and I talk for a few minutes, then he gets a call and has to leave. About three minutes later, another officer drives up, and two minutes later, another. I tell them the story, they walk around the neighbor’s house, we talk for a few minutes. Then one of the officers says that they have a car pulled over that might fit the description, and would I please come with him. (Turns out, that was the call that the first officer got.) Of course, I say. And I get into the back of the police car.
Now, that was my first time ever, I’m happy to say, in the back of a police car. I’ve always wondered how one is supposed to sit in the back of a police car with your hands cuffed behind you. Well, now I know: the seats are hard plastic, molded with grooves for your arms. If you don’t have your hands cuffed behind you, they’re pretty uncomfortable. Though I suppose if you did have your hands cuffed behind you, that would be even more uncomfortable.
So we drive up to the plaza where the Barbecue Joint and Bagels on the Hill are. There’s a car that more or less fits the description, and three guys that also more or less fit the description, in the lot. The officer drives slowly so I can get a good look, then around the corner, so the three guys never see me up close. There are three officers there, and they all go to interview the three guys. They ask me to hang out around the corner, by the Barbecue Joint. Twice officers come to ask me some questions, then go back.
And here’s where I learned that, as I had basically always suspected, I really suck at being a witness. Which is kind of a bummer, actually: I love detective novels and spy movies, and I admit to having male fantasy #8, delusions of being a super-sleuth. As I said, I noticed that they were wearing winter hats pulled down low over their foreheads. I noticed that at least one of them was wearing work gloves. They were white, and male. But I couldn’t say what their clothes looked like, beyond really basic stuff like they had long sleeves and long pants. I couldn’t say what color their clothes were, and not really the hats either, beyond black or dark blue. Lame. I’m actually kind of embarrassed about this, and I feel bad that I didn’t give the officers much to work with.
Ultimately, I think the officers decided that these weren’t the right three guys or the right car. The car was close, but not quite: it was blue, not green, though it was the same vintage and basic shape. The guys maybe had other issues that the police might have been interested in, but they were probably not my guys.
The officer who drove me up to the plaza drove me home. We pull up just as Yvonne and Charlotte are getting out of the car. I had spoken to Yvonne briefly, while I was cooling my heels at the plaza, so she knew what was going on. But the officer, bless him, asked me, “Does she know what’s going on?” I mean, you get home, and the first thing you see is your spouse being let out of the back of a police car? I can see how that might not go over too well.
So, all’s well that ends well. Nothing was taken from the house, as far as I can tell. I’m fine; I never even got within range of the guys. Yvonne and Charlotte were not home at the time. Of all the characters in this story, Dewey comes off looking the best. He got extra treats for being a good guard dog.
I would also like to say, the Chapel Hill Police Department also came out of this looking damn good. Three officers on my street within ten minutes, a car pulled over that fit the description within five minutes. They were totally on the ball, fast, and professional. I’m feeling good about my tax dollars tonight.
Still, we’re going to be really careful to lock our doors from now on when we’re out. Even when we’re in, for that matter, at least in parts of the house where we aren’t. And we’ve been talking about replacing our exterior doors for years now. I think this may be our motivation. Fitch Lumber, here we come.