Today’s post is brought to you by my good bloggy friend, The Byronic Man. Some say he wears his underwear over his trousers and saves the world one ironic phrase at a time, but no one really knows…. I hope you enjoy.
My wife was flipping through one of those “How To Survive Dangerous Situations” books that are so popular right now, and came across “How to survive an encounter with a burglar.” First thing it said was, “Absolutely under no circumstances confront or try to apprehend the burglar.”
This is the story of the night that we didn’t do that.
My mother-in-law was out-of-town for a few days, and we’ve been taking care of her house – feeding the pets, picking up mail, feeding more pets, making sure even more animals have food, that kind of thing. We get there the other night and see we left some lights on the night before. Oops. Then we see more lights on – lights in rooms we didn’t even go in. And then we realize her house has been broken in to. We realize her house has been burglarized.
And that the burglar is still there.
We pulled up to the house down the long driveway and then I saw someone inside. Middle-aged guy – not clean-cut, but also not wearing burglar clothes, which was pretty disappointing. No skullcap. No striped turtleneck. No big sack with a dollar sign on it. Pathetic.
He came to the front door and asked who we were, which is a pretty smart move, if you think about it. We were not expecting that, and so for a moment thought maybe this was a neighbor who’d come over because he… I don’t know, saw something was wrong. I don’t know what exactly you’d see that would lead you to break in. The house filling up with water? The cats having a knife fight? Anyway, he came to the door. He didn’t run, didn’t attack; he was, actually, extremely calm.
I tend to assess things. My wife tends to charge. If we’re, say, hiking, and see a really difficult rock outcropping, I’ll evaluate and ascertain and theorize various outcomes and then probably not climb it because it looks too sketchy, and miss out. She’ll see it and scramble to the top and then not be able to get down (even if – and yes this literal scenario has happened – I’m standing there shouting, “Do not climb that. You won’t be able to get down. You will not be able to get down!” and we then spend half an hour with me talking her down).
Anyway, I was reading the situation, looking at options, etc, and generally being very stoic. I do that. She, however, immediately pins him down with questions. “No, who are you? You’re not supposed to be here. Tell me what you’re doing here. You’re a ‘friend’ of the owner? What’s your ‘friend’s’ name?”
You might be thinking that questioning an intruder mid-intrude is, oh, dangerous.
But you’re forgetting that my wife teaches, and that there is possibly nothing more powerful or paralyzing than a woman using her Teacher Voice and demanding to know just What You Think You’re Doing, Mister.
So, he’s on the front stoop, and my wife is in the driveway. There’s a railing and some steps to the side separating them. I go inside to call 911 while she’s questioning him (we didn’t have a cell phone with us). As I’m going in, my brain is still assessing – are there more people in here? What will I do if there are? What if he runs? What if he doesn’t? How quickly can I get to him if he starts towards my wife? Am I really, definitely sure that this is actually happening?
Now is the part of the story that I get frustrated with. The sequence here was pretty logical, if we had to split up, but then at the end of the sequence, as I’m on the phone (it’s an older phone with a cord), about twelve feet away from the burglar, all I can think is, “Wait a second. Now I’m the one on the phone and my wife is keeping the burglar at bay. How the hell did this happen?” So, you know… not my most satisfying moment.
Fortunately the burglar came back in the house to where I was. Apparently he decided it was time to leave, and he didn’t have his shoes. As he came in I was noticing several things:
1. There was food and beer cans all over and the TV was on. Looks like he’d been pretty confident that no one was coming home.
2. My mother-in-law’s drawers were open and things were lying all over.
3. My mother-in-law’s dog was sitting on the carpet, smiling and wagging happily.
Of course he was. You see, the thing is, he wasn’t always my mother-in-law’s dog. He used to be our dog, but he was incredibly high strung, and would snap at everything – the other pets, the refrigerator, us. One day while bathing him he bit me in the throat. I have this super-cool scar right on the jugular vein, but you can barely see it because the stupid jerk doctor did too good a job of sewing it up. So we moved him to her house because she has pastures where he can run around and be outside. Now he’s much happier. Much more relaxed. A little too relaxed, apparently, because now it’s Me: neck scar. Burglar: New Best Buddy.
So, I’m talking to 911, and there’s a police car right up the street. He was there within 90 seconds, before I’d even finished giving all the information. My wife runs out and flags the officer down and he comes in to the house where he sees me, standing in the middle of the room on the phone, and the burglar sitting in a chair putting on shoes. My wife shouts, “Arrest him!”
The officer then looked at (who would turn out to be) the degenerate, drug-addicted, career criminal and at me and then said, “Which one?”
I suppose I had just come from the gym, and, yes, I am overdue for a haircut, but seriously? If this thing goes to trial I intend to make this the centerpiece of my testimony (“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is it not painfully clear that the accused is unshaven and unkempt whereas I have ‘sexy stubble’?”).
Once that got sorted out, the officer cuffed him. He didn’t resist and continued to insist that we were the intruders. He would continue to do so throughout the night, even after he was searched and my mother-in-law’s watches and coin collection were removed from his jacket.
From there the evening was police taking pictures, us trying to catalogue what was missing as best we could, trying to find the cats – who were so freaked that I assumed headed to Mexico by that point – and deciding whether or not we should stay the night in case he had accomplices (and if so, should we arm ourselves with flame-throwers, or would machine guns suffice).
It’s pretty astonishing it went as well as it did, if it had to happen. Obviously, we were dimly aware of ways it could go wrong while it happened, but only on the periphery. It was about 4:00am that my brain woke me up with a jolt, saying “Hi, so, we’ve finished cataloging and enumerating the literally hundreds of ways that could have gone nightmarishly bad, and thought now would be a good time to run through them. Sound good? Great. Number 1…”
Oddly, in the weeks that passed, despite the fact that we’re now, clearly, America’s Greatest Heroes, Christopher Nolan and Bryan Singer don’t seem to be fist-fighting over the movie rights to our story. Maybe they’re playing coy (Well, it won’t work, Nolan!).
Obviously I’m not condoning confronting burglars. It’s dangerous and foolish. The book says never do it. And I suppose that’s true for most people. The civilians. Those exist in the light. But my wife and I? We’re out there, on the edge, facing the darkness. We’re the heroes this city deserves, but not the heroes it needs right now. We’re silent guardians. Watchful protectors. We are Stoic Man & Impulse Girl.