It was more like, "No! No! No!"
A week before Christmas the Tuesday night Line Dance class advised they'd heard someone come in the building but no one came down the hall. Three hardy senior ladies [never doubt Grandmas on a mission] went to investigate. Peeking out the door in the direction of very loud music, they found a group of young men having a party on the front lawn. Hey, the benches are public. I asked if they'd called the police and they replied, "No. We didn't want to get you in trouble."
Logic...open to interpretation.
I kindly lectured them Wednesday morning to keep the doors locked and call the police if it happened again. After all, there's a middle aged gentleman who likes to sit on the bench and watch....the sky. He's never tried to come in but it's always bothered me that if I try to wave or even look in his direction, he looks the other way. Not the sign of a guy with nothing to hide.
Thursday morning I came to work, paused to unlock two locks and stumbled inside with an armful of stuff. Without putting anything down, I walked across the hall and slid the key in the padlock on my office door. No, we don't have anything worth stealing actually but the previous Director was paranoid. She installed latches and padlocks on the OUTSIDE of each office door, reasoning that if someone came through a window, they were trapped in that room. I never pointed out this could've resulted in agitation leading a burglar to break into each individual room but....
I've performed this key in lock, turn and remove lock move for 15 years. One handed. Without looking. Thursday it stuck. Hard. Looking over the pile I was carrying I discovered why.
Someone had bent the hell out of the latches on the door and wall. Fortunately the lock had held.
Now there's something especially spine tingling about entering a building that was DOUBLE locked, which included a deadbolt lock, and discovering that someone has been hacking away at your office door. I put the pile of stuff on my desk and calmly called the main office to inquire if anyone there had needed to um...access my office in a hurry the night before. The answer was no.
Portable phone in hand, I began looking for broken glass. I work in an old school house which has the kind of windows you pull open INTO the room. The only way to get in is to break a window, reach through and turn the handle into the unlocked position. As I made my way out of the second room, two of our Maintenance guys were beating on the front door, wanting to know if I was okay.
Hey, can you blame a girl for not remembering to unlock the front door while looking for a burglar? One guy went room to room with me, the other outside to inspect. Those of us inside were baffled. I insisted that if I was going to break into this building, I'd do it on the side where the grocery store is located because there are bushes there, while the other side has a neighbor. She's elderly, but she keeps an eye out. The guy outside came in and said, "I know how he did it."
Isn't it interesting, in a weird kind of way, that we always assume burglars are men?
Short version: a small window in the hall near the restrooms had been unlocked. From the inside. As I expounded on the fact that window is NEVER unlocked, especially after we had a break in at that very spot the year before, a voice in my head sighed, "Uh oh."
Yes, it was on the grocery store side of the building, virtually hidden from view.
I don't think it's too big a stretch to believe the "Mystery Guest" who came in during the Tuesday night class visited just long enough to unlock the window and leave. Probably even used the noise of the party out front to cover him. In fact, the afternoon after the dancers had shared their story, I found Bench Man sitting out front, ducking my attempts to be social as I left to work at a second site. I came back unexpectedly on my way home and found him scurrying from my gate to the building, back to the bench. If it's him, he's patient. Took him almost a week to put his plan in action.
That's not all he took. No, he emptied the freezer of all the lunches I bring to work... evidenced by the empty boxes in the trashcan. He peeled back the foil on the ham in the fridge to have a peek, but instead made off with a bag of frozen cubed ham out of the freezer. Along with about 4 ice trays. He helped himself to a knife, all the snacks I'd left in the pantry and...weirdest of all, my old bowling shoes. Granted, they looked new but I have really small feet. He rifled the bowling bag and probably got enough change out of it for a drink out of the soda machine.
You know what the hardest part of this was? Trying to be a good human and see that "two sides to every story" angle. I wanted to be a good person and think he was homeless and hungry. The devil on my shoulder was ticked that he took food I'd paid for because I work for a living. The angel on the other shoulder pointed out perhaps he didn't have a job. I called the police to report it. After all, my primary concern is for my seniors.
In response, I got a cop who, when I pointed out that my missing kitchen knife was lying beneath the window of probable entry, told me people watched too much t.v. and he couldn't get prints after the dew had dried.
Guardian angel, place your hand over my mouth. Firmly. Too close to Christmas to go to jail. He finished his uninterested walk through by saying, "Well if you keep seeing a guy on the bench, you should call us so we can check him out. Make sure he's legit."
What? A Legit homeless guy or a man who has an affinity for staring at clouds?
Christmas eve found me celebrating this unseasonable weather of ours at the doctor's. Bronchitis. The cure has been worse than the wheezing. Imagine knowing you're about to walk into a house filled with in-laws, some of whom are very loud, and the doctor sent in to cure you looks all of 18...and is wearing braces. [For you non-Americans, I mean on his teeth, not on his trousers]. Oh, he fixed me up all right. First with TWO steroid shots in the rear [that's why God gave us two cheeks I guess] given by a nurse who said cheerfully,"We'll give you the one that hurts the worst first, so the second one won't be so bad." This was followed by a breathing treatment which felt like smoking a tube of garbage flavored vapor and a chest x-ray, where the Tech came in blushing to note we needed to do it again because.....yes, say it with me, she forgot to add the film. The medication, which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, was free thanks to the coupons that Dr. HowOldAreYou gave me as I left. Thankfully the meds didn't kick in until the day after Christmas or they would've been calling me "The Grinch".
I dropped off my prescriptions, then went to work. And who do I find out front but Bench Man. Soon as he sees me, he rises slowly and begins to leisurely stroll away. I wonder if he's whistling, like cartoon characters do. This time, he has a gym bag. I call the police, give a description, then call the Main Office to advise them. My Supervisor is annoyed that I don't feel well enough to attend the County Christmas Lunch. I have to call the cops twice, although I did enjoy the fashion show that Bench Man put on as he changed his jacket and sweatshirt three times before an officer arrived. My Supervisor did call back, upset that she'd had to call THREE TIMES to get through because the phone was busy. As I'm telling her it was because the cop had called me from outside to let me know he was there, she asked me to hold on...then gave the inmate janitor instructions on emptying the garbage.
Gee, nice to know where you stand, huh?
It all worked out, more or less. I knew this cop. He'd firmly explained to the man that although the bench was public, he needed to realize just sitting for long periods of time made seniors nervous. Then he advised about the burglary and added that guys who sit for long periods of time and don't wave back make excellent people to question when things go missing.
So Christmas brought burglary, bronchitis and the brother-in-law from hell but I survived it all. Lightheaded. Dizzy. Don't even drink. But today I got my reward for playing nice and enjoying the good life has to offer. Today, the 7th day of winter, it was 78 degrees.