Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Nowhere

I am not the sort of person who is uneasy alone. I greatly enjoy solitude, and am not a scaredycat flibbertigibbet when it comes to being alone in a home of any size at night. So imagine my surprise as I was minding my own quiet-alone-working-intensely-on-the-computer business Tuesday when I heard a strange tapping toward the front of the house.

Now it is embarrassing to me to admit at this juncture that over the past week we have discovered a change-of-seasons Mouse Problem. Sunday night we had quite a lively attack, involving a critter rain (yes, a mouse fell out of a blank-behind-the-cabinet space and flew into the kitchen) , and so I figured the rodents were just normally racing around or destroying whole 2 x 4s within the front walls, where we know they reside somewhere above the kitchen ceiling.

But the noise escalated from tapping to gentle knocking, from knocking to whacking, and I realized there was a real Human Bean out on the front porch. People who know us don't normally come to the front door, so if it's not a pizza delivery, a front door noise is potential cause for alarm. But it might have been a roofer leaving an estimate.

Louder it got, and my heart started to race. I jumped up from the sofa and grabbed the phone in case of 911, and went up near the door, where sure enough through the little top windows I could see that the storm door was being held open. I was momentarily stumped, since I knew I had locked the screen door just a couple of days ago and hadn't opened it again. Then I realized that Honey had put the storm glass in the door over the weekend and had not re-locked it. Horrors!

Now I had to make a decision. Could I run out the side or back door faster than the perpetrator could chase me down some tricky stone stairs? Should I call my neighbor first and give her the play-by-play, so she could be a witness if I were murdered? Should I have my neighbor call the police? Should I call 911 right now? Would I be an idiot if I did so, and have to pay the poor police for a prank call?

I decided to creep up to the fisheye peephole just as I started to hear the main door lock being tried. It's not an easy door from the outside, so I figured I had some time. What I saw on the other side, however, did not slow my heart rate.

There seemed to be an older man, perhaps in his 60s with a full head of grey hair, leaning in on the door handle. He had thick, long out-of-fashion glasses. He huffed and puffed, and was clearly distraught. He wore a plaid flannel shirt over another plaid shirt, and the effect was altogether dishevelled. Great! I thought. There's a deranged old man breaking into my house!

But something about the whole scene was weird. So instead of running out back or calling 911, I used a menacing voice to shout, "Who is there and what do you want?"

A small, out-of-breath voice answered. "This is B. L. I am looking for the F.s' house."

At that point, my knees almost buckled, and I was immediately both humbled and ashamed. For I recognized the name L., and the name F., and although I was still truly near fainting, I had the presence of mind to realize I had to open the door and undo my angry voice and beg for forgiveness fast.

Just two days before, my neighbor, Ms. L. (who does not take the name of her husband, Mr. F.) had driven by and stopped to chat when she saw me at the mailbox. In the car was an elderly lady, whom she introduced as her mother, visiting from Maine. The lady proudly stated her age as 81. After a few pleasantries, they drove up to Ms. L's garage.

The person breaking down my door had not been a man in his 60s, but a woman in her 80s. When I ran outside to reassure her and apologize, she was off the porch and a few steps on her way up toward our dangerous, busy street. She explained that she had "gone out for a walk down to the main road" and become a bit lost on her way back to the F.s' house. She was definitely out of breath and somewhat disoriented, but slightly welcomed my redirection and apology. I waited to see where she went, all the way up to the F.s' house.

And so, my friends, here is what it comes to: I am a mean, yelling paranoid who terrifies old people.


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