Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Elevated Heart Rate

At 5:30 pm yesterday, a frantic pounding at my back door startled me out of my office chair. I looked up from my work laptop to see my across-the-street neighbor standing there in his pajamas. I would have thought it comical for him to be ready for bed so early had his yelling not indicated something serious was going on.

My husband, who had also heard the pounding, came downstairs from his office and let our neighbor in.

He didn't wait for us to greet him. "Two men just stole your front porch sofa. They went that way," he pointed, indicating a direction that took them through our small community and out to the nearest street.

Stole our front porch furniture? Impossible... My home office has windows looking over the front porch. I always catch most movement out of the corner of my eye - even people just walking down the street. Surely I would have seen someone walk off with our furniture. And who would be stupid enough to just walk off with a giant sofa in broad daylight? I ran to the windows to confirm his story... and looked back at my husband in panic when I saw it was gone.

"Call the cops," my husband shouted over his shoulder as he threw on his nearest pair of flip-flops (over his socks, btw), grabbed his car keys, and took off in hot pursuit. Our watchful neighbor ran across the street and grabbed his vehicle, also taking a lookout.

I picked up our home phone and dialed 911. The operator answered and I could barely breathe out our problem.

"Ok," he said. "Where are you?"

I gave him our address. "Wait, where?" I repeated it.

"Ma'am, you're coming up in East Brunswick, NJ. I don't know what is going on with your phone, but had this been a life or death situation, we'd be dispatching someone to the wrong house."

Yikes. Remind me I have to update my internet-based phone service.  I hung up the phone and used my cell phone to try again. This time with some success - a uniformed police officer showed up within five minutes to take the report.

At this point, my across-the-street neighbor had returned from his patrol, his search yielding nothing. The uniformed officer jotted down his account. Ben also returned and appeared to be empty-handed. My heart sank. We just bought that sofa, a unique piece we thought could help us be "front-porch people" like you are supposed to be in the deep south. I did a quick calculation in my head and realized our homeowner's insurance wasn't going to make us whole again.

And then my next-door neighbor - a petite pregnant woman a few years younger than me - stepped outside and walked over to where we were standing. "Oh, I saw them," she said. "And I called Dave. He's on it."

Dave, her husband, is a high-ranking St. Pete police officer. We met them on move-in day last month, and I remembered cheering inwardly when I heard he was a cop. I knew I was excited that day for a reason.

"I know," Ben said. "I ran into one of his guys just now." Ben recounted the tale of stopping on the street just a block away to inquire from a fairly scruffy looking gentleman if he had seen two men walking off with patio furniture. The gentleman said - very quietly - that he was "with Dave," indicating he had been placed there under cover.

It would seem that in the span of the 15 minutes or so that these two men walked off with our sofa, Dave had deployed about 6 officers of the law in a two block radius of our house.

And in the time it took Ben to tell us about running into one of them, we were clued in that our sofa had been found.

Dave's wife was picked up to go see if she could positively ID the two men whose backyard the sofa had been found in, just a block away from where we live. She couldn't.

But she could ID the sofa. And it was ours.

So Ben and I were escorted over there to go pick it up and walk it back home.

It's living in the garage for the time being until we can find a way to nail it down to the porch.
Maybe we'll put up a fence.

And actually turn on our security system when we leave the house.

And install security cameras around our house.

Can you tell I'm feeling a little bit violated right now?

Even so, I am very grateful to know that we have neighbors that care. We wouldn't have our happy ending if it wasn't for them.

Here's where I'm at now, though: I was smacked in the face with a reminder that I live in a city, and while that comes with a lot of perks, there are things I need to be smart about.

Maybe running alone at dark first thing in the morning isn't the safest choice.

Today's exercise: Rest.

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