(With apologies and kudos to Dave Barry and S.J. Perleman, two of my favorite writers of narrative humor)
Current visitors to Chez Schindler, if they are paying attention, will be treated to a singular sight if they arrive on laundry day. When I return from taking the clothes out the back door to hang on the line, I say, out loud, "back door locked." Same thing when I breeze in through the master bathroom ingress after using the hot tub. "Door locked."
When I have nothing else to do, I now have two migratory destinations; my old chum, the refrigerator, and my new cohort, the back door, which I check carefully to insure that it is cinched tight. My peepers are still good enough to tell from afar whether the lock is horizontal (good!) or vertical (d'oh).
"But why the door locking caution," you may well ask. "After all, no one has ever broken into the house, and if they did you have a burglar alarm." Well, yes, that's indubitable (although how the hell would you know?), there is an alarm, which is itself the underpinning of my new tic.
You see, to borrow the sports metaphor, I have lost a step or two over the years. I am not in reality show buffoon territory, or even, "Oh my God, the old man has lost his marbles" country (at least, I don't remember anyone saying that about me--but if I was, I wouldn't, right?) I feel as though I am comfortably in "Why did I come into this room" land, a destination towards which boomers are headed en masse.
One manifestation of this reduced stepiness has been my intermittent failure to deadbolt the posterior entryway after a post-laundry ingress. The thing is, the mizzen gateway has never really battened down properly. We had a factotum do his legerdemain on it last year, but the procedure was only partly efficacious. If it is not dead-bolted, a robust gale will blow it ajar.
So, you can look down the hall at the rear portal, and it seems like the cat's pajamas, and then, a few minutes later it is the cat has taken them off and is dashing through the opening. That's a problem for two reasons. First, we have an indoor-only cat, officially Patrice, unofficially Her Royal Highness (HRH). This is not a good neighborhood for cats, especially not pampered indoor-only cats. She isn't a door-rusher, but if you leave an outside door open long enough, she'll take the plunge. Secondly, if the door blows open while the alarm is set, the alarm will go off, on the assumption that someone has broken into the house. We have had two dozen alarms in the 17 years we have been living here, not one of them real.
We pay Stanley (the company, not the guy) a princely tariff to dispatch the cavalry when our alarm system gives them a jingle, and dispatch the gendarmes if we are not at home to say "false alarm." They also put a call through to my cellphone, which, of course, comes to naught in most areas in or around Chez Schindler (Orinda is hilly, and although its residents are generally prosperous, there aren't enough of them for the cellphone company to actually provide full coverage).
With our rhetorical throat amply cleared, we come to the actual narrative, as it were. I was over at R's nearby townhouse, performing some undertaking or another. I had scrupulously set the alarm when I left the casa.
My wife, V, breezed in some time later and found the alarm was not set, "That's odd," she thought, in the way people think when thoughts are being attributed to them by someone else after the fact. She popped into the house, deposited her accouterments, then went back to the garage to do the recycling, She re-entered the house. Just as she did, three burly, intimidating members of the Orinda constabulary entered the back door, guns drawn and pointing at her, and soberly asked her to raise her hands.
Now understand that my town of 18,000 people has a murder every decade or so, and between 60-80 burglaries a year, or between one and two a week. We have a hard-working and professional police force, that, alas, probably spends as much time responding to false alarms as to actual burglaries (they get about 30 false alarms a month). So the officers knew the odds were that she was an actual resident. Still, they professionally asked her for a photo ID to prove that she really resided in the joint.
The thing that dazzled me most is her unruffled demeanor. R washed up at the crib 10 minutes later; V and the gendarmes were in a jocular mood. V was mirthful when she called me moments later on my cellphone to tell me what had transpired. Just at that moment, the message from Stanley popped up on my cellphone: a burglar alarm at your pad. I said to V, "Do you need me to come over right away." She replied, "No, I'm fine."
If it has been me, I would quite possibly screamed, fainted, wet myself, or all three. At the very least, I would have had an attack of the vapors, or even the whim-whams. After my own homecoming, V was still chortling. But when she asked me to guarantee that the aft portal was battened down in the future, she wasn't laughing. So, just as Paul Newman was required to tell the road-gang boss, "Still shaking the bush, boss," while doing his business by the side of the road in Cool Hand Luke, so we will all feel better around here if I gaudily proclaim my coupe de maitre in verrouillage de la porte.