Sunday, August 22, 2010


OK.  I'm back.

- This thing with my house being robbed has thrown me for a loop.  To complicate matters, this was my first full rotation of work since the end of July.    Although I have been getting as much sleep as I usually do during work weeks - maybe more - I have been more exhausted on the ride home.  Dangerously so.  The first morning back I actually sailed right past my exit.*  I have also been struggling to stay awake on the ride home, and multiple cans of diet cola and copious amounts of grapes have not been helping much.

- I haven't actually been able to get much done related to the house in the past week.  The insurance adjuster has agreed to meet with me on Monday afternoon, or maybe Tuesday, or possibly Wednesday.  I have put in two calls (on Wednesday and Friday mornings) to the leading company in this area that does on-site window repairs and have not gotten a call-back.  Tomorrow I will stop in the place in person and ask them if they can help me or, failing that, if they can recommend another company that can help me.  Meanwhile, I have a few cheap little toy alarms in place, and I have a few battery-operated door alarms and one motion sensor that I want to install tomorrow.  This is just a stopgap measure until I can contract with a professional alarm monitoring company, but I do like the idea of battery-operated alarms, as well as the idea of multiple overlapping independent alarm systems.

I did a security review of the house a decade or so ago - I think my grandmother was alive at the time, but in a nursing home - when we thought someone had tried to break in, and I was overwhelmed at the number of possible entry points at ground level alone.  Installing shock sensors on every window will be an enormous undertaking.   Strategically placed motion detectors may be a more efficient first step.

Entry into the house was through a window.  The window was totally smashed in.  How brazen is that?  Even though this window is concealed from the street, the neighborhood still has enough people in it that someone could have heard.  (The elderly neighbor next door whose kitchen door is just feet from this smashed window was out of town last weekend.)  Even if you are assuming that most people will be shut up in their houses with their air conditioners running, a quick check of the street showed that there are a few people who keep their second- and third-story windows open for fresh air.  So how could you assume no one would hear?

I was at the house late Saturday night, and I know the break-in had not happened yet because the water was not pouring out of the dislodged water heater inlet in my basement yet.  On Sunday I gave blood, and was amazed at how hard it was raining.  It rained on and off through Sunday and into Monday morning.  It was supposed to rain all day Monday, but the surprisingly nice weather made me decide to go over to the house early that evening with the weed-whacker - which is when I discovered the break-in.  But there was no obvious weather damage near the open window or on the curtains, which were still in place.  (The curtains protruding out of the place where the window had been were the thing that triggered my Hey, that ain't right response.)  Based on that, I have concluded that the break-in must have happened sometime Monday morning after it had stopped raining.

But could this be wrong?  The window is in a relatively shielded area - this made it a tempting break-in target, I suppose.  Maybe very little rain came in through the open window, and what came in had dried up before I got there?  If you're going to enter a house by smashing a window, your greatest enemy - after lacerations, and maybe a rib-bruising injury brought on by an inconveniently-placed wire rack and can of paint - would be the sound of shattering glass.  What better way to cover this up than with a rainstorm?  I wonder how many break-ins happen during downpours?

- I am now completely paranoid.  I am not at my house now.  Has someone broken in since I was there this morning?  Is someone breaking in now?  What about now?  If I leave this house to go over there, will someone break in here?  What about when I am off at work?  Will the presence of my elderly mother deter anyone from breaking in?  How much security can I afford?

- The thing that was supposed to bring closure to my family this week after a delay of five years, didn't.  Nothing was settled.  We're not quite at square one again, but it sure feels like it to me.  I truly believe that someone is trying to run out the clock on my mother.

- I missed Gasstock yesterday because I was working both the night before and the night after.  Several of my blog-friends were there.  There were so many bloggers there that Mark from Circumlocution for Dummies commented
And early on, before the people started streaming in to some degree, it seemed as if every other person in attendance was a blogger, anti-fracking and otherwise. All of which had me uttering the words…Blog Stock.
- Jack Horkheimer, Star Hustler, died yesterday.  He was an important part of my developmental years, and I still caught him from time to time on television.   A while back the blogger at the currently-on-hiatus blog Nite Sky Girl clued me in that his weekly shows were now being posted to YouTube , and whenever I have wanted to explain some fascinating astronomical event I have found it easiest just to cite the relevant episode of his show.**  He was a wonderful popularizer of naked-eye backyard astronomy.  The world needs more people like him, with an infectious enthusiasm for the universe and a willingness to share and teach.  Maybe I'll expand this into a full-fledged post sometime.

*It wasn't entirely my fault; someone has thoughtlessly taken down the work zone that had been in place just past my turnoff for the past few months, and was apparently serving as a cue for me to exit.  Exactly the same thing happened about twelve years ago.
**I can't believe it was less than a month ago that I referred to him as a "living treasure" and wrote "Jack's been doing this for a long time, and I fear he may not be doing it for much longer."  I guess my fears were correct.


hedera said...

I've never had anything stolen, but years ago when I lived alone in El Cerrito, I came home one night to find my back door off the hinges and the jamb pried loose. I stupidly went through the house by myself - nothing gone. I concluded that he was breaking in on one side of the house as I was driving into the garage on the other side, and he heard me coming and beat it.

I had to have a friend come stay with me overnight. I was terrified. But I was also a single woman with a job, and I had nowhere else to stay from which I could get to work, and after a while I got used to it. But it affects you. You feel as violated as if they had taken something, even if they only break in the door.

I think in your case the fact that you have two houses is part of the problem - you always wonder what's going on in the other one. Motion detectors are a good idea. Cheap security cameras are even better, gives you a record of the perp. Let me know if you want me to send you the how-to stuff a friend of mine put together for our local crime prevention site. He can monitor his whole house remotely from his cellphone.

joy said...

Many years ago, my New Orleans house was for sale and I had already moved to Arkansas. We quickly sold the house, but while waiting for the sale to be final, someone broke in and stole some things (as I recall, the stove and some light fixtures). Needless to say, that was an extremely stressful period, constantly worrying about what might be happening to the house. Fortunately, our realtor was a good friend who camped out in the house until the sale was final.

A few weeks after we'd moved, we returned to the NOLA house to retrieve some items from the garage & discovered that the trash can we'd left behind was now living at the next door neighbor's employee of the NEW ORLEANS POLICE department (I don't believe he was actually a cop & have no proof that he actually did work for the NOPD as he told us). I always suspected that he was the person who broke into the house. Who better than the neighbors to realize a house is not occupied?

DB, this is the hazard of owning, but not occupying or renting out, your Grandmother's house. Vacant properties are tempting targets. From what I've heard about the economic plight of your area, even the neighbors may be looking for some source of income. Your unoccupied house is like low-hanging fruit.

D.B. Echo said...

Hedera, I am definitely interested in that.

Joy, you have hit on exactly what we are suspecting. I think maybe my recent more-frequent visits to the house may have been my undoing, since people have gotten to know my car and have come to associate it with me: if it is there, I am there, and if it is not there, I am not there. Though I don't know how this situation would be very different if I were living there full time, and were still working a schedule that would have me out of the house for fourteen hours a night at least four nights out of eight.