Saturday, January 31, 2004

Uh, I Lost My Keys

So yesterday I'm doing some work around the house. That is, if one defines "work" as lounging on the couch listening to 'XRT. Suddenly my doorbell rings. I don a sweater and shoes and head downstairs to see who's at the door.

I open the door and look to my left. In the gangway there's some guy trying to pry open another door with a crowbar. And he's really into his chosen task, as well. I stare at him in disbelief then gather my wits and say, "Can I help you?"

Dude dropped the crowbar to his side and hollers, "Yeah. Can you call the building manager? I need to get inside." Now I'm thinking, the nerve of this guy. I kept looking at this man and asked back, "Why?"

With a straight face, the man shot back, "My sister is moving into the first floor apartment and she forgot to give me the key. She just signed a lease and I'm helping her move some stuff out."

I wanted to make sure that I caught what he said correctly. "Your sister's moving in to the apartment and you're helping her move stuff out?

"Yeah," he replied. All this time the man didn't make even the slightest effort to hide the crowbar.

"Why do you have the crowbar?" I asked.

"She didn't leave me the key." He replied.

"Okay," I said. "I'll go ahead and call the landlady for you."

The dude sighed with relief. "Man, thanks a lot. You don't know how grateful I am." He relaxed, placing the crowbar in full view.

I smiled back at him. "Yep. I'm gonna call the landlady. Just as soon as I shove that crowbar up your ass. Then I'm going to call the cops and have you arrested and treated for your injuries. Then I'm going to call my landlady."

I thought that would have scared the guy away. But he just looked back at me and said, "Well, can you go ahead and call your landlady then, 'cause I got a moving truck out in front." I rolled my eyes, locked the door, and ran upstairs to grab my cell phone and a hammer for self-defense. When I got back downstairs, the burglar had split. Apparently he didn't like his chances armed with a crowbar against me. At least, that's what my ego kept telling me. My id had me shaking like a leaf.

I dialed 911 anyway and filed the report. Later in the afternoon, I walked to my landlady's house to hand her the report. She's a nice lady- a retired U of C engineering professor from China, she gets around with the help of a motorized wheelchair and lives in the blighted section of Bridgeport. She can't be at the building all the time, but she does her best to ensure that it's maintained. I don't complain; the building is free of vermin, relatively draft-free, and my maintenance calls are answered in short order. My downstairs neighbor and I take turns shoveling the snow when it falls. I've lived in better looking apartments with worse maintenance.

In my head runs a looped conversation I had with a neighbor, an old Sicilian woman who's rented the same apartment for the past forty years. All she could do yesterday when the cops came was complain that my landlady only bought the building for the money. "I lived in this neighborhood for forty years and never had to lock my door."

I ran my fingers across the door jamb where the burglar wedged his crowbar and whispered, "Sometimes you should."

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