Volume 18 • Issue 41 | February 24 - March 2, 2006


Alarming adventure without leaving a country home

By Jane Flanagan

As a grownup, I sometimes forget what it’s like to be a kid. There are moments I’m caught off guard. One night at our house in Connecticut, I was home with my son Rusty, 7. Earlier that day he watched the movie, “Home Alone,” and was now terrified of burglars.

We were in the kitchen where I was cleaning up the dinner dishes and he was at the table drawing. As I stepped away to search for a clean dish towel, Rusty suddenly shouted, “Where are you going? Don’t just leave without telling me!”

I sensed a turbulent evening ahead.

He put down his marker and asked, “Mom, let’s put on the alarm, okay?” Since it was a new house alarm and I’m not good with technical stuff, and worse at remembering codes, I wasn’t too keen. But I thought this would ease his mind so I walked over to the control box and punched in my date of birth. To my surprise I activated the alarm on the first try. It seems my birthdate is one number sequence I can’t forget these days.

With our house fortified, I looked about for a diversionary activity. “How about some Legos?” I suggested. Instead, Rusty was eying some discarded bubble wrap and asked, “Can I play with this?” “Sure,” I said, popping a couple myself. (I love those things, very cathartic.) Bubble popping was proving to be an excellent diversion and soon Rusty was laughing. He was having so much fun he impulsively jumped onto the bubbles with both feet. And that’s when the nerve splitting alarm sounded.

If you have never heard a house alarm, think car alarm times 20. Rusty screamed and flung himself against me. I dragged us over to the control panel, frantically punching in a date from the Eisenhower era. Mercifully the alarm stopped.

Then, as I knew it would, the phone started to ring. With Rusty clinging to my leg, I shambled over to the phone. It was a very young-sounding fellow from the alarm company. I explained the situation and he said, “Okay great, I just need your password.”

“Just?” I thought. Then I made a stab with, “Eloise?” giving my mother-in-law’s name. “No,” he said. “Sidney?” I said my father’s name. “No.” (The names have been changed to protect the top-secret passwords I can’t remember.)

“Can you tell me if it’s a word or a number?” I asked. “No,” he said, saying that he’d already given me too much leniency as it was. He could get in trouble, he said. Wondering why I ever agreed to make the password different from the activating code (for security purposes), I gave him my husband’s birthdate. “No,” he said. Then I said, my son’s, my mother-in-law’s, nothing doing.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I mean I can hear your kid in the background, I’m sure you are not a burglar, but I’m going to have to send the police.” He heard my kid in the background alright. He was saying, “Is he going to send the police? Is he going to send the police?”

Instead of burglars, Rusty was now afraid of the police. “Are they going to come with guns?” he asked. “What if they shoot us?”

I explained that police don’t shoot non-detail oriented moms and their kids.

“What if they arrest you? What will happen to me? What do they do with kids when they arrest their parent?”

“They call the other parent,” I absurdly answered.

“But Dad is away, what will they do with me?” he asked. It was now past his bedtime, and I felt my late night alone time slipping away. I wanted to get the police visit over with. Besides, all the talk about police, shooting, arrests and foster placement was beginning to unnerve me. At the rate we were going, I feared by the time the police finally arrived, I’d be so hysterical they might just consider some or all of the above.

Twenty minutes passed with no police. I called Young Mr. Alarm Guy. “They are not here yet,” I said. “Really? They are not there yet?” he said with an incredulousness possible only in someone very young and new on a job. “Maybe they decided not to come?” I suggested hopefully. “Oh no, they are coming!” he said. “Let me find out where they are and I’ll call you back.”

Before he could hang up, I threw out, “How about 0659?” “No!” he said. “What about “Schmidt?” “No!” he said, “and don’t’ ask me anymore. And don’t tell anyone I let you make so many guesses!”

I looked at the clock. It was now an hour past Rusty’s bedtime. He called back. “The police are making a couple of stops first, but they will get to you,” he said. I then told Rusty we had to go upstairs and at least start bedtime stories. “What if we don’t hear the doorbell?” he said. “Will they bust in?”

Sitting on the edge of the rocker poised for action, I read aloud without comprehending a word. The doorbell sounded. We both jumped, and Rusty pushed me in front to lead the way downstairs. As we descended, I suddenly remembered that I’d misplaced my driver’s license and worried about not having a picture ID. Opening the door, we were greeted by a big, broad-shouldered state police offer, who said with a bright smile, “Good evening, ma’am. Glad everything’s okay for you. Have a nice night, now.” Then he left.

Rusty and I looked at each other and said together, “He was really nice!”


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