Saturday, June 28, 2008

for whom the bell buzzes

I should not have answered the door. I was trying to finish my last point for my Sunday school lesson when I heard a truncated buzz from my sometimes-functioning door bell.

Usually I would have ignored an unannounced guest at the door. Instead I answered the call of the buzzer.

My first reaction was: Mormon missionary. Young. Male. Preternaturally earnest.

But something was not quite right. He was alone. Dressed in khaki shorts. Wearing an identification card.

When Jiggs the aged golden retriever stuck his head around the door, all was revealed. "Whoaaa. Big dog. Don't let him hurt me." All said with the bon homie of a door-to door salesman.

Burglar alarms. It wasn't quite boys' bands that he was selling, but he was a veritable son of Professor Harold Hill. He quickly began spinning a great tale about his product. Being a clever attorney, I thought I could easily take on this kid in a verbal joust. So, I cut short the dance with my bottom line.

Hubris could have been my middle name. I was smug. Real smug. Then the kid shifted to merely chatting. And we talked for about 10 minutes about our professions, rude people, society in general. He must have mentioned "rich people" seven times -- referring to my neighbors. He then asked if I would fill his water bottle. I gladly did that.

As I closed the door, I realized what he had just done. He managed to find out a full list of information that would have been invaluable to a residential burglar, including: -- [You don't think I am going to be so stupid as to make the mistake twice, do you?]

When I was a criminal defense attorney, most of my clients were young men between 18 and 30. And quite a few of them were some of the most clever and talented people I have met in my life. It was almost as if crime was a game to them. And it was all about the game.

I hear many tales about the amount of theft in Mexico. The barred windows, locked doors, and broken bottle walls probably say far more than any statistics. But I suspect that most of the thieves are just like the young men I once represented: guys seeking thrills first, and money second. And we will have them with us always -- and everywhere.


jennifer rose said...

You have a lot of learning to do before moving to Mexico -- and it's not just about receiving your mail and deciding whether to rent or to own. In this country, door-to-door kinds are a dime a dozen, and your waking hours could easily be filled by engaging them in conversation. Don't. Don't do that, if only for the sake of your neighbors.

Home security and theft isn't just about tales and security. It's real. And the thieves are in it for the loot, dude.

Babs said...

Well, he'll think twice with Mr. Jiggs in the house........or maybe not!

Steve Cotton said...

Jennifer -- I suspect one aspect of my personality that is not going to change is my gregarious earnestness -- or is it earnest gregariousness? Either way, I simply like talking with everyone. The Jehovah's witnesses. The person sitting next to me on the airplane. The grocery clerk. However, I usually have more common sense than to tell a door to door salesman when I can be expected to be in the house. That was just plain dumb. And you are correct, I am going to need to develop some new street sense in Mexico.

Babs -- I think the kid pegged, pretty early on, that Jiggs would not be much of a security threat -- other than his bark. And that noise is enough to cause my father to climb out of his box and move to the basement.

1st Mate said...

Large dogs are much more feared in Mexico, so Jiggs may be more of a deterrent down here. The people I find at my door are more often looking for work, or are just plain hungry. I refer workers to the Capt and give a piece of fruit to the hungry. If they were really hoping for money, that discourages them.

Babs said...

Sorry, but I SO disagree with Jennifer. I'm cautious about opening the door, but if I didn't, I wouldn't have found my neighbor's dog who was lost; I wouldn't have found the delightful flower vendor or the burro man with his bags of dirt and so many other great encounters I have had......Actually, interestingly, the only time my house has been burglarized was twice in Texas when we had an old courthouse door, 3 inches thick on the front of our house and thought NO ONE would ever break in....ha. BUT in Mexico, a dog is a MAJOR deterrent - hence, rooftop dogs.

Anonymous said...

Now if we as a society could only figure out how to make crime as boring as learning Spanish verb conjugations....


Kim G
Boston, MA

jennifer rose said...

Gringos, and particularly women, so want to help, entering into conversations for no useful purpose with street people, beggars, and neer-do-wells. Take a few clues from Mexicans similarly situated, and ignore people like that.

A dog can be helpful, but all a determined thief has to do is toss a piece of meat laden with anti-freeze the dog's way. Whenever I leave my house, I lock the pup up inside.

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- Amen to that. Of course, I have solved the spanish problem with the Zen approach. Nothing exists but in the present tense.

Bliss -- I have several Mexican friends here in Oregon. All of them are terrified (not scared, terrified) of him. He, of course, does not understand that. So he insists on getting close to be petted, and that just raises the fear factor. It helps me to understand, as well, why Mexican street dogs will bite almost anyone who approaches them. There really is a life lesson here about the negative power of fear.

Babs -- I think it is possible to develop street sense without becoming fearful. Fear is simply not one of those traits that runs in my personality. And one day it very well may get me into trouble. On the other hand, if I see money and packages passing on a dark street corner, I am not going to amble over and ask: "Whatcha doin'?" On the other hand, I might just do that, as well.

Steve Cotton said...

Jennifer -- Not to mention that in the case of Professor Jiggs, no meat would be required to disable him. He would be happy to join any pack -- even one that was denuding me of my few possessions.

Anonymous said...

'Now if we as a society could only figure out how to make crime as boring as learning Spanish verb conjugations....'

It's like music - if you find it that boring and have no curiousity you'll never make it. Do sometihng you like instead and end the torture.