Sometime in the late ’70s, I seem to recall, there was a rash of bicycle burglaries in my neighborhood.
Apparently Schwinn three-speed bikes were in high demand, and the thieves would look into the garage windows of unsuspecting, innocent suburbanites to survey the goods. In the middle of the night, under the cover of darkness, the two-wheeled modes of transportation would mysteriously disappear.
The community was in an uproar. What were parents supposed to do to protect their precious children’s bicycles? It was time to take out the black paint. Yes, that was the answer. Everyone started painting their garage door windows black. That way, no one could see into the garage. Back then, this was the high-tech security protocol. If the criminals couldn’t see into your garage, they didn’t know what you had, and then they couldn’t steal it. It was genius, and it actually worked for a while.
I recall when we had a complete alarm system installed in the house. There was foil on the windows, motion sensors, panic buttons hidden in secret locations. Doors and windows were in different zones. We were Fort Knox. No one was breaking in. Of course, we had no idea how to work the system and I have fond memories of being sent downstairs to slam the back door closed and see if the window sensors were closed. Yes, that was fun. You couldn’t turn the alarm on until everything checked out and if someone forgot they opened a window, it could take an hour to figure out which window. Yes, those were truly joyous memories. And then there was the recurring nightmare of someone breaking into my house and me pressing the panic button and nothing happening. No one came, even though I kept pressing it. I still have that nightmare. Oh well.
So what about security these days? I often find it funny that when I walk at night, I can always tell who is on vacation and who is home. And of those folks on vacation, I can tell who is cheap and who doesn’t mind spending a little bit extra on electricity. You see, some houses are dark. Pitch dark. Not even an outside light is on. And some houses are lit to the gills. Every single light is on. Every single one. Husband #1 would have a stroke if he saw that. But then, come 11 p.m., all lights are off. Apparently, everyone goes to sleep at 11 p.m.
But now there is a new security instrument in town. I am not sure what it is called, but we will call it the fancy doorbell. I first encountered this fancy doorbell when I had to drop something off at someone’s house down the block. I ring the doorbell, and all of a sudden I hear the home owner talking to me — but he is on his phone, watching me look all over the place trying to find exactly where his voice is coming from. This fancy doorbell enables you to see from your phone or computer (I am assuming you can see this from your computer as well) who is at your door, who is walking in front of your house, in back of your house, on the side of your house. It really is incredible.
A few months ago we were sitting at a pool with a couple who was watching their meat being delivered to their doorstep on their phone and they were telling the delivery guys where to leave it, all while having the delivery guys believe they were inside their house and they just couldn’t come to the door.
Pretty cool, huh?
And that brings us to last week. I was delivering a baby present to, well, a baby, and I rang the bell. While I was standing on the porch I was looking around, trying to get the present out of the bag, probably talking to myself like I usually do, and just minding my own business. No one came to the door so I left the gift in the door.
As I walked away from the house, I texted my friend to make sure I had the right house. And her text back said, “Oh yes, so and so just saw you leave the gift at the door.” They had the fancy doorbell and I didn’t even notice it! And if he had it, why didn’t he tell me that he wasn’t home? I don’t know. All I do know, is that I would make a very bad criminal if I didn’t even notice the fancy doorbell.
Guess I should just stick to housework and writing….
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck feels very safe; she knows that every one of son #2’s friends has the security code to her house because they used to set off the alarm so often that it was just easier for them to have the code.