I was on the fence about posting this incredibly embarrassing story, but in the interest of anyone who has a home security system, I decided to take the risk.
First of all, if you have a home security system, I implore you to make sure you know ALL of the codes, passwords, and number combinations. Not just the number you press on the touch screen when you accidentally set off your alarm, but ALL of them.
Somehow, that piece of the home security tutorial did not resonate with me, and I paid a very embarrassing price for it last night.
The evening started out innocently enough. I spent the day at the ice rink with my three children and a group of friends celebrating the 8th birthday of my friend’s daughter. We decided to have dinner at my house following the party. George flew out yesterday morning to Nashville where he is spending Thanksgiving and celebrating his dad’s 75th birthday, so I was on my own and company sounded great.
George and I installed a home security system after a creepy encyclopedia salesman seemed to form a weird attachment to my house and me, and also because I am on my own with the children many months a year. We have cameras for surveillance in and out of the house, plus a traditional alarm system.
The children and their friends like to use the cameras to make movies. One child will watch the camera screen, and the others will get in front of the cameras and make goofy faces and act up. It has all been pretty funny and fun for them…until last night.
Last night, one of the children accidentally pressed the PANIC button on the touch screen. The ear-piercing alarm went off. The child who pressed the button was frightened and jumped into his mothers arms, crying.
My phone rang. I answered it, knowing it was just the security company confirming all was well.
“Oh, yes,” I said. “It’s all fine. Sorry about that! My mistake.”
“I need your password,” she said.
“Password?” I asked. “I punched in my code and stopped the alarm already.”
“Right. But I need your password.”
“Um, I don’t know what you mean,” I said. “In fact, could you show me? I’ve been meaning to call about that because I’ve never understood what you mean by password.”
I walked over to the touch screen and she walked me through it. Cool! I hung up, reassured my friend’s son that all was fine, and poured myself a post-birthday party-and-scary-alarm cocktail.
Two minutes later, my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but something told me I should answer it.
“This is 9-1-1. We have an officer outside your home. Please give me a description of what you are wearing.”
What? I just talked to the security people and told them all was fine! But, uh, I’m certainly not arguing with 9-1-1.
“Maroon sweater, blue jeans, white socks, brown strappy flats.”
“That’s a great description,” she said.
I decide it is not a good time to explain that I’m a writer and big on both details and description. And, wait! My friend is also wearing a maroon sweater. Maybe I should send her out instead.
“I need you to go outside and meet the officer,” she said.
Oh, no. My head spins. I ditch my cocktail down the drain and head for the door.
I step outside, but I don’t see anyone. Is this some kind of joke? Nobody is here. Visions of the fake cops that pull unsuspecting people over on the freeway visit my head. I stand on the top of my stairs, paralyzed. I decide to call George for advice and start to dial.
“Please come here,” a voice says.
I set my phone down and descend the stairs to the street and what is indeed a uniformed officer.
“Everything okay in there?” he asked.
“Yes!” I answer.
“Can I come inside?” he asked.
“Sure!” I say, heart racing.
Next thing I know, I have a 6’8” policeman standing in my doorway. Vincent walks over.
“Hey, Vincent!” I say with a fake and cheerful–and what I hope is reassuring– smile as I try to mask my panic. “Look! It’s a real, live policeman!”
“Are you SWAT?” Vincent asked.
“I am,” the officer replied.
“Wow, cool, right Vincent?” Then I turn to the officer and for some reason decide to inquire on what the protocol is for police car ride-a-longs, thinking Vincent might like to take one.
“Well, you have to be 16,” he said.
“Ah,” I said. Maybe in ten years.
My friend and I went on to explain the alarm mistake and that we didn’t know the password. That we’d just had a birthday party and were having dinner and letting the kids play. That all was well.
“I’m so embarrassed,” I said to the officer. “Did this go out on the scanner? Will anyone know you were here? I am so embarrassed. And I’m sorry for wasting tax payer money.”
“It’s okay,” he said. “Believe me. This is not embarrassing. It’s what I’m going to be responding to the rest of this night that is what’s embarrassing for people.”
“Thank you,” I said.
He gave some advice on managing and monitoring the alarm system. He was kind and patient. He explained that having me come outside was for my own safety in case something odd was going on inside. For some reason, in my nervous state, I decide that dropping a few names of the policemen I sort of know is a good idea.
“Do you know Ty? Brock? Or Jon? Jon was a year younger than me in school.”
The policeman was a nice guy. He showed my friend, me, and our children grace and kindness. And although there was nothing wrong at my house, I was grateful for the quick and thorough response in case there ever was an emergency.
After he left, I joined my friend in the kitchen. The whole situation left me in a minor state of shock.
And oh, no!
George! He was going to kill me!
George had been gone for less than twelve hours when I managed to let this situation occur. He might be angry…but on the other hand, he might not. I’d have to call and find out.
I call him at 10 p.m.
“Wow, so this is a pretty crazy story….” I begin.
“…and I am so embarrassed,” I finish.
“I’m sure you are,” he said.
“We need to get ALL the codes and passwords to the system,” I said.
“Yes, we do.” he replied.
What a way to cap off a tough and strange week. Can you guess what call I am making first thing Monday morning?