2010 began for us with a bang. Quite literally. At around 8am while i was still asleep, a man in a hooded sweatshirt began banging on our front door and trying to get in. My wife was downstairs at the time, and thankfully did not open it. Instead, she came upstairs and woke me up. Still quite groggy, I first went to the upstairs window to see who he was and if he meant well. We both sensed that he did not, and this was confirmed when he then began attempting to kick in our door. My wife immediately called the police, but it was clear that there was no way they would reach us by the time he made it through the door.
By the time i was able to get clothes and shoes on and get to the top of the stairs, i could see that the man had nearly broken through the door, as you can see from this photo:
From the top of the stairs, i was faced with three options:
a) engage his rational faculties verbally before he broke the door down,
b) engage his fear faculties before he broke the door down,
c) engage his rational faculties verbally after he broke the door down, or
d) engage him physically after he broke the door down.
With only a few seconds left, i chose option b, and slammed the door closed as hard and as loudly as i could, hoping to intimidate him a little. Fortunately, it seemed to work. He stopped kicking the door, but proceeded to look in the window and yell that he wanted to speak with J*** who he thought lived in our house, and who had apparently perpetrated some sort of vile act against a member of his family. In the end, after a bit of heated dialogue, he wandered away, threatening to return.
I learned a few things through this incident, that i thought i would pass on to other folks (especially folks who live in a sleepy town like Bloomington) as a public service announcement:
1. Locked Doors Are Good Doors – We live in a very tame neighborhood, where i am quite sure that people leave their doors unlocked. In speaking with a police officer after the incident (who had later caught up with and questioned the man), it became clear to both of us that it was a very good thing that ours were locked. Due to the man’s irrational state, a confrontation inside our house would certainly not have ended peacefully. Our locked door bought us a minute or two to think, to call the police, and to avoid having to have a potentially violent confrontation.
2. Don’t Defend the House – My first thought was that, if i had to engage the man, that the best approach would be to leave my wife upstairs while i tried to surprise and disable him downstairs. This is, i think, a very normal response. But it is wrong. The police officer recommended fleeing in such a situation (where the intruder was not out to get us personally) out another door in the house.
3. Listen To Your Gut – My wife’s gut feel was that this guy was not stopping by just to wish us a happy new year. She called the police pretty quickly, where i would have waited to see what our visitor wanted first. She was right in listening to her gut.
4. Art Really Does Inform Life – As i descended the stairs, anticipating the fact that i might have to physically engage some stranger in my house, i quite literally had the fight scene music from the Star Trek television series playing in my head, which at first scared, then amused me. It might be a symptom that i just watched too much television in my youth, but i prefer to think that in my moment of fear, William Shatner and Gene Roddenberry were somehow watching over me.