Breaking Down the Door

For a time, when we lived in the country, there was a family living next door that owned a horse. The horse was housed in a barn that had been fashioned from a truck body that had been removed from its chassis and placed on the ground. Because the horse was in the metal “barn” and the “barn” was on the ground, and this patch of ground was about 25 feet from our house, every time the horse made the slightest movement our house worked as a giant horse-fired tuning fork, and we could hear (and, it seemed, feel) every twitch.

Tonight I went to bed on our old futon on the floor of Oliver’s room. Catherine had surgery on her Tuesday, and for the time being it’s better that we don’t share the same bed, for she’s prone to keeping me up, and that makes me keep her up. And so on.

Around 2:00 a.m. I heard a rumble and ramble that sounded very much like that old horse in the country reverberating through the floor.

At first I assumed it was simple some sort of connection between our next door neighbour’s house and ours, just like the horse connection (Oliver’s room is the closest one to our neighbour’s house), but that seemed a little odd.

Then I thought maybe Catherine was downstairs making some sort of delirious middle of the night swiss steak that required much pounding. But that seemed even stranger.

So I got up and went to the end of the upstairs hall and realized that someone was trying to get into our front door. They were banging really, really hard.

Now in the middle of the night, when you are half awake, and your partner, and your two year old son, and your mother are all in bed upstairs, and you hear someone banging violently on your front door, you don’t think “oh, I should go and see who it is.” You think “holy shit, some crazed lunatic is trying to break into our house to get heroin money.”

And so I pressed what I assumed was the “send the police right away” button on the upstairs alarm button panel. This caused a very loud, whopping siren to go off in the basement (it turned out I’d pressed the “send the fire department right away” button). And for a moment, the banging stopped. I ran downstairs to get the phone when the alarm call centre phoned (note to self: get a phone installed upstairs). But I missed their call.

Then the banging started again.

I grabbed the phone and ran upstairs and dialed 911. By this time my mother and Catherine were up and around. 911 answered. “There’s somebody trying to break into my front door,” I said. “Is your house on fire,” they said. “No,” I replied. I explained the sequence of events. By the time I put the phone down, there was a City Police van in front of the house and two police officers were out and in our vestibule.

I heard one of the on his walkie-talkie: “please phone the complainant and tell them we’re outside and everything is okay.”

I opened the front door. And outside was a very nice police officer, who asked me if I knew the obviously very drunk teenager who was standing outside my door. “It’s a drunk kid,” he said, “convinced that his friend is inside.”

I reassured him that this wasn’t the case, thanked him very much, and off they went.

So, as it turns out, it was a simple case of mistaken address induced by alcohol.

What’s weird is that even now that an hour has passed, I still have bucketloads of adrenalin coursing through my veins. It’s like some vestigal reservoir, stored for “protect your family” situations, kicked in when required. Although the situation ended up being somewhat absurd and trivial, my response, when the fear was of the unknown, not “a drunk kid,” was primitive and very real.

On Monday morning I’ll probably go up to Canadian Tire and buy some more fire extinguishers and smoke alarms. Now I’m going to try to go to bed.

Thanks to the City Police who responded so quickly to my panic, to the Message Centre who did exactly what they were supposed to. And hey, drunk kid: don’t drink so much.


Alan's picture
Alan on March 2, 2003 - 13:02 Permalink

Once, during my law school yeasrs at Dal, I woke to the sound of banging-scratching at a window. We were in a second story apt of an old Halifax box house on Vernon Street. I went into the living room without turning on the lights to see the silhouette of a guy on the roof of the porch trying to get in presumably to reach for my roomie’s boom-box. Pumping with adrenaline I went back for my two iron, woke another roomie to call the cops and waited until the also drunk guy figured out how to open the window. The lights, the nearness of cops and his awareness of the golf club in my hand came to his mind at one time. He lept from the roof, dove into a neghibouring backyard and was off. Cops lectured the neighbour for keeping his ladder in the alley. All through it I was mentally wired, focused and a bit brain stemmy — oddly, something like I am now when, during that glorious moment, I see Steve Garrity’s player unaware that he was walked into my sights during Counter Strike.

RememberingWhen's picture
RememberingWhen on March 2, 2003 - 17:06 Permalink

Reminscent, though in juxtaposition, to an incident in my early employed life in another province, when, drunk as a lord, I realized I was on my new rented front doorstep sans car and keys. (good thing about the car). I rented the top floor of this house, and a nice young woman the bottom. It is 3am, and cold, and I am new in town. I decide, after attempting various tricks and manipulations, that the only recourse is to break the door in, cost be damned. As a new tenant, I did not realize that the steel reinforced frame, designed to keep assholes like myself out, would require several drunken boots to fracture. Shortly after arriving upstairs, two cruisers and four officers, with guns drawn, entered the gaping maw which had once been my entrance. There was much ‘splainin to do. My downstairs neighbour kept a wide berth for some time.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on March 2, 2003 - 17:35 Permalink

I remember I almost brained my father-in-law when he appeared late one night in our dark kitchen,unexpected. His message to inform us of his plans had sat on our answering machine unnoticed. My weapon of choice was a 7-iron. I never could hit a 1-iron, and for only one summer long ago was I able to really hit a 2-iron with authority. And…I never would abuse my Clevelend Lob.

Maybe the trick to a 2 is to be “wired and focused”???

Ken's picture
Ken on March 2, 2003 - 18:39 Permalink

Golf clubs — middle class defence against burglers. Your dimpled white balls are the hallmark of a home worth robbing. I can think of three times a drunk person has beat the door of three places I lived, is this a Canadian phenomenon? None of my address’s where near any night club or anything, just residential areas. Maybe that’s it, too many similiar houses leading to this confusion?
Put a wreath on your door, or garlic, something the drunks will see as foreign to them or maybe something intimidating like a cross. Drunk vampires will be daunted at least.

Oliver's picture
Oliver on March 3, 2003 - 03:10 Permalink

Although I’m sure I would have been just as scared myself, I wasn’t surprised that it turned out to be a confused drunk and not a crazed killer: I just saw “Bowling for Columbine” last night, which taught me that nobody kills anybody in Canada. What makes no sense to me, though, is that this guy didn’t just let himself in: Nobody’s supposed to locks their doors in Canada. Then again, one would expect crazed killers in Canada to knock, everybody being so much more polite up there.

Alan's picture
Alan on March 3, 2003 - 14:18 Permalink

Drunks are getting a very bad rap in this thread. I note he was polite enough to knock, was polite enough to stick around, only sought the company of a friend, and is the first instance I have heard of of PEI’s 911 actually working. Reminds me of that skit aoubt PEI on “Madly Off in All Directions” by the New York comedian guy who married a PEI lady and busted a gut over stories in the Guardian, especially the headlines about vandals.