Today is our last day (well, weekday) of spring break. David is in New York this week and my two daughters are in San Diego with their grandparents. Last night, I stayed up too late watching “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” but I figured I’d be able to sleep in this morning to make up for it . . .Wrong!!
At 5:50am, I was awakened by my burglar alarm . . . not the little hum it makes when you open a door and it gives you time to punch in your code, but the deafening, screaming siren. I jumped out of bed in the dark with my heart racing a mile a minute. What do I do? If David were here, I know he’d definitely grab the heavy flashlight and head downstairs with the dogs to investigate. But I’m here alone with my 8 year-old son and I don’t think we’d stand a fighting chance against a determined intruder. It’s a fairly new alarm system and I knew there was a very strong chance that this was some sort of false alarm — a malfunction or a short — but was I willing to test that theory??
A minute later the alarm company called. A nice woman said that they’d received a report of the alarm being activated from the downstairs door in the kitchen and asked me if it was a false alarm. I told her that the alarm woke me up and I had no idea, but that I didn’t want to risk running into an intruder in order to check it out. She asked if I wanted her to call the police. I took a deep breath. I loathed (abhorred, dreaded, etc.) the idea of calling the police out to my house unnecessarily, but I was scared so I said, “Yes. Please call them.”
While we waited for the police to arrive, I started to feel like sitting ducks in the middle of the master bedroom. I let the dogs out of the bedroom (they’re not exactly guard dogs, but I hoped they’d have some deterrent effect), took my son into the little toilet area of our master bathroom and closed the door. That door doesn’t have a lock on it (which I really regretted for that entire time), but I figured that if an intruder was looking for loot ( I’ve heard the master bedroom is a major target), he wouldn’t be likely to investigate the toilet. The alarm lady kept asking me if I could hear the police arriving. “I can’t hear anything over the sound of the alarm!!” I kept telling her. During the 20 minutes we spent in the bathroom waiting for the police to arrive, I had serious misgivings about having called them (I am overreacting. I should just go downstairs and look around. This is a false alarm. The police are going to be mad that they came out for nothing). I was pretty sure that they wouldn’t find anything and then I would be just a foolish little woman who wasted taxpayer resources every time she got scared by her own shadow.
There is a line from “Dragon Tattoo” where Martin Wanger (the serial killer) points out to Michael Blomquist (his latest target) that Martin was able to lure Michael into his home by merely offering him a drink, even thought Michael knew Martin was dangerous. Martin goes on to say, “Let me ask you something. Why don’t people trust their instincts . . . It’s hard to believe that the fear of offending can be stronger than the fear of pain . . . but you know what? It is.”
That scene flashed through my brain as we sat there and I realized how true it is! My shame that I might be creating a whole big fuss over nothing was actually able to go toe-to-toe this morning with the fear that we might be in physical danger. I find that shocking. My consolation is that my shame did NOT win out (this time).
The police eventually arrived. When I told them that the alarm had gone off and we hadn’t accidentally tripped it, they took it extremely seriously. Six officers spent 15 minutes combing every inch of the house and yard. They found nothing. I asked if I had done the right thing by calling them (even though I suspected it was a false alarm) and they said “Ma’am, if you are fearing for your safety, you should call 911. You did nothing wrong.”
So that was how this morning started. I am so happy that the fear of being wrong or looking silly didn’t get in the way of making a smart choice to protect myself and my family. I am SO happy that it was a false alarm. And I hope I can remember this experience next time I’m tempted to put myself in harm’s way, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually, in order to avoid looking foolish or making the wrong decision.