Oh, the things you'll learn from reading - fiction!

Things like - what to do when a stranger comes to the door. Case in point...

It's been miserably hot here in the midwest the past few days, but, not so much in the early morning hours. So, when I get up, I turn off the A/C and open the windows for the cats. They love to watch birdies taking baths and also to bask in the fresh air and sun (before it's 100 degrees in the shade.) Well, yesterday morning, a quiet morning after the fireworks of the 4th, I opened up the house and settled in for a bit of breakfast while working on my next book. All was peacefully serene and I was in the writing groove when my dogs charged to the front screen barking like crazy. 

"Drat!" I thought. "Must be one of the neighbors walking their dogs down the street." Then I heard it... my 2nd step from the top is loose & whenever someone steps on it, it makes a little concrete thump. I've not corrected it for that very reason. "Double drat! Must be one of the neighbors coming to see me." I got up to quiet the dogs & see who it was. 

A guy was contemplating retreating down the steps when he saw me. I did not know him or recognize him as living nearby. He explained that he was looking for a friend who lived on my street, but he didn't know the house number. I said maybe he lived a few houses to the west - where a number of guys lived. I was going to close the door (which had previously been open), when he started talking. And, here is where my love of reading mysteries proved to be invaluable - I am practically a trained Miss Marple and/or Sherlock Holmes (I wish!) due to me devouring their books over my lifetime.

The guy gave me a poor-me story about how he'd just dropped his daughter off at a school for summer day care - then claimed to barely remember (but he did) the names of the streets on the corner - right by the school - where his car started smoking. Then a policeman - whom he identified as "must have been your local police, he was in a black & white car" - stopped. (I become suspicious because of two things here - one, if his daughter is in day care at the school, why is he unfamiliar with the streets and  - two, the police cars have the city name plastered on the side. Why act like he doesn't know if they are local?)

Then he launches into how the policeman, rather than helping him, did a background check and then impounded his car with no explanation, apparently leaving him standing on the street. (Suspicion again - does not sound like proper police procedure.) So - he walks(?) to the police station (which would be many blocks from the school where his daughter is in day care) to file a complaint against the policeman. (Why not go into the school and ask to use to the phone and call a friend - or a cab!) 

At some point he briefly explains that he's an engineer at a local company and it's the beginning of the work week.  (Okay, I think, so why are you standing in front of me in shiny (black), baggy exercise pants, white tennies and a sleeveless (gray) t-shirt that has the name of a local pet shop on it?) 

His story is sounding more and more phony by the minute. And, hey... why is he telling me all of this anyway? (Very odd - not a normal thing to do with a stranger.) I glance over at my cordless phone and anticipate the amount of time it would take me to slam the door in his face, leap to the phone and get the cops there.

He continues on with his story - ending with not having a enough money on his credit card to pay to get his car out of impound. At that point, I've practically memorized his face - and I say, "Sorry, I can't help you. Hope you find your friend." And close the door.  Then, I call the police to report a suspicious character in the 'hood. When the officer came to my house to take my report, he said he'd passed a group of men on the next block and they didn't look like they belonged in the neighborhood. Hopefully - crisis and/or crimes averted.

If you pay attention when you read fiction, you learn a lot about life. Holmes taught me to watch and pay attention. Marple taught me to listen and compare. Both taught me to notice when things don't feel right, or fit together properly - to be suspicious.

Now - this is not a mystery blog (although I would posit that all fiction contains some kind of mystery!) - and, I'd like to tie this to dystopian novels, so... I would say that paying attention to what's going on now - gives us a suspicion of what the future may look like... and wouldn't we be wise to keep an eye on that?  


Mandy P.S. said...

Can't believe he dared call himself an engineer. Everyone knows engineers where sneakers, jeans, and polo shirts to work. Unless they're working in the field. Then they might be wearing a t-shirt. Maybe. But always jeans. Never sweat pants. (OK, so a lot of engineers where khakis too. Jeans are just really popular at my place of work. They're harder to tear up.)

I'm insulted for my kind that this guy thought he could use our calling in the name of mischief.

Good job on applying your detective skills!

Anonymous said...

This is great, you've just given me another excuse to read - like I need another excuse ;-)

Anonymous said...

This is great, you've just given me another excuse to read - like I need another excuse ;-)

Mandy P.S. said...

oops. Typo (twice!). *wear not where. They wear jeans or khakis.

Blame the engineer in me. Without spell check I'm hopeless.

Unknown said...

When I first moved to my neighborhood, I had that happen not once but three times to me! Thank god for fiction, character development and being aware of when things seem out of place. (and can I just say, why the heck would they think a sob story like that would work? I'm like two blocks from a gas station, a Burger King and a whole area of businesses. Um...duh!)

Yay for fiction!

Angie said...

Watch out for those guys in shiny track suits knocking on your door in any reality.

Mandy P.S. said...

I think blogger ate my earlier comment...hmmm...if it reappears later I apologize for commenting multiple times.

I am insulted for all engineer kind that this man dared posit he was one of us. And you're right that his outfit simply was not correct. Engineers are easily distinguishable from others. We're the ones in the office wearing sneakers, a polo shirt, and jeans (possibly khakis, depending on the engineer's preference). But track pants? Never.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Ain't it the truth?!

Unknown said...

Whoa! What a scary encounter! Glad you slammed the door in his face and called the cops.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

creepy. Glad you're ok. I had something like that (only much much worse) happen to me. Yuck!

Anonymous said...

Ha, Bittersweet! I can totally appreciate what you're saying (since I work in a place with a ton of engineers!)

Anonymous said...

Way to go, newtowritinggirl! Altho' excuses to read are never really needed! ;)

Angie - you crack me up! lol!

Beth - I shoulda slammed it a tad sooner than I did!

Unknown said...

Yeah, it's a pretty common scam. We had someone a few weeks ago claim to be our 'neighbor' across the street and his car broke down and he needed just $7 to buy a part for it at the auto parts store.

They try to make you feel guilty for not recognizing the neighbor, or like your guy did, he mentioned dropping his child at daycare...can't get more wholesome than that, right? Yeah.

The day of my grandmother's funeral a few years ago, a guy stopped at my parents house claiming the new neighbor thing and needed gas money. My brother wasn't going to give him any, but my dad gave him a few bucks. Then the guy looked at the money and was like, "that's all?"

Jemi Fraser said...

That's a really convoluted story to use! I hate answering the door when I don't know who's there - although you're right - I've read enough Miss Marple, Nancy Drew, Sherlock, Hercule & others to hopefully not be a complete idiot. Sigh - but I'm also a sucker for a sob story :)

Julia said...

Oh, Kathryn! So sorry that something bad happened! (of course, my imagination runs wild!) The more this guy talked, the more nervous (scared) I got. It was creepy.

Mary B & Mary M - it's totally unbelievable how some people think the world owes them! Sheesh!

Jemi - work on those hard-nose skills! lol!

Thanks everyone for the comments! Cheers!